The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, February 17, 2006


Carlisle's AAA team goes to bat for affordable accessible apartments

Selectman Doug Stevenson has been meeting with town boards to explain the work of the Affordable Accessory Apartment (AAA) Initiative Task Force to create affordable apartments in Carlisle. Stevenson spoke to the Board of Health (BOH) on February 7, joined the Planning Board meeting on February 13 and updated the Board of Selectmen on February 14. The AAA Task Force wants to get apartment units on the market as quickly as possible, and hopes that local boards will help to streamline the approval process.

Stevenson explained that AAAs are a component of the town's Affordable Housing Plan and will help Carlisle meet its state-mandated goal of 10% affordable housing. The affordable apartments could come from existing accessory apartments or could be new construction. The hope is that a simplified process and financial incentives will encourage greater participation among Carlisle residents.

The town already has an Accessory Apartment bylaw, which Stevenson's Task Force is using along with Affordable Housing requirements to draft the new bylaw. The selectmen have hired Toby Krammer of Riverside Consulting to explore options for "affordable accessory apartments." As presently envisioned, interested homeowners would be offered a $15,000 interest-free "loan" to facilitate the conversion. The accessory apartment would require its own kitchen, bathroom facilities and separate entrance. For each year of participation in the program $1,000 of the loan would be forgiven.

The Selectmen have submitted a preliminary application to the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) for $90,000 to fund up to six AAA conversions. The CPC makes recommendations on proposals to use money collected under the 2% real estate surcharge created under the Community Preservation Act.

In addition to the monetary incentive the proposed bylaw differs from the present Accessory Apartment bylaw in that the apartment could constitute up to 50% of the floor area of the principal residence rather than the present limit of 35%. The apartment size would be capped at 1,200 square feet. The new bylaw would permit a detached structure and would be allowed in both residential and business-zoned districts.

A special permit would be required from the Planning Board just as it is required under the present bylaw. Further, the apartment would require a deed restriction, require conditions on tenant selection and would have to be registered with the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Stevenson stated that homeowners should be able to be involved in selecting their tenants, but clarifications are needed from DHCD. More information is also needed from DHCD as to whether the deed restriction would be perpetual or time-limited.

Comments from the Planning Board were varied. Members Kent Gonzales and Peter Stuart questioned whether $15,000 could provide enough incentive. Chair David Freedman stated that, because of timing, such apartments might not satisfy Carlisle's need for 12 or 13 affordable units in any given year in order to realize a moratorium on 40-B activity in town.

Supplemental guidelines

While guidelines will not be in the bylaw that is expected to be presented at Annual Town Meeting, the Accessory Apartments Task Force is developing recommendations on the process to help guide the Carlisle Housing Authority (CHA). The task force has not completed this work but they believe the guidelines will likely include the following points:

· The CHA will administer the agreements with the owners once the special permit is granted and the deed restriction is recorded.

· Notice needs to be given that units are available through posting with local housing agencies, the newspaper, or some other public communication.

· An open application period is needed to allow time for eligible renters to apply and see the unit.

· All tenants must be income qualified and verified by the CHA.

· Owners may select the tenant from the pool of applicants.

· CHA will annually monitor the income of the tenants and the rent charged by the owner.

· CHA will provide owners with rental and income guidelines issued annually by DHCD.

· CHA will maintain a list of interested applicants who can be notified if units become available as required.

2006 The Carlisle Mosquito