Friday, April 28, 2006
Town Meeting Selectmen vote 4-1 to support Affordable Housing Trust: Warrant Article 25
Carlisle residents are being asked to create a new legal entity, a Carlisle Affordable Housing Trust Fund to help create and preserve housing for low and moderate income households. An Affordable Housing Trust is expected to help Carlisle reach the state-mandated goal that 10% of our housing stock meet affordability criteria. Once money is transferred to the Trust Fund, it will remain available, without needing annual authorization or any further vote at Town Meeting. Having a ready source of funding will allow the town to more easily develop affordable housing projects.
Money collected under the Community Preservation Act (CPA) real estate tax surcharge can be transferred to the Housing Trust. Town Meeting can appropriate additional funds, and the Trust will also be able to accept monies such as housing-related gifts, payments or grants that might otherwise be "lost" to the town's general fund. An example of such a payment would be the penalty due from a 40B developer whose profits exceeded the 20% margin allowed by the state.
Towns can create housing trusts by accepting Mass. General Law Chapter 44, section 55c. The law states that trusts will be managed by a Board of at least five Trustees, and that the Board's powers may include: to accept, buy, sell or lease property, hire employees, borrow money and mortgage trust assets. Oversight may be provided by a yearly audit, by requiring the Trustees to include Selectmen, and by requiring either Board of Selectmen or Town Meeting approval for certain Trust actions, such as buying or selling land. Selectmen may appoint additional Trustees to terms of up to two years. Trustee meetings are subject to public records and open meeting laws, as are other town committees and boards.
At the April 25 Selectman's meeting, Alan Lehotsky, chair of the Housing Authority, defended Article 25, which advocates the establishment of an Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
"This is changing our town government," Selectman Tony Allison told Lehotsky. "By removing the voters from approving town spending, you allow lower priorities to prevail." Lehotsky argued that the town can encumber any dollars going in to the trust, but Allison insisted, "This encroaches on the way town government has worked."
No rebuttals from Lehotsky or the other Selectmen could change Allison's mind and the final vote of 4-1 to recommend Article 25 did not succeed in putting the controversy to rest.
© 2006 The