Friday, November 24, 2006
Housing Plan goal is to provide 40B protection through 2010
At the November 14 Selectmen's meeting, John Ballantine gave an update on the status of the Affordable Housing Plan now that the Benfield Article at Town Meeting has passed. The state approval in 2005 of the Carlisle Affordable Housing Plan gave the town a respite from Chapter 40B as long as 12 to 13 units of affordable housing are added each year. Chapter 40B is a state statute that permits developers to build higher density housing than allowed under local zoning laws if at least 25% of the units have long-term affordability restrictions.
Ballantine outlined a plan that would protect Carlisle from 40B through the year 2010. The Coventry Woods 40B development planned for Concord Street should add 12 units of affordable housing. The town will have a one-year moratorium from 40B starting with the date it is filed. The filing must take place by the end of the calendar year in which the project is approved, but if there is no immediate 40B threat, there may be an advantage in delaying filing to extend the date at which the moratorium ceases. If Coventry Woods is approved in 2006, it must be filed by December 31, 2006, and the moratorium would end in late 2007. However, if approved in 2007, it can be filed as late as December 2007 to give immunity through the end of 2008.
After the Coventry Woods moratorium expires, Carlisle will need to be ready with Benfield approval and financing. Ballantine re-emphasized the importance of Benfield, noting that very few town-owned parcels have development potential, as most are conservation land. "Benfield is the first parcel explicitly purchased for affordable housing" and therefore by far the most likely to be quickly and successfully developed with the 26 units needed for a two-year moratorium. After Benfield is complete, it is expected another 40B will be coming on line with 12 affordable units, although the developer has not yet made his intentions public. In later years, Carlisle hopes to work with not-for-profit developers on mixed housing at other locations in town.
Hard work ahead
"We've been through the easy part of Benfield — you may not believe this," said Ballantine. The next steps include filing restrictions on each of the four parcels, clarifying the management of each parcel, whether ConsCom, CCF, Housing Authority, or RecCom, drafting the RFP, and revisiting the cost estimates. The gap between the cost of housing and what will be realized with sales is expected to surpass $1,000,000 at a $170,000 per unit purchase price, and this assumes a partnership with Habitat for Humanity which would reduce Carlisle's cost by $500,000. This does not include the playing fields which would likely bring the total to $2,000,000. The goal would be a Town Meeting vote in 2007 or 2008, with construction in 2009, depending on when the units are needed to advance the moratorium.
Will Affordable Accessory Apartments (AAA) help?
Ballantine noted there are several variables in the plan, including the timing of Coventry Woods and state acceptance of the plan for encouraging assessory apartments. Although the state has accepted the bylaw changes, it has not indicated whether or not the accessory units will count as affordable. "They want to increase the housing stock," said Ballantine, noting the assessory apartments may be viewed as a re-classification of existing housing.
Owners will have say
in AAA tenant selection
While owners of private AAA units will not have total control over tenant selection, they will have final approval, according to the new Local Initiative Program (LIP) Guidelines published by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (available at www.mass.gov/dhcd.) The tenant must be selected by the property owner from among the Ready Renters List of qualified eligible applicants.
Will Greenough barn
be converted to housing?
John Williams said that he is planning a tour of the Greenough barn with Conservation Commission Administrator Sylvia Willard to assess the safety of the building. He said the barn is being examined for the possibility it could be turned into affordable housing, and that the neighbors support this use of the building over letting it slowly disintegrate. Selectman Bill Tice responded, "It's a neat building. Too bad we can't do something with it. It's a shame to let it sit there and rot." Stevenson noted "There have been multiple Greenough committees over the years, but none of those plans have come to fruition" and perhaps it's time for "another Greenough group to get energized." McKenzie noted the Housing Authority will be taking a look at the property and evaluating its suitability for affordable housing.
Will Benfield housing
be sold or rented?
Susan Stamps of the Housing Authority questioned why the units at Benfield would be for sale when rental developments need to be only 25% affordable for the whole development to count. She also noted she had attended a symposium on affordable housing at which, "There was a lack of enthusiasm for 100% affordable developments. Mixed is the way to go." Ballantine said the financing for rental units would be too expensive. Also, because the Benfield land was purchased with CPA funds designated for affordable housing, no market-rate units can be built.
"We've got a lot of work to do," said Ballantine, noting the rush was on in case Coventry Woods does not happen in the near term. He prodded the Housing Authority to move ahead on the RFP. John Williams agreed, noting, "it would be terribly embarrassing" if Coventry Woods fell through and, after promoting Benfield as the 40B solution, it failed to fill that role because of delay. "We need to move quickly," said Williams. "And before something else pops up at Benfield," added Ballantine.
© 2006 The