Friday, March 30, 2007
Housing Authority reviews Coventry Woods, digs into Benfield project
The Carlisle Housing Authority (CHA) agreed on March 22 to send a letter to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) reaffirming concerns about affordable housing units within the Coventry Woods 40B development planned for Concord Street. By state statute, at least one quarter of the housing units created in a 40B development must meet affordability criteria for those with low and moderate incomes. The letter is to include the following recommendations:
• To help Carlisle residents qualify for the affordable units, incorporate Housing Authority suggestions for local preference categories in the housing lottery. Local preference can be given to some but not all of the affordable units in a 40B development, according to state guidelines. The criteria for local preference used for the town's first 40B development, Rocky Point (aka Laurel Hollow) included: town residents, a grown child or parent of a resident, a town employee or employee of the Concord-Carlisle Regional School District.
• Stipulate that approximately 25% of the end units in the buildings be reserved for affordable units. Given the assumption that end units are more desirable, the request that a portion of them be reserved for affordable units was made to help ensure that the low-cost units are of comparable quality to the market-rate units.
• Eliminate age restrictions from affordable units. It was explained that qualified buyers can be scarce for age-restricted housing, because with only a few exceptions, the state limits affordable units to first-time homeowners. The current Coventry Woods proposal would limit sales to buyers 55 or older, but most people at that age have already purchased a home in the past.
These three points were basically the same made in a similar letter from the Housing Authority to the ZBA dated November 17, 2005.
Using a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a municipal affordable housing project in Westford as a template, Carlisle Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett has begun to draft an RFP to build up to 26 units of affordable housing on the town-owned Benfield Land, located on South Street. Just as Carlisle plans to use the Benfield Land for recreation and conservation as well as housing, Westford's Stony Brook property is being used for conservation, recreation, housing and also land for a new school. The Stony Brook housing will include 15 units of low- and moderate-income family rental housing.
The Housing Authority is still in the very early stages of shaping the Benfield RFP. Discussion ranged from owner-occupied family housing, to rental units, to assisted-living housing for the elderly. Each type of housing serves a different population and may impact the town in different ways. For instance, CHA member Susan Stamps noted that residents in an assisted-living development might be harder for the fire department to protect than residents in an equal number of single-family homes. On the other hand, family housing brings more children to the school system. Stamps joked, "The least impact on the town might be home ownership by healthy families with no kids."
Land restrictions missing
Chair Alan Lehotsky observed that the paperwork for the Benfield deed restrictions, had not yet been completed. Selectman Alan Carpenito explained that the restrictions had first been held up when a rare blue-spotted salamander and possible Native American artifacts had been found on the site. Last fall's Town Meeting voted to change the restrictions to move the housing closer to the South Street edge of the property. Since then the paperwork has become stalled. Barnett said she was contacting both Carlisle's town counsel and the state to find the missing paperwork.
Carpenito invited members of the CHA to the next meeting of the Affordable Housing Trust. The Trust, on which all the Selectmen serve, was created by Town Meeting last year to help facilitate the creation of affordable housing. He said the Trust members hope to hold a housing summit in May, at which organizations or officials from other towns would be invited to share their expertise and experiences.
The Housing Authority has begun meeting on the second and fourth Thursday of every month.
© 2007 The