Friday, November 2, 2007
Housing Authority discusses Benfield RFP, 40B reform
Despite an impending Red Sox World Series game, the Housing Authority met on October 25 to keep the momentum going on the 26-unit affordable housing project to be built by the town on the Benfield Land on South Street. They are meeting again on Saturday, November 3, to make more headway in finalizing the RFP before it is sent out for bid in December.
Benfield waiting list
Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett was pleased to report that she is getting very positive feedback from townspeople and has already received three names of people who want to be on a waiting list to be considered for residency at the site. She encourages townspeople to not only attend the public Housing Authority meetings but also to continue to contact her with comments and input as the project comes closer to fruition.
The town purchased the 45-acre Benfield Land in 2004 for the multiple purposes of open space preservation, affordable housing and recreation.
Later in the meeting, Chair Alan Lehotsky moved to fund mowing of the front field of the Benfield property before winter, in order to keep the land kempt and the woody plants from growing in the field. This motion was unanimously approved.
The Housing Authority discussed the most practical way to meet the state-mandated goal that 10% of Carlisle's housing stock qualify as affordable to families with low and moderate incomes. This requirement is the reason behind the town involvement in creating housing, because until Carlisle meets the target, it remains vulnerable to development applications filed under state statute 40B, which allows builders to bypass most local zoning as long a portion of the housing created is affordable.
According to Lehotsky, "Carlisle is now at a 1% ratio for affordable housing," and the Housing Authority's goal is to meet the 10% goal in a methodical and expedient fashion.
Discussion turned to efforts underway in surrounding communities to modify or repeal 40B. Lehotsky said, "Plans for reforming state law Chapter 40B to make it more effective in Carlisle have been suggested for at least three years," and added that they, "sank beneath the waves without a sound." There are three groups that have been in the news recently for speaking out on 40B. First, the Selectmen in Walpole have written a letter calling for a moratorium in 40B projects. This letter has been supported by officials in roughly four dozen communities, according to the Municipal Coalition for Affordable Housing (MCAH).
MCAH is a non-profit organization made up of elected and appointed members of municipal governments in Massachusetts and their web site, (www.mcahinfo.org) states, "Its purpose is the development of better methods for producing affordable housing in Massachusetts. The members of MCAH believe that responsibility for the production of low-cost housing should be returned to individual communities. Existing statutes, administrative regulations and policies should be reformed to enable municipalities to implement a broader range of low-cost housing alternatives, ensure consistency with long-range planning, maintain historical preservation and environmental protection, use appropriate local preferences and exercise sensible oversight."
A citizen group (www.repeal40b.com) is circulating a petition to eliminate 40B. Over 60,000 signatures are needed by the December 5 deadline in order for the petition to be considered by the state legislature. If not enacted by the legislature in the spring, the group has until July to collect about 11,000 more signatures to place the question on the ballot next November. There is a related web site (www.carlisleinitiative.com) directed at collecting signatures from Carlisle residents.
Barnett attended a Public Hearing on 40B on October 23 with the legislature's Joint Committee on Housing and she noted there are a lot of different points of view on the law. Francesa Brook, undersecretary of the Department of Housing and Community Development, described her plans to streamline the 40B process and increase financial transparency. The state Insector General also spoke about the need to monitor profits. Citizen comments ran the full spectrum both for and against 40B, Barnett said.
Sidelines for now
The Housing Authority agreed not to join an advocacy group at this time. Lehotsky said that, for now, their efforts would be concentrated on moving forward with finalizing the RFP for the creation of affordable housing on the Benfield property.
© 2007 The