Friday, March 28, 2008
Affordable Housing Trust considers Benfield infrastructure funding
Why is the town being asked to spend $425,000 on infrastructure for the affordable senior housing development on the town’s Benfield Land? Housing Authority Chair Alan Lehotsky explained why the Authority is requesting the funding from the Community Preservation Committee (CPC) when he spoke with members of Carlisle’s Affordable Housing Trust on Monday, March 24.
The Trust was formed by Town meeting in 2006 to facilitate the creation of affordable housing. The legal structure of the Trust allows more flexibility than traditional town government entities, including buying, leasing and selling assets, or borrowing money. Carlisle’s five Selectmen are automatically members of the Housing Trust. In addition, the Trust includes Housing Authority member Jim Bohn and Planning Board member Greg Peterson.
The Housing Authority had an initial estimate of infrastructure costs for the Benfield Land prepared by the engineering firm A. M. Fogarty in 2005. Now that the proposed housing site has been moved closer to the road and the 26-unit project has been limited to seniors, expenses should be reduced and the Authority has requested an updated estimate. Lehotsky believes that it will still cost “well over $500,000” to build the road, septic system and water supply for the housing on the 45-acre South Street parcel. He expects the project developer to cover part of the expense.
Lehotsky said that it would not be enough for the town to provide the land without the additional funds to create the infrastructure, and noted that this cost was mentioned when the town voted to buy the land in 2004. However, he does not want the town to be obligated to any long-term ongoing support for the affordable housing project.
Peterson supported the payment toward infrastructure, and said, “The risk is that a developer won’t come to the table” if they do not see the town is committed to the project. If no developer bids on the project, Lehotsky noted that the $425,000 would be returned to the CPC.
A March 21 letter from the Housing Authority’s consultant, Karen Sunnarborg, stated that a combination of public and private financing would be needed. Even with the town providing the land and supporting the infrastructure construction, Sunnarborg sees a possible gap of roughly $150,000 between what the housing will cost and what a developer will be able to finance privately.
Carlisle Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett later noted that the mix of private and state or federal grant funding will vary, depending on the final design of the development. Additional federal funding may be available, for instance, if housing is included for those with very low incomes.
Because the Benfield Land was purchased using CPC funds, the housing must be affordable to those with incomes at or below the Area Median Income (AMI). Barnett said the 2008 AMI for a two-person household is approximately $66,000, and such a household would be expected to afford rent of roughly $1,650 per month.
Barnett described a severe shortage of affordable housing for seniors in surrounding towns. Some towns have waiting lists of seven to ten years for non-resident seniors, while other towns will have no available units for the foreseeable future. Carlisle has not created a formal waiting list, but Barnett said that ten seniors had already expressed interest in living in the proposed Benfield housing.
The CPC has not yet approved the Housing Authority’s funding request. In an effort to reassure the CPC that the funds would be handled with due caution, Lehotsky asked the Trust to oversee disbursement of the funds. The Trust agreed. The CPC is scheduled to consider the request further at their meeting on April 7. ∆
© 2008 The