The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 19, 2009

Survey says residents want new housing options

At the June 9 Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting, John Ballantine presented an overview of the results of the Town Survey, undertaken this spring, as it pertains to housing needs. He noted the response rate to the survey was high, with 1,755 returns representing 44% of Carlisle residents over age 21. Because of a low response rate by those in their 20s, about 65% of the survey respondents were over 50, compared to 54% in the population.

Of those who responded, 35% plan to leave Carlisle later in life, while 28% do not plan to leave, and 32% are undecided. Although 82% were satisfied with their current housing, 41% thought the town should have more housing options. If there were more small private residences 53% believed they would stay in town longer, and 46% if condos or apartments were available.

Housing preferences were then presented in a series of charts that were derived by weighing the preferences expressed (no, probably not, maybe, definitely) at various income and age levels, with many survey participants noting more than one preference. Small private residences were found to be preferred by every income level up to $160,000 and condos/apartments, and affordable housing by those under $80,000. On-site assistance was preferred by those under $40,000. Multi-family units and group housing received low marks from everyone.

To give some perspective, half of town residents have incomes of over $160,000 and only 15% are below $80,000. Low-income numbers rise with age, however, and over half of residents over 80 have incomes below $80,000, with about half of that below $40,000.

By age, preferences differed. Small private residences were preferred by those aged 21 to 29 and by those 50 to 70, but not by those older. Condos and apartments were slightly preferred by those in their 70s, but by no other group. Affordable housing was preferred only by those above age 90 (10 surveys were returned in that age group). On-site assistance was very popular with those over 90 and preferred by those 70 to 89. For those 50 to 79, most believed availability of smaller housing, apartments, or condos would affect their decision to stay in town.

Conclusions and next steps

Ballantine concluded there were two large populations who want additional housing options: the 55% of residents between 50 and 80 years old who would consider living in smaller houses or apartments, and the 65% of residents with income under $80,000 who want affordable housing. The first group comprises about 1,108 residents, and the second group 366. On-site assistance would be considered by 51% of those over 50.

Selectman Doug Stevenson noted he was “extremely impressed we got this percentage to respond” but noted the conclusions seemed to contradict his experience that Carlisle zoning change proposals have had “a very limited level of success. People clamor for two-acre zoning.” Selectman Tim Hult said, “The economics of building small houses is difficult” given land prices and he wondered if, eventually, some large houses might be broken up into multiple units.

One issue with the data might be how much of the response involves hypotheticals. For example, over 30% of those in their 50s and 60s were interested in affordable housing, but only a small percentage would be eligible. There is also the question of whether those in their 40s or 50s have made a decision as to where and how they will retire.

Ballantine concluded, “This points us in the direction of increasing some options.” He noted the results of the survey will be posted on the town website for public review. Later, he explained that the survey committee is continuing with data analysis and will be sharing results “topic by topic” through the next few months “with a final report completed in the fall.” He added, “Our next step with these survey results is to meet with the Planning Board and review what possible steps they might want to take.” ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito