The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 18, 2009

Carlisle teases out Affordable Accessory Apartment program

Officials are still working the wrinkles out of the paperwork for the proposed Affordable Accessory Apartment (AAA) program first authorized by Town Meeting in 2006. Once in operation, the program will encourage property owners to reserve accessory apartments for low- and moderate-income tenants, and thereby allow the housing to count towards Carlisle’s affordable housing production goals. At the joint meeting of the Carlisle Affordable Housing Trust and the Housing Authority on September 10, Finance Director Larry Barton noted that managing the financial incentives may be more complex than originally anticipated.

Town Meeting set aside $90,000 in Community Preservation Act funds in 2006 to provide incentives for apartment owners willing to participate in the AAA program. Two options were planned: either a $15,000 “loan” to be forgiven at the rate of $1,000 per year for the first 15 years the apartment was in the program, or a flat distribution of $1,000 per year for up to 15 years.

The question was raised whether the grant should be given after the town has approved the AAA application, or after the state has given approval? Barton also wondered what the implications would be if an owner took the lump sum, quit the program early and refused to refund the money due for the remaining years. There was no agreement on what action to take to prevent defaults. Many favored dropping the loan option, while others thought the lump sum incentive might be favored by apartment owners, or were reluctant to change the format from that described at Town Meeting.

The Trust, which is legally a separate entity from the Town of Carlisle, is to administer the AAA funds, and also has control of over $400,000 in a separate account for the Benfield housing project. The Trust was created by Town Meeting in 2006 to help the town reach the state-mandated goal of 10% affordable housing. The seven members of the trust include the town’s five Selectmen, as well as Housing Authority member Jim Bohn and former Planning Board member Greg Peterson. Barton suggested the Trust get legal and financial advice for managing its assets, which must be kept separate from the town’s funds.

In related paperwork, the Trust and Housing Authority members noted that the latest revision to the proposed Local Initiative Program (LIP) regulatory agreement for AAA properties is incomplete and “contains a few holes.” As part of each AAA application, the deed restriction agreement must be signed by the property owner, the Chair of the Selectmen and the Department of Housing and Community Development. A potential applicant had said earlier that his bank was reluctant to offer a mortgage on a property with this type of three-way deed restriction and Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett was asked to check with three local banks to see if they would have any difficulties with the LIP agreement. Barnett will pass her findings on to the Planning Board. Drafting the document has involved the Planning Board, Housing Authority and Housing Trust. Once completed, the document will be sent to Town Counsel for approval. ∆

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