The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 16, 2009

Village Court: Carlisle’s first senior housing development

Residents of Carlisle Village Court can take full advantage of the beauty of fall in New England as they look out their apartment windows to watch the leaves turn color in the woods. Located on Church Street, steps from the town center and the Carlisle Public School, Village Court is Carlisle’s first affordable housing project, a cluster of 18 units in three buildings on town-donated land, designed in 1980 and built in 1981 by the non-profit, all-volunteer Carlisle Elderly Housing Association (CEHA).

Carlisle Village Court is on Church Street, set in the woods between the library and the school. (Photo by Marjorie Johnson)

CEHA was formed in 1979, in partial response to the report of Carlisle League of Women Voters’ committee on town elderly housing needs, headed by the late Vivian Chaput. Village Court also houses the Sleeper Room, a gathering center for residents and townspeople. The Sleeper Room is named for Edna Sleeper, a Carlisle resident for many years and 1982’s Most Honored Citizen, who spearheaded fundraising to build the community room.

Village Court apartments are about 525 square feet, and the complex, which contains no elevators at present, is for independent, not assisted, living. Phyllis Hughes, a longtime Carlisle resident and artist who moved into Village Court a few years ago, is one of its biggest boosters. “Look at the closet space!” she enthused, while taking this reporter on a tour of her apartment earlier this week. “And you know, you need it. I took a survey of the people who live here, and everyone has between 15 and 19 coats. And people have more than just coats. You need closets for your wrapping paper and ribbon, for your sewing materials, for all the hobbies and projects you have. People our age need places to put all the stuff they have accumulated [over their lifetimes]. We don’t need big rooms; we need closets.” Hughes’s cozy one-bedroom apartment is typical of those in the complex, containing a living and dining area, kitchen and bath in addition to the bedroom and at least four of those necessary closets.

Most residents have Carlisle ties

Sixty to seventy percent of the residents drive their own cars and according to Senior Property Manager and Director of Affordable Housing Shelley Freeman, currently average about 70 years old. Freeman adds that almost all have either lived in Carlisle for a long time, or have relatives in town.

Residents of Village Court must be 62 years old or older, or be handicapped or disabled, and have an income keyed to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Rural Development (RD) standards for low to moderate incomes. Of the 18 units, 11 are HUD or RD subsidized.

Waiting list

Today there is a wait of five to seven years, with 17 people on the waiting list, and an average turnover of one per year. Names can move up on the waiting list either by filling units, or by jumping over names of people on the list who are not yet ready to move in to Village Court. “I have to say this often,” declares Freeman, “but people should not be deterred by the waiting list. Many people do not think far enough into the future, and wait too long before signing on for housing. They need to consider that, four or five years down the road, when they actually need it, their names will be closer to the top of the list and sign up now.”

Carlisle Elderly Housing Association President Bert Williams (left) meets with Property Manager Shelly Freeman and board member Charlie Forsberg. (Photo by Priscilla Stevens)

Manager aids volunteer board

Freeman is an employee of the Hodges Development Corporation, which manages the property for the CEHA, which owns it. Freeman runs the day-to-day operations at Village Court and makes recommendations on resident changes, marketing, maintenance and capital needs to CEHA, a 501-(c)3 corporation composed of Carlisle volunteers. The CEHA board meets at least three times a year in their oversight of the property. Board members are President Bert Williams, Charlie Forsberg, Karen Cohen, Marje Stickler, Jean Jenkins, Ruth Pickard and Janet Churchill.

Future expansion

One of the issues under recent discussion has been expanding the complex. An engineering study was commissioned to assess this idea. “The results,” reported Williams, “indicate that there are multiple issues to resolve and many obstacles to overcome. Our position at the moment is that the Board lacks the expertise to deal with these issues. We have spoken to [Selectman] John Williams, [Town Administrative Coordinator] Elizabeth Barnett and Alan Lehotsky [of the Housing Authority] and we would like to turn this over to the town, which has better expertise and resources than we do.” He added, “I certainly feel that we [the CEHA board] have a moral responsibility to be sympathetic to the town’s need for affordable housing.”

Collaboration with COA

Longtime member and former president Charlie Forsberg noted that although there is no formal connection with the Carlisle Council on Aging (COA), “the COA is the major sponsor of Sleeper Room events,” and states that although the COA is a separate agency, “we have a good and close relationship, and certain residents do receive services from the COA as well.”

Public panel discussion Oct. 25

Forsberg will be a member of the panel discussion that CEHA is planning to present as part of their open house to be held for the public on Sunday, October 25, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Village Court in the Sleeper Room. The panel will focus on raising public awareness about Village Court and answering questions about qualifications for residency and other issues. According to Williams, Forsberg has deep institutional memory and can answer almost any question anyone has about the complex. He and Hughes will also conduct tours of Village Court during the open house. In addition to Forsberg, the panel will include COA Director Kathy Mull, Williams as moderator and Barnett. Another purpose of the open house, says Williams, is to solicit the services of interested volunteers for the board, which seeks to bring its number of members up to nine from the present seven. “We are losing two excellent members,” says Williams, “and we need new voices on the board.”

Those interested in learning more about Village Court before the open house on Sunday may visit and the Hodges Companies website: ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito