The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, October 30, 2009

Housing Authority shorts, Oct. 22

Benfield Farms. How will the planned Benfield Farms affordable housing be affected if Carlisle adopts the energy-efficiency building requirements known as the “stretch code”? With the comprehensive permit application expected to be filed by the developer the next morning, the Housing Authority on Thursday, October 22, discussed this and other issues relating to energy use in the proposed housing project. It was said that the firm planning to develop and manage the facility, NOAH, “is concerned” about the stretch code. Construction costs are expected to increase, but it was not known by how much, beyond the cost of the additional paperwork and materials auditing. The Housing Authority has not required the project meet specific energy-efficiency guidelines. However, they have stated that “green” building techniques are desirable and NOAH has personnel certified in using LEED building guidelines.

Barnett said that both the stretch code and LEED aim to increase energy efficiency, but “they come at it in different ways.” The stretch code focuses on largely mechanical and electrical specifications, while LEED guidelines are “all encompassing” and take into consideration additional factors such as the origin and recycled content of building materials, indoor chemical pollution and drought-resistant landscaping. Housing Authority member Susan Stamps said that Energy Star construction standards provide a third approach.

If the stretch code would create a large added expense for the Benfield project, Housing Authority members considered asking the town to delay its implementation, or to adopt the stretch code only for smaller projects. They agreed to ask NOAH to meet with Carlisle’s Energy Task Force to better understand how the stretch code would affect Benfield Farms.

Gas heat is preferred for energy efficiency and cost, but the gas line on South Street ends 1,600 feet away from the Benfield Farms development. If the utility cannot be extended, fuel oil will be used. Because cooking ranges will be electric, a higher electric service will be needed. NOAH is looking into electric service setup costs and whether any fees might be waived since the project is on town-owned land. (See also “Benfield Farms 40B application filed with ZBA,” page 1)

Supportive housing. This week Barnett will attend a conference on supportive housing options organized by the Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA). According to Barnett, the field of supportive housing is evolving as more senior residential developments provide services such as meals, housekeeping or nursing visits that will help seniors live independently as long as possible.

New member applicant. Carolyn Ing of Westford Street attended the meeting and expressed interest in filling the vacancy for the single appointed position on the Housing Authority. The group thanked her and agreed to send a letter in support to Governor Deval Patrick who must make the appointment.

Highland. Town Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett suggested that affordable housing might be a possible use of the Highland Building. An elevator would not be necessary if the building were renovated to provide two units of affordable family housing, unless a tenant moved in who is, or becomes disabled. (See related article, page 9.)

Affordable Accessory Apartments (AAA). While Town Meeting approved the AAA program to help meet the 10% affordable housing goal, the town is still finalizing paperwork that meets state requirements. Homeowners who register their accessory apartments and rent to qualifying tenants will be eligible for up to $15,000 in incentive payments from the town.

Barnett provided a sample of an apartment lease that has been accepted elsewhere by the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). She said the seven-page document is “pretty thorough” and includes fair housing non-descrimination terminology. Lehotsky thought there might be clauses which a prospective landlord would find objectionable. However member Steve Perlman said that homeowners would be free to cross out terms they do not like. The Housing Authority voted to adopt the document as the “recommended lease” for the AAA program.

For each AAA unit, the state is requiring an agreement signed by three parties: the homeowner, the town and DHCD. Barnett said that a new draft has been written, incorporating changes suggested by Greg Peterson, a member of Carlisle’s Affordable Housing Trust, which will issue the homeowner incentive grants. Once the Housing Authority approves the new draft, it will be sent to Town Counsel and the trust for approval.

How will banks react to mortgage requirements under the AAA deed restrictions? To find out, Barnett has contacted three area banks: Middlesex Savings, Cambridge Savings and Wells Fargo. Initial reaction was favorable and final word is expected shortly.

It is anticipated that Chelmsford’s Housing Authority will be contracted to help administer the AAA program. Experienced in fair housing requirements, they would monitor tenants’ eligibility and maintain a list of prospective renters. However, Barnett said the Housing Trust will need additional arrangements for administering the homeowner incentive grants. ∆

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito