The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 13, 2009

Affordable housing production plan committee to update plan

On November 5, Town Clerk Charlene Hinton swore in a new Affordable Housing Production Plan (AHPP) committee for a one-year term. Taking the oath were Jim Bohn and Alan Lehotsky of the Housing Authority, John Williams of the Board of Selectmen, and David Freedman and Tom Lane of the Planning Board. Selectman Tim Hult and Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett were unable to be present.

The committee’s charge is to update Carlisle’s affordable housing production plan, so that it may be submitted to the state with adjustments for population and demographics changes and for new state regulations. Williams served as chair for the evening, and Hinton provided the committee with its starting point, the latest population estimate for the town, 5,471 residents.

The committee had prepared for the meeting by rereading the current Carlisle AHPP, and each committee member had read at least one plan from another town of comparable size to Carlisle. Barnett had provided copies of state-required components (see box, page 17) and a statistical comparison of Carlisle and Wenham, based on population, demographics, homes sales history and prices, level of affordable housing, school enrollment figures and other data. Williams commented that this comparison “is basically an industry template. Our plan and Wenham’s were done by the same person. I would like to think that while doing what we are mandated to do, we can produce housing that will help the town.” He then asked each committee member to comment on areas of concentration that could be used to update Carlisle’s current AHPP.

Lehotsky replied, “I focused on the mitigating sections [town characteristics that limit a town’s ability to comply with the mandated percentage of affordable housing]. We could cut and paste all the aggregate data from other towns into our own. I think we will get something valuable out of this in terms of doing up-front strategizing. If we are going to build housing, it pays to identify, early, what steps need to be taken and what zoning bylaws might need changing.”

Lane said he tried to pick out things from each plan to understand what really has to be done. He noted that demographics projections for some plans seem to be “fluff.” Freedman countered, “The stuff in these plans and level of detail is required. We’re trying to please the [state], but the town is supposed to adopt this, so it has to communicate to the citizens what they don’t know. Under the new regulations, the Selectmen and the Planning Board must adopt [the plan]. The reason they want towns to adopt these things is so that they will be models for behavior.”

“Many of the recommended plans,” Freedman said, “could be relatively irrelevant to us. Many towns have almost gotten to their 10% [required percentage of affordable housing]: Wenham, for example. Most towns have all sorts of things that we don’t have: abandoned sites, town water and sewer, commercial redevelopment possibilities. There are things other towns can do to build denser development. We don’t have them and we’re not likely to, except for inclusionary zoning for AAAs (affordable accessory apartments).”

“If we have to do a five-year plan,” continued Freedman, “it’s really quite simple. We have Benfield; Village Court has had an engineering study; the waste water treatment plant is in place. We will need 20 units and we can use affordable accessory apartments to round it up. A certain amount of specificity is good. We need to put in the details that relate to what we need to do to get affordability. Carlisle really is Brigadoon; we really aren’t like anybody else.”

Williams then reviewed a number of town statistics, noting that the total number of housing units is now 1,835 “and that includes 78 vacant homes and 65 duplicate listings. As of 2000, it was 1655. We need to build 9.2 units (round up to 10) units a year, which equals one half of 1%. For a town of our size, most of the demographic data comes from 2000 because the state doesn’t take census information any more often. By 2018, school enrollment projections go down by 50. My guess is that we’re safe in using the data we have.”

Bohn suggested subscribing to the Warren Group, for $15 per month, to garner “a fair amount of housing-related data from their database. We will work from the census, town report materials, assessor’s figures and Warren Group stuff (recent sales figures, etc.). You have to show that what you’re doing fits what is actually happening to the town.”

Freedman said, “The core of the plan is to show how we got to where we are and make a five-year plan. You don’t have to pretend you can meet all your goals. We need to emphasize what we’ve done already; the money that the town has spent on Benfield, for example, and the areas where the state mandates are not do-able.”

At the filing date for the new plan, Carlisle will still qualify for building eight affordable housing units a year, but this will change when the new census counts comes out. In 2011, the town would have to build ten units a year. The committee suggested starting the new plan in the year 2010. Areas of concern that need to be addressed in the new plan include reporting the capacity of the town’s infrastructure. This is limited to data from committee reports such as that from the school building committee and the waste water treatment plant, as we have no town water, no change in roads, no sewer and serious issues about locations for affordable housing, especially with regard to conservation restrictions. Carlisle’s conservation restriction issues are, Williams said, “tough and problematic for most of the parcels already identified.”

Freedman volunteered to go through the current document and “redline places that need information or changes.” With that information at the next meeting, committee members will divide the plan into sections and bring in possible updates of their sections for the approval of the whole committee. ∆

State requirements for the Affordable Housing Production Plan

Every town in Massachusetts is required to file an Affordable Housing Production Plan, which details how the town plans to meet the state-mandated goal of 10% affordable housing. The plan must be updated every five years.

The plan must include the following required components:

1. Comprehensive needs assessment, including current population, demographics and housing mix.

2. Projection of future population and housing needs.

3. Physical constraints and limitations to development of affordable housing.

4. Capacity of town’s infrastructure to accommodate future growth, including water/sewer capacity, roads, schools, and other public facilities.

5. Affordable housing goals, including the proposed mix of housing to meet the 10% minimum.

6. Implementation strategies, including identification of specific sites, proposed housing developments, milestones and timelines.

© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito