The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 17, 2010

New Housing Production Plan nears release

Carlisle must submit an updated Housing Production Plan (HPP) to the state this fall in order to remain eligible to earn a moratorium on “unfriendly” 40B housing developments. Carlisle’s Housing Authority Chair Alan Lehotsky and Housing Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett briefed the Selectmen on September 7 on the 2010 update of the plan, being finalized by the HPP Committee.

Chapter 40B of the Massachusetts General Laws allows developers to seek comprehensive permits from local zoning boards and bypass zoning restrictions for housing projects that include affordable housing.

To ease municipal concerns that Chapter 40B unfairly limits local control over development decisions, the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) issued regulations in 2003 that create certain “safe harbors” which allow municipalities to deny or place conditions on comprehensive permits without the threat of appeal and possible state override of the local decision.

Under regulations adopted in 2008, a municipality may qualify for a “planned production safe harbor” if the DHCD approves its Housing Production Plan and the city or town then approves new affordable housing units equal to 0.5% of its existing housing stock. Once a municipality approves a project that it believes qualifies for the planned production safe harbor, it must then apply to the DHCD for certification of compliance with its Housing Production Plan. Under the expanded regulations, a municipality that qualifies for this safe harbor is free to deny any 40B applications for the next 12 months.

As interpreted by the Housing Authority, certification of the updated HPP in conjunction with the Benfield Farms affordable housing will place Carlisle in “safe harbor” for two years.

In addition to the Benfield land, the 2010 HPP proposes five affordable housing locations: the Conant Land, Village Court expansion on Church Street, the Heald House apartment on Concord Street, the Cranberry Bog Service Parcel and the Banta-Davis Land. These proposed locations will require further study and coordination with all stakeholders and community input before details will be developed.

A significant portion of the HPP emphasizes the need, present and future, for available and affordable housing in Carlisle. While 40B is primarily concerned with creating housing for those with low and moderate incomes, the high cost of housing has pushed home prices out of the reach of many with above-average incomes.

For instance, the median sale price of a home in Carlisle is $746,750. With real estate taxes projected to average $10,000, a household needs to earn approximately $196,000 to afford the median home. Median household income is $155,000 based on the 2008 Council on Aging survey.

In addition, seniors now make up more than 20% of Carlisle’s population and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council forecasts that this will grow to 34% over the next 20 years. The COA survey found that seniors were interested in alternative housing options, such as smaller houses or condos.

A draft of the 2010 HPP is on the Housing Authority link on the town website ( DHCD is doing a preliminary review. The public is invited to provide feedback and input to the Housing Authority or Housing Coordinator. Town boards and committees are to respond by 4 p.m. on September 23. ∆

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