The town of Carlisle, Mass., a rural community northwest of Boston, has been able to achieve two of its goals with the development of Benfield Farms—providing affordable housing for its aging population and preserving open space.
The 26-unit project is the first new affordable housing development in the community in more than three decades. Developed by Boston-based Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH), Benfield Farms has been built on a 45-acre site that the town purchased for $2 million with its Community Preservation Act funds and is leasing to NOAH for $1. The town also contributed $425,000 to support the infrastructure needed on the site.
The development, which opened in February 2014, was the culmination of more than five years of work between the public-private partnership of NOAH, the Carlisle Housing Authority, and the Town of Carlisle Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
In addition to the housing, NOAH provided parking at the trailhead for the paths in the woods where community residents can come to walk and bird watch and created state-of-the-art wastewater treatment and stormwater management systems to protect the surrounding wetlands and meadow.
Toby Kramer, director of real estate development at NOAH, says it would have been a difficult project to bring to fruition without the town’s complete support.
“Some communities don’t spend their money on housing as much as this community was willing to do,” she says.
DiMella Shaffer Architects designed the project to blend in with the surrounding community. A classic-style, three-story main house connects to a two-story red barn, with a stairwell housed within a silo. A large community space on the ground floor offers room for socializing, communal meals, and programs with the Carlisle Council on Aging. An additional activity room is on the second floor, and a library and a porch are on the third floor for residents’ use.
“Despite being affordable housing, it is keeping with the character of the community,” Kramer says.
The 17 one-bedroom and nine two-bedroom units utilize universal design principles, which allow for large doorways, large bathrooms with step-in showers, sliding doors, and walk-in closets.
Benfield Farms also achieved both Energy Star for New Homes and LEED for Homes Gold certification, big feats for a rural development with limited access to public transportation and commercial services.
The building features a well-insulated envelope as well as Mitsubishi mini-split heat pumps to provide high-efficiency heating and cooling. The developer is planning to phase in a solar photovoltaic system as a way to save on the future costs of electricity. Energy Star lighting and appliances, Water Sense plumbing fixtures to conserve water, and ventilation systems also are included in each unit.
Benfield Farms serves a range of incomes for seniors 62 and older. Five units are set aside for residents earning less than 30% of the area median income (AMI), 17 units target residents earning less than 60% of the AMI, and the remaining four units serve residents below 100% of the AMI.
In addition to the town’s financial support, the $9.9 million development was financed primarily through federal and state low-income housing tax credits. Bank of America Merrill Lynch was the equity investor. It also received soft funds from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development and a permanent mortgage from the Massachusetts Housing Partnership.