In the southern region of New Hampshire and on the Seacoast, vacancy rates are low, housing prices are high, and there is a lack of affordable housing for families and young adults. In the northern and western parts of the state, substandard housing remains a problem. As part of the The Balance series on NHPR about the cost of living in the Granite State, we look at why our state continues to have issues, and how some cities, like Londonderry, are turning to mixed community developments.
- Peter Francese - Demographics and psychographics expert. He is the founder of American Demographics Magazine.
- Dean Christon - Executive Director of the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.
- Jeff Feingold - Editor for the New Hampshire Business Review.
"10 years later: A state at risk?" from Seacoast Online.
"PHA presents design options for workforce apartments," from Seacoast Online.
"'I'm still angry': Granite Staters revisit the 2008 housing collapse," from the Union Leader.
"Seacoast home sales drop to three-year low," from NHBR.
Check out New Hampshire Housing's studies, publications, and presentations page for resources related to rentals and the housing market, as well as recent studies and surveys.
This transcript is computer generated, and may contain errors.
[00:00:00] From New Hampshire Public Radio I'm Laura Knoy and this is the exchange.
[00:00:15] What kind of housing does New Hampshire need. Our listeners tell us quite clearly they think the state needs smaller more affordable homes and apartments for young people and singles. And housing experts confirm their feelings with numbers showing a severe shortage of moderately priced homes for sale and rental vacancy rates to practically zero in some communities. So price and availability are huge concerns. In addition many Granite Staters these days say they prefer to live close to work schools shopping health care and so on instead of living out in the country or even in the suburbs. But while it's clear what people want. Why is it so hard for them to get it. What are the factors limiting New Hampshire's housing stock from fitting the preferences and needs of its residents. Let's hear from you. Our email exchange at NHP our. Again exchange at NHP artwork's respond on Facebook or Twitter at NHP Xchange or give us a call 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7.
[00:01:13] We have three guests for the hour with me in studio Dean Christon he's executive director of the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority and Dean. Good to see you. Good morning. Also with us Peter Francese founder of American Demographics magazine and co-author of communities and consequences the unbalancing of New Hampshire's Human Ecology. He's now working on the sequel to that book and film. And Peter nice to see you welcome back. Thank you. And joining us by phone Jeff Feingold editor for The New Hampshire Business Review. And Jeff thank you also for being with us. We appreciate it. Great being on laur. Well we hear all of you that affordable housing is limited for all groups but Dean to you first whose needs are especially not being met.
[00:01:52] Well there actually are needs across the entire market but clearly in an environment where there's price pressure and limited inventory of both of those up for sale and rental housing it affects lower income people more it affects people trying to purchase their first home. It affects people who are on a fixed income more so it is a more critical issue for lower income and even what you might describe as more moderate income households. But I think it actually impacts a broad range of individuals and households because there's just a clear shortage of inventory in many of our markets and people tell us that they want not just more affordable housing but smaller housing they don't want a big giant house with five bed yeah.
[00:02:34] Q Years ago we actually commissioned a study by the New Hampshire Public Policy Center and Dennis Delay and Russ Thibeault worked on it and one of the key findings they offered was that we have kind of an imbalance in our market between the kind of housing stock we have and what people consumers tastes are now and that's not necessarily about affordability in all cases it's about where do people want to live. What kind of amenities do they want. How much work do they want to have related to their homes those kinds of issues.
[00:03:03] Well the aging of the population how much do you really want to be out there you know working on the lawn every week.
[00:03:07] Well it's that's it. That's true. But it's also true that young consumers have evidenced a different interest in their housing situation. They want to be closer to amenities they want to be closer to transportation and closer to work. They don't want to spend the amount of time that perhaps previous generations did commuting and they also don't want to spend a lot of time on maintaining a large lot or large homes. And so there is a mismatch and we need to think about how we go about modifying our housing stock in order to address that.
[00:03:36] Well we'll definitely talk about that Peter who is not being served by our current housing stock.
[00:03:40] Well Dean put his finger right on it. The young family is the most severely impacted by the shortage. But we have a strange situation which really did not exist in the past and that is we have thousands of senior citizens like myself who want to downsize that we used to live in a big home and it's become burdensome not only financially but but from a work point of view. And my wife and I did downsize a year ago and bought a much smaller house and I feel guilty because we essentially bought an affordable small home on a small lot and because we were able to buy it and pay essentially full price a millennial with us starting a family didn't get that house. And so the first thing we have today is competition between seniors who want to downsize and young people who want to start a family and that that's really to the best of my knowledge not occurred to this extent before. And so now we have not only a demand a double demand we have as Dean said a significant shortage. Well not very kind of harsh.
[00:04:58] Spoken like a demographer so you have these two huge demographic groups both vying for the same kind of housing.
[00:05:04] Exactly. And there's theirs. And yet developers don't want to build it because the profits aren't big enough and towns specifically do not want it because of the fear the mythology that they will put kids in school and not pay enough in property taxes to pay for those kids so definite.
[00:05:25] Talk about that whole property tax calculation because I know you've worked a lot on that but Jeff to you. And I guess hearing Dean and Peter talk makes me wonder OK so that big house that Peter used to live in if there is a demand for smaller easier housing why not just break up those big houses and turn them into condos.
[00:05:43] Jeff easier said than done I guess with some of those houses or I don't know if I live in a town where there's a lot of those big houses and it always amazes me that there's maybe two people living in sort of rattling around in 10 rooms.
[00:05:55] Exactly. And you know I just I don't think that's that's really what the answer is. I think the answer really is is that we have a housing stock that just does not suit the needs of what people want today.
[00:06:08] This is a housing stock from the 80s basically 80s and 90s and people want it. They have as you know the McMansion and all that stuff.
[00:06:14] But now as both Peter and Dean said you know we have a different there's a different need from not from younger people today. I work in Manchester as become you know a much younger cities a lot of people who are living downtown and want to live downtown they spent a lot of time there. PORTSMOUTH'S is you know it is textbook on that that you know people want to live in Portsmouth. Unfortunately especially in Portsmouth it's almost impossible to find a place to live. It is basically nothing on the market because as I think Dean said the inventory levels are so low there's just no housing available for people to buy it once it's on the market it just gets gobbled up sometimes within a couple of weeks or even immediately. And that's something that for the long term is not is not healthy for our economy. You know we've talked about this before on the economic roundup. You know we we need to have a place we need to have the kind of a state where young people can live can afford to live because that's how workforce you know.
[00:07:16] You know the old folks like Dean and Peter and I we know just kind of you know towards the end of our careers and we need younger people living and they can't afford to. What are we going to do.
[00:07:27] Steve go ahead. Well speak for yourself Jeff but I agree with them generally and I think that you know in the context of the large homes in the legislature a couple of years ago did in fact pass a law the accessory dwelling unit law known as Eddie Hughes that was designed to encourage people when the opportunity exists to perhaps use their large home differently to perhaps build an apartment within that home and either move into that and rent out the rest of the property or to perhaps have a caregiver or a family member or somebody else and make better use of those larger homes that are no longer filled with people the way they once were. So the legislature tried to push that along. They did. And that's happening. The law is in effect and there are some changes going on from his own perspective in communities. It's not going to fix the problem but it's one solution to the problem that also needs to go with looking at how we can encourage the development of more housing that does meet this new market need.
[00:08:25] I want better listeners to join us again the number here in the exchange 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. Send us an email exchange at NHP dot org. You can respond on Facebook or Twitter at NHP exchange again. Email is exchange at NIH PR dot org and boy gentleman got lots of comments on our Facebook page.
[00:08:46] Even before the show went up from our listeners. Everybody pretty much saying the same thing Joshua said. Affordable housing for single people that is not public housing. This is in response to our question What kind of housing does New Hampshire need. Spencer also says affordable housing for younger people who don't have children which is not public housing with compact home developments and zoning code and variances to allow that. So Jeff to you but anybody else jump in. What about that. What role do zoning and code variances play in this lack of affordable housing.
[00:09:23] They play a big role in this because that's one of the major reasons we don't have very affordable housing and we also have these you know over the years we built those houses on our two acre lot minimums and other things that have been very restrictive in certain communities. So what happens is that many towns have willfully set up their regulations to keep out what we would call affordable housing workforce housing that you know multifamily housing. So and that's really what the shortages in the need for that. We've seen this happening over many many years in New Hampshire that communities have been using zoning regulations to basically block certain people from coming. There's a mix of young families adding to the tax to property taxes because kids are going to go on a and things like that. So that's been it's been a holdover for years and there's been a little bit of an effort in certain communities to to reverse that to allow more you know more concentrate housing on developments you know in Londonderry or other places like that. But in the long term in the long run what's happened is that we've we've kind of done this to ourselves and kids in these communities because they haven't been able to because people can't be builders can't build they've they've talked very much things. Talk to me very much about how restrictive the regulations have been in communities all over the state. And this is it's just it's just not it's it's a huge contributing factor to the state we're in right now in terms of housing.
[00:10:55] So Peter you're going to have to help us unravel this for people who aren't familiar with the issue like you are and what Jeff says the idea that you know everybody says we need affordable housing for singles for downsizer.
[00:11:08] There's this demographic pressure that you describe but towns are still worried about building these properties. Jeff started to explain it but I'd like your thoughts too and your explanation.
[00:11:18] Sure. The explanation is very straightforward. We have more school districts in our little state of one point three million than Florida does and they have 20 million people. We have more than they have we have almost 100 school districts and the state allowed fairly large districts to break up with a mere 50 percent vote by one of the towns. So we have a continually increasing number of tiny school districts and that puts the burden of paying for schools on a relatively small piece of geography. The best example is Newmarket. It's a town of less than 10000 people. It is a full K through 12 system. Wow. And so it's a small town probably Texas. They've got to pay for schools highway fire safety and so forth and so that puts the burdens on the local community. And so the myth has arisen that every house will put two kids in the school every new home that's not age restricted. Put two kids in school. Now these Christian people have done a fabulous job of busting that myth but busting myths is a long term process and very difficult age restricted housing housing that it discriminates against children and says only people 55 or 65 or older can move in is allowed at least twice the density of regular housing that is not age restricted. So that's where the zoning comes in if the zoning is followed for all types of housing then it would be affordable to all groups. But it's there's lots of affordable housing in New Hampshire. It's just only available to people 55 and older.
[00:13:08] So I want to ask you about that in just a second but Dean a little bit more on this idea that we don't want to Bill large amounts of affordable housing because families with children will come in and that will increase our school costs. That's the calculation that towns are still making even after a decade of people saying New Hampshire is graying we need young families.
[00:13:28] I think that what we've what we'd like to say basically is that a lot of our zoning ordinances and regulations are retrospective. They really look back on problems on issues that communities were dealing with literally decades ago and they haven't necessarily evolved to recognize this change in the demographics that Peter and Jeff are talking about the needs of our communities. The fact that we have a different set of tastes if you will consumer interests. And so we are dealing with that retrospective set of regulations that makes it very difficult to build in higher density environments that is larger scale housing more compact development.
[00:14:07] Some of the things that are going on around the state that are mixed use and mixed income are kind of on the edge of that. That's not common and one of the interesting dynamics said that a number of people have pointed out over the years is that what we all think about is what we'd like to replicate is the is the New England village that has a mixture of residential perhaps in a more compact way along with other services but it's almost impossible to replicate that in most communities now because the zoning was designed to separate residential development from everything else. Number one and to encourage this low density spread out kind of development practice. So I think there are real issues there with regulatory policy. It's changing but it's changing somewhat slowly in order to meet what is now a really strong demand.
[00:14:52] Well there's a project in Londonderry a fast growing community right off the interstate that is getting a lot of attention because they're trying to build that you know in what has been a suburban community. Our producer Christina Phillips talked early with Londonderry Town Manager Kevin Smith about this new mixed use development called Woodmont Commons. As you said Deeney did include housing shopping offices other services basically creating a downtown where there used to be an apple orchard. Now we talked about affordable housing Smith says. Even though the cost of housing and Woodmont Commons would be on the higher end he says he does not expect there will be a shortage of demand for it among all age groups.
[00:15:30] We're going to remember it's not just price that's going to drive where a person decides to live. Certainly that is a big consideration of it.
[00:15:39] But you look at many millennials that want to live in a city whether it's Portsmouth's or Boston because of convenience because of walkability. Same thing with seniors too who maybe have a little bit more disposable income. They don't want to necessarily get in the car to have to go around everywhere. So when we talk about attracting millennials and seniors of the Woodmont Commons development it's more for the convenience of what it's going to provide there that you'll be able to walk to get your groceries you'll be able to walk to you know get an ice cream get a coffee or whatever but you know you can leave your home walk downtown go back. So there's more of that. When we talk about attracting those type of demographics there's there's the whole convenience of the walkable community which is something that's not prevalent right now in New Hampshire or really anywhere in New England.
[00:16:38] Again that's Kevin Smith Londonderry town manager talking about what people want from housing these days and that's a question we're asking today in the exchange. What does New Hampshire need in terms of housing. And why does it seem so hard for us to get it. This is the exchange on an NPR So Jeff what do you think about what Kevin Smith says that we're trying to create these walkable downtowns and seems to be no shortage of demand. I just wonder is this kind of flipping the current regulatory system we have on its head that Dean described.
[00:17:11] Yeah I think really it's an effort on the part of developers to to respond to this demand as we said of people wanting to live in walkable areas in places where you know you don't have to drive 20 minutes to go to the grocery store or whatever. And you know I would say this comment is this definitely is stands out in many ways but another one that's that's a major development story similar as Tuscan village right in Salem on the old Rockingham Park racetrack grounds and that's another one that's going to have a housing and it's going to be basically creating a downtown for Salem. And it's a similar it's a similar project as is going to have all kinds of stuff you know hotels and retail and office units and go buy all kinds of stuff but not to have townhouses. So I guess I think apartments and you know this is just that it's it's a it's a it's a foray into creating this kind of thing. You know one of the things that we haven't talked about yet is that there's there's a there's a lack of housing in areas where people want to live. There is not a lack of housing in areas where people have not you know are not living that actually are leaving like places like the North Country Berlijn and stuff.
[00:18:22] If you look at the median house price of a house for sale where it gets sold in Coash county it's less than a hundred thousand dollars which is just you know pretty much compared compared to places like Bedford or something it's nothing and you know it's a it's it's a problem is that we don't have the housing stock where we need it like places like Salem and London very sudden suddenly actual which is growing which is you know obviously extremely compared to a collage wealthy. And that's that's really the problem if you if people would if you could somehow manage to turn downtown Franklin you know build it up again and make it what it once was. People would want to be living there and apparently they're trying their best and frankly to do that because that's part of downtown that already exist.
[00:19:09] So you have to kind of go where the jobs are and sometimes yeah yeah downtown Berlin again they've been trying to revitalize it downtown Franklin. Peter Fransisco had jump in.
[00:19:20] The beautiful the beautiful thing about the Salem and the Londonderry developments is that it is both commercial and residential. So any worries that the housing will put kids in school is mitigated by the fact that there's lots and lots of taxable property that's coming along with it. That's commercial has no house housing at all.
[00:19:45] So that helps towns get over that concern that too many kids in the schools will raise property taxes although Peter again is a demographer.
[00:19:54] It is kind of stunning to think about you know planners looking at that and saying ooh we don't want too many kids when every single week practically you know somebody comes into the studio and says workforce workforce workforce please bring in young families.
[00:20:09] Still I heard two things I think firstly there are a number of examples as we were talking about of these mixed use property developments. There's actually a small one in Bedford that's also evolving. So I think we'll see soon just how much impact they have and how the public reacts to them. I want to talk very quickly about this issue of schoolchildren now and I think that Peter's right. We've published a lot of data and I think most professional planners know that the number of schoolchildren associated with most new development is relatively small and that most household sizes now are are much smaller and there's not going to be this huge impact. And you're you're right there are actually some communities there looking for more children because of the cost of running those schools and all the factors it really leads to the fact that there's the sort of legal regulatory structure and the professional ordinances and the people that do that. And then there's public kind of just perception. And that's I think where we are there the public many times has a very different view of the reality we face and of what ordinances mean and how the impact things than do the officials in other words you know we make these decisions at the local level and they have to be voted on by local folks. Today there will be people voting on ordinance changes and oftentimes the real challenge is not convincing officials of the need to change things or what the impact is going to be.
[00:21:27] But the folks that live in the neighborhoods and are in those communities and one of our challenges is making people understand this connection between economic growth and having an adequate supply of housing and that there really is a reason why we need to make some of these changes in order to support our future community.
[00:21:44] I got an e-mail here from Robin who says As an older person I experienced the lack of housing. I have a two bedroom but with an acre of land. The taxes are not affordable long term but I've seen nothing out there to purchase Robin says I feel stuck and I'm seeking to move out of a town that I love and even leave this state.
[00:22:02] So after a short break we should talk about the property tax issue a little bit more. The impact on the availability and affordability of housing. And we'll keep taking your e-mails so Robin thank you for that one exchange at NHP dot org. More on what kind of housing New Hampshire needs and why it's so hard for us to get it. In just a moment this is the exchange on.
[00:23:00] You have to go down to the wharf to see the seals the City Lights Bookstore go to the gear deli Chocolate Factory contribute to Eddings PR today and you could be on your way to San Franceseco. Go to the cliff House restaurant because right nearby is near woods. Absolutely. It is so astounding. And of course the Golden Gate Bridge it's bigger and better than you think it is. Support the news you trust and be entered to win a trip to San Franceseco twice. Plus you'll help cut the march fun drive in half at any Tayyar dot org.
[00:23:30] This is the exchange I'm Laura convoy today an exchange we're asking what kind of housing does New Hampshire need and why don't we have it. It's part of any NPR's ongoing cost of living series the balance you can find as linked to our series on our website. And each program exchange and you can join us right now with your questions and comments on this. Let's get your thoughts in exchange at any PR dot org is the e-mail address exchange at NHP dot org. You can respond on Facebook or Twitter. It's an exchange or you can give us a call 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7. And Peter Franceseo Dean Christon Jeff Feingold. Let's go back to our listeners and Jill is in Peterborough. Hi Jill. You're on the air welcome.
[00:24:13] Hi Laura. Thank you for taking my call. Sure. I'm a graphic designer and I do charts and I've been working on charts with Mark Burnell for years and the big big red flag that I see is that now probably over two thirds of the taxes raised and expended in New Hampshire are property taxes at the state level under Republican controlled legislatures our budgets at the state level have been constrained and a lot of that expense has been downloaded downshifted to the towns and that goes straight on to the property tax. And as long as this incredible burden in the property taxes embedded in our housing I don't think we ever have a clear avenue to affordable housing. Young people leave for education and they can't afford to come back. And. As a senior who has lived here in my house for nearly 35 years my property taxes are now 20 percent of my income and I get no relief from that. And wealthy people from outside the state can move in and live in wonderful places like Rippert me here in Peterborough. But the tax burden for those of us who have been here for a long time is not abated.
[00:25:20] Well and Mark Vernell you mentioned Jill is a former state senator ran for governor on a platform of introducing an income tax in order. He said at the time to reduce property taxes is that correct. Just to fill folks in there.
[00:25:33] Yeah I tell you right now I would be happy with a circuit breaker that excuses any any property taxes that are over 10 percent of my income. But I don't see this kind of state legislature doing that kind of thing.
[00:25:48] Well I think at the local level you do. You do get a circuit breaker if you're low income on your property taxes have to be like to get it.
[00:25:56] I see. OK well Jill thank you for calling in.
[00:25:58] And Jeff Feingold did talk a little bit more about that sort of property tax interplay there a lot of our listeners have mentioned this you yet a property tax system has NIRS is probably the major contributor to what we're talking about in terms of these towns with communities with strict zoning because what they want to do is it's like it's a response to trying to keep down property taxes because as we talked about the belief that having young families in the town are going to contribute to your your taxes the real the real problem is that what we have is a system that is just forcing communities to make decisions that in many cases are not good decisions either for the community itself or for the state as a whole.
[00:26:42] So you'll have a minimum two acre lots you'll have restrictive zoning on on on a you know age limit that communities are as you know and just ways to just basically keep younger families out which is not as we've said in the best interest of the state. But that's has been the effect of this of of the property tax system over these many years.
[00:27:03] Let's talk a little bit more about age restricted housing because this keeps coming up and Peter in an era where housing discrimination is a familiar topic you can't discriminate you know on the basis of race or or gender but you can still discriminate against children.
[00:27:19] Yes you can.
[00:27:20] So you can build properties and say this is just 55 plus or 60 plus. What's the sort of legal basis for that money.
[00:27:30] Fair Housing Act was was first put in I believe correct me if I'm wrong. 1986 87 a long time ago. They made it so that you could not discriminate by race creed color national origin. A number of other things. And it's been expanded the number of people you can discriminate against have been growing but it is still perfectly legal and done all the time that you can build housing and say no one under the age of 55 can live there. And the town of Exeter where I live for example which has a lovely downtown very briber and downtown 60 percent of all the housing built in the last 17 years since 2000 60 percent of it was ager's to 55 and old. So majority of your housing new housing is restricted like that. You can't wonder why you don't have any of.
[00:28:24] The original concept was that you were building housing for seniors that had some services or other Eleanor had children and it made it made sense that you would be providing them to a specific population and that would be just make more sense for both them and for whoever was operating the property. It's been kind of stretched over the years obviously to support this notion of 55 and older housing housing that doesn't really have any of those other kind of attributes attached to it. It really just does give some assurance to communities that it's not likely that they will be children there. And I do think what Jeff said earlier is correct in what Peter has said that a lot of these issues are motivated by concern about the cost of educating children but they're also frankly other factors I mean people are concerned about traffic and they're concerned about changing the so-called character of their communities. And those are some of the issues some of the public education issues that we need to talk about when you talk about the fact that growth is actually a good thing for communities and for the state that it does support as you pointed out earlier that it's continuing to have a workforce and continuing to be able to grow economically and otherwise. And absent that kind of growth you stagnate.
[00:29:39] Well and one more question about age restricted housing and then I do want to follow up on what you say because it's super interesting. So you're saying that the original idea between around age restricted housing Dean was older folks you know maybe need to live in smaller places and need to or want to have you know services right close by. So it's not quite a nursing home but it's sort of assisted assisted living. So you're saying OK that's fine because it's legit that older folks need to live in maybe a place where they have a little more support. But that concept has been extended improperly is that what you're saying.
[00:30:16] I'm not sure I'd say it's improper I think it's simply that that was the original concept behind the laws that allow for what Peter would describe as sort of legal discrimination if you will against younger people whether that really is what you get with 55 and older housing is another matter entirely. I think you know it's hard to argue that a lot of that housing stock really provides unique services that are specifically targeted to people who who are of a certain age and need that.
[00:30:44] Is there an argument Dean that you know if you create this 55 plus housing then you know older folks can move there and then that opens up some other housing for younger families.
[00:30:53] I think that's not completely a legitimate argument either. It doesn't. You heard people talk about the fact that they feel stuck in their larger homes and if they had housing that was perhaps more appropriate for them now that they could move to that was within the same area and they might do that it would open up homes for them in that community.
[00:31:12] Let's take some more calls. And Jill thank you for that one Joann's in Londonderry which we've talked about so. Joanne good to hear from you. Go ahead you're on the air.
[00:31:20] Hi. Thanks for. Thanks for having me. Sure. So I'll tell you a little background about my situation.
[00:31:26] I'm 57 and my condo is paid for like it's a rough bunch calls my condo is paid for but much between the condo fee and my property taxes. It's 46 percent of my income. And to get that income I have to go to America choose it's because the same job in New Hampshire doesn't pay enough of a living wage. And so I'm thinking regardless of the size of the property the size of the unit a person making 30 to 40 thousand dollars a year can't afford a thousand dollar or a twelve hundred dollar a month housing payment just if you do the math it just doesn't work. And another assumption is that 55 plus is more affordable. Well it really may not be because when I look to buy this condo I also look at an age restricted community and those units of 300 to 400000. So that leads me out of that bracket. And you can also assume that people 55 and over have more disposable income because I think that's just a myth. And I think that people studying the situation really need to look at how much money people really have to spend and then cut it that will kind of bring it back to a different discussion.
[00:32:45] Well Joanne I'm glad you called and Jeff Feingold you know on our econ roundup that we do about once a month. We've talked endlessly about wage stagnation. So go ahead Jeff.
[00:32:56] Yeah we haven't. And this is a perfect example what's look what's going on that we have people who work in New Hampshire who live in New Hampshire and have to work in Massachusetts because in many cases you get as much as 20 or 30 percent more in your in your salary. And that that's something that you can't you know obviously can't ignore. But the other problem is really that what we've seen is that because of this shortage of housing that's been going on now for years now prices and of of of homes for homes for sale have risen dramatically just just as strong even more dramatically I've been rent rents. Yes right now I think the media the median rent for a two bedroom apartment is statewide just over twelve hundred dollars. But in other places like say lefe like Portsmouth or Manchester it's much higher than that even. And you know what people with these more people more jobs so people are willing to work in those areas. So and Londonderry is another one of those areas as well. And what's happened is that because of this inventory shortage because we we had we haven't built enough housing because there isn't enough housing stock prices have just gone through the roof and people like Johannah are being forced to deal with that. It's not just you know it she's just an example of one person and you can multiply that by many many thousands at this point in New Hampshire.
[00:34:22] So that raises the question that I want to ask you early on when we talk about affordable housing. What is affordable it seems to me that's subjective depending on how much money it does it depends on exactly how much money you make what's affordable to you.
[00:34:35] I mean there are definitions in New Hampshire law of what is known as workforce how of housing and it's targeted to people at 60 percent or less the median income for rental housing or or 100 percent or less for for sale housing and that varies on where you are in the state and it gets very complicated. But there are numbers that aren't numbers and there's a way to get there if you're designing an ordinance to address that but I would argue that the core problem and I think Jeff has touched on it several times is we just don't build enough new housing to both to meet the needs that we have both in terms of the current population and in terms of potential new immigration into the state. And if we did build more housing across the market it would help mitigate some of this. And admittedly at the at the beginning of any kind of housing development cycle most of the new housing is going to target the hiring end of the housing because that's where the higher profit is that's where because of cost issues and others. But if you get enough new supply you begin to mitigate that issue it is to supply and demand environment.
[00:35:39] Well Dean you keep talking about building more housing and everybody keeps on building more housing but I keep coming back to this idea that there are these big old houses with you know one or two people rattling around and why build something new. Why not just make better use of that housing.
[00:35:54] That was the concept behind the accessory dwelling unit law. And the legislature I think got pretty much more aggressive about that than you might expect particularly given you know the whole notion of local control. They basically said to communities you have to make provision to allow folks to modify existing homes to provide for accessory dwelling units and put very very tight restrictions on the ability of communities to restrict that kind of development. And so that's underway now and it's there we are in the process of educating folks about how you might go about doing that and kind of educating both communities and individuals about how they could take advantage of that opportunity.
[00:36:32] Well we got a tweet from Steve who says one big reason we don't have the housing we need the lack of density. We asked local communities to pay a higher percentage of the bill for their schools than about anywhere in the U.S. they often respond by zoning out development likely to be less quote taxable but which would have quote expensive children in them. So Steve thank you for that tweet. You're listening to the exchange on Nhp. Peter do you want to jump in on this question I keep getting back to again. We've got houses they're just too big for families living in them.
[00:37:03] The bottom line of this whole discussion is that when we rely on small communities like accidentally with 15 16000 people with Newmarket with less than 10000 people when we rely on these small communities to educate the children in their communities and pay virtually the total cost of that plus the cost of fire protection and police and so forth. We're going to get high property taxes and we're also going to get people reluctant to allow new development because that new development brings with it costs less traffic police protection. And again some children in the schools. And so the whole burden of paying for new developments of the conventional kind or any other kind falls on the local towns. And so there's almost no incentive for communities to permit affordable housing because that's going to cost in their minds as much as if the houses cost a million dollars apiece.
[00:38:06] So is this solution. Peter a change in our political structure how governmental structures not allowing these teeny little school districts.
[00:38:15] I mean I'm not going there. I'm not a political scientist and I don't really know the answer. I do know however that Connecticut tried to put an income tax to lower people's property taxes and he didn't work because the the only thing that might work and I will be shocked when I leave this studio even saying this is to consolidate some of these schools districts into larger ones. That's really never been tried and tried briefly in Maine but here in New Hampshire if we instead of having roughly 100 school districts had 50 or 40 or 30 then the property taxes could be spread over a much larger piece of geography in other states. School districts are the size of counties. But here it's not going to work at that level. We only have 10. But if we had a larger school districts spread the property taxes over more commercial and industrial property then people might feel better about allowing new development. But it's perfectly understandable that a small town with just a few thousand people doesn't want the financial burden of additional housing. It's just it's just difficult to convince them that they should do it for the betterment of the state when it doesn't really benefit them. But I think Dean probably would like to comment on that.
[00:39:42] Well and Jeff you too. You know we are saying that we see this in some towns anyway as a financial burden. But we've talked endlessly about you know bringing in young families is an economic opportunity.
[00:39:55] Yes. And and that's that's that's a disconnect between the property tax payer and the need of the person who's the you know who's maybe the employer or the employee. And he offered to say you know the same person. What I want to say one other thing that it's interesting to me that you know if you go back in history there was a time when New Hampshire aggressively sought to regionalize school systems you know you had smaller even more small school districts than we have today. As far as I know and they and they basically forced many communities to form regional school districts. I mean one in Kearsarge there's Shaker that used and you can name the ones that they say regional school districts and they didn't make that attempt. But the problem was that they also unified them in the school administrative units. And the irony is that so many of these school districts are pulling out of school administrative units to form their own and in some cases you have you know a k a K through 8 school that's its own that's its own school the school administrative unit so yeah. So that that community is paying for a you know for the superintendent and the assistant superintendent all that stuff just as Peter said to me that these costs are very high and they continue to rise. And there's there's it's not. It's not necessary related to the education of the children. It's related to the administrator paying for administration of the education of the children.
[00:41:20] And it's it's it's something that I don't think is yet on the radar screens of policymakers and it should be because that's it really as Peter said you know rightly is that that's really one of the great drivers of this whole mess we're talking about.
[00:41:35] Well and we've talked on this program as well about school administrative units. It's too big too small. You do divvy up the administrative costs when they're bigger but then the kids are sitting on the bus for an hour each way so that's a that's a problem. We will talk a lot more about New Hampshire's housing shortages in just a moment. So if you're on the line. Stay with us. If you want to send us your comments e-mail exchange at NHP dot org Facebook or Twitter is NHP exchange or give us a call 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7.
[00:42:30] This is the exchange on Nhp. I'm Laura convoy today what kind of housing does New Hampshire need more of. And why don't we have it. It's part of an ongoing series on the cost of living in the Granite State called the balance. And let's get you into our conversation right now. Send us an email exchange at NHP dot org or call 1 800 8 9 2 6 4 7 7.
[00:42:53] Peter Francy Steane Kristen and Jeff Feingold are my guests. And gentlemen let's go right back to our listeners. David's calling from Honaker. Hi David you're on the air welcome.
[00:43:02] Good morning. Good morning. To be clear about why this separation of elderly housing.
[00:43:09] Back in 1968 there was extra funding provided for elderly housing that was not available for family housing. And there's been this distinction ever since Dino's or the housing finance authority an awful lot of applications for developers for elderly housing and so the housing finance authority had to restrict the number of projects present your projects going the other way.
[00:43:34] Otherwise it would all go on the elderly. This is so says is why I'm right now in the ballot box of Hamacher and one of the issues is whether or not to allow more housing for older persons in certain areas that don't allow housing in general. And the explanation is this man well for housing for older persons to be located in more areas of the community. This land use provides needed housing alternatives for seniors and the very tax pods of land use. It's so easy to get approval by the public for housing for elderly and very difficult to get it for families with greater need.
[00:44:10] Well David it's really interesting to hear from you on Town Meeting Day voting on this issue. Dean what do you think.
[00:44:15] Well he's right when there were significant public funds available for new housing development. There was a tendency to see more of it go toward senior housing than to family housing not just here but across the country. And part of it was some of these issues we talked about here. Part of it was a perception that there was a higher level of need. And it's very difficult to argue even now that there is not some need for housing as we age out as a state for more housing. I think that there is a degree of artificial ness to this distinction we've created and if you think back to the communities that we like to celebrate their communities that are not only mixed use as we discussed earlier but mixed income to a large degree and also mixed generational and unfortunately a lot of the housing development patterns we've evolved move against that. They go go in a different way and then we are frustrated by some of the outcomes from that.
[00:45:07] Peter when we did communities in consequences ten years ago we were the sixth oldest state in the nation demographically we are now the second oldest state in the nation and rapidly catching up with Maine which is the oldest state. One of the reasons for this extremely rapid aging on the part of our state is the proliferation of age restricted housing when it's the majority of housing being new housing being created in places like Exeter. We can expect that we're going to maintain a balanced demography or a balanced human ecology. We are not we are going to continually be a rapidly aging state when we give preferences to senior housing. There's nothing wrong with senior housing as long as you permit an equal Mottern greater amount of housing. That's not age restricted. That is for younger people and that's really the crux of the issue. The idea that senior housing is no cost is again a myth. There's huge costs to senior housing. But there's no incentive on the part of a locality that facing cost pressures in their property taxes to allow for other kinds of housing.
[00:46:24] Well here's an email from Otto that just came in. Who says My Gruffudd and I live in Dover where we play where we pay twelve hundred plus utilities for a one bedroom apartment. Every adult in our lives we talk to marvels at that fact. It's more than a mortgage and thinks we should be looking at a condo or a house. We both graduated college out of state this past May and moved back to New Hampshire to be in the area we love and have good jobs but close to 40 percent of our income goes to student loans. Wow auto. So he says saving for a more permanent home purchase and having opportunities as young adults is difficult. I'm so glad to hear from you and glad you moved back to the state. And Jeff what do you think.
[00:47:07] Well good for auto. I mean that's kind of you know he's he's he's the exception I guess that proves the rule or something like that because it's not it's very unusual nowadays they hear about that. Not to say that it doesn't happen but people you know a lot of times College thinks when they go out of state they don't return to New Hampshire which is one of the major problems we're having. But in terms of you know mentioning the student loans that's really a key factor. We have and we've talked about that that is a very an onerous burden as certainly as an Ottos case because 40 percent of their income is going to school loans and then how much of their income is going into to rent and utilities.
[00:47:43] And that's just it's basically makes it impossible for someone in that situation to buy a house. I mean I can't imagine what kind of lenders are going to give them a loan at a reasonable mortgage rate. And know this is it's it's the problem that we're talking about today is so complicated because there are so many factors that contributed to the situation where we have this shortage of housing of the kind of housing we need. You know Peter Peter was talking about an age where strict housing help how these communities are just kind of isolating themselves and people more people want to live in areas where there's a variety of the older people younger people middle class people working class people we know maybe wealthier people and if you look at it a lot of the places where younger people have been moving to over the last 10 years or so have been big cities like New York Boston on the west coast Seattle San Franceseco places like that because those are just naturally places a variety places where you know you're not just with people just like you. And unfortunately for New Hampshire we have created we have made ourselves ensued. We are making ourselves into this kind of state where this is going to be just a lot of old people and it's not going to be as much variety.
[00:48:58] And it's something that that our housing stock is helping to exacerbate because we just. And that's what that's like the housing market. It's helping to exasperate exacerbate brigt exacerbate this problem.
[00:49:11] As I was at auto show just two things first to follow up on Jeff's point I think you know we have a history as a state of people leaving the state after college and experiencing metropolitan life and whatever and coming back. And that's been part of our economic growth engine. I think the challenge we have now is making sure that they have a place to come back to. And so that's the the whole crux of this whole conversation about about a variety of housing. An adequate supply of housing a balance supply of housing. I do want to speak to the issue about student loans. It is a huge factor and it's a new factor for the housing industry to deal with. This is not something that previously has been the case the amount of student debt that that young people now carry is just out of proportion to what it used to be and it has to be factored in as Jeff points out into the lending equation. And I'm not sure yet that the the industry and that's not a new hampshire thing. This is a national issue that has to be dealt with. I'm not sure that the lending industry has quite figured out yet exactly how we're going to deal with the fact that the people who used to be able to buy a home in their 20s around 30 or early 30s are carrying all this extra debt and they have to pay it based on the way the law is now been based structured yet it is an impediment to their being able to afford a home.
[00:50:32] So you know we have programs that are designed to help first time buyers we work with people to do that a number of lenders do that.
[00:50:38] But it is a challenge it is something that that is different now than a generation ago doesn't want to get into deep because they kind of came of age during the Great Recession and the housing crash so understandably they're thinking. No I don't want to put on too much you know housing debt. Right.
[00:50:53] So there is actually a natural sort of conservatism there which is a good thing you don't want to discourage that. But there's no doubt about the fact that the debt is an impediment.
[00:51:03] Couple more Facebook comments I'd love to share with you. Lauren says we need quality affordable rentals. We also need quality affordable homes for the first time homebuyer as a real estate agent Lauren says. I am always scouring the market to find homes that will work for my clients but with very low inventory in very high demand many towns are priced too high for most people Lawrence says. We also need to alleviate the tax burden we've talked about that. Here's a Facebook comment from Mark less burdensome regulation he says. More construction friendly zoning boards and ordinances smaller lot sizes lower property taxes would all help encourage new construction he says there are also onerous regulations in place so Lauren and Mark thank you for those comments. Jeff you know we've talked about this some regulations at the local level. The flip side is people want some space conserved for beautiful you know forests and farms and fields.
[00:51:59] We talked yesterday about on the show about the importance of conservation land it keeps New Hampshire beautiful it keeps New Hampshire clean and it cleans the water cleans the air. So their ecosystem benefits to having open space and not overbuilding. So I just wonder what you think about the balance here.
[00:52:15] Yeah I mean that's that's our point is that we really need a balance and you know no one's going to argue against people open space. The problem really is that we have a situation where where communities are basically you know encouraging or at least some through their taxes and you know we have the current system which I don't think we want to get into this too much. But you know that that's really an incentive for people to keep their property out of development. They pay less taxes. And they just they just you know it's just not it's not it's not used for anything except I guess you know you get a paycheck typically you know maybe logging or something like that. And what happens is we have a shortage of land but even just it's just available land. What the. Because the real the real problem is that this district as we've talked about all morning these zoning restrictions these regulations local regulations that are preventing higher density housing in it within the community and that's really what in many ways that's a major answer to what we're talking about is higher density housing to have be able to build on a you know maybe on a five acre block. You can build 10 houses more houses on your house.
[00:53:32] It's getting set to land in a more efficient use of the land. That's really what we're talking about here and it's not the amount that's available it's the use of the land that is available.
[00:53:40] You listen to the exchange on Nhp. Go ahead Dean and do you want to jump in on that point to the idea that you know we value open space before we dump on regulations and ordinances too much we want New Hampshire to be a pretty place.
[00:53:52] I think the point is that the goal of having conservation land and open space and the goal of having higher density housing are not actually oppose they're actually very much connected and there's great examples of how you can go about building more compact housing development leave less more of the land for for conservation for open space and still get that efficiency of pulling those those houses together. And in fact one could argue that the development patterns that we used to promote in the 80s and 90s and even to today do exactly the opposite. If you encourage people to build on four or three or two acre lots they're going to take up a lot more land than they used to than they would otherwise use. And it's also going to be a lot more expensive to build that housing which goes to Peter's earlier point you're going to build a bigger more expensive house because you don't have a choice. So density as Jeff pointed out is really the core issue here. And I would point out quickly that there are a couple of communities that have adopted inclusionary zoning ordinances that go to all of these issues. They basically say to a developer you can build more units in this particular area than we would otherwise allow you to if you target some of those units to workforce affordable housing inclusionary zoning. Right. So what you get by that is you get some housing that is is going you know going to be more affordable than it might otherwise be. And you also get the efficiencies associated with that.
[00:55:16] You get usually rental housing that comes out of that which is an important part of this factor. So the developer gets something the community gets something and frankly that the state gets something. Who's doing that. Londonderry has inclusionary zoning ordinances. Bedford has inclusionary zoning ordinances and there are other communities as well and we are actually seeing development as a result of it.
[00:55:34] Well Peter last word real quick to you as I mentioned earlier your co-author of communities and consequences the unbalancing of New Hampshire's Human Ecology. You told me before the show you're now working on the sequel so what's it going to say real quick.
[00:55:46] Well what's what it's going to say is that the prairie little has changed in the 10 years since the previous book and we're going to try to present some solutions. And Dean Christon just named one of them it's called cluster housing. If we can get some compact housing and leave lots and lots of open space it will work really well for the town and the state.
[00:56:07] All right we'll keep an eye on that. Thank you all very much for coming in. I really appreciate it. This is the exchange on a PR.
[00:56:31] The views expressed in this program are those of the individuals and not those of NHP or its board of trustees or its underwriters. If you liked what you heard spread the word give us a review on Apple podcasts to help other listeners find us. And thanks.