In Manchester, the 19th-century mill buildings, the affordable housing of their day, have become upscale apartments. A two-bedroom unit in a building far from the city’s downtown is offered at $1,350 per month. Apartments in mill buildings downtown rent for much more than that.
Most of New Hampshire and the nation is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. One in four renters, and one in three low-income renters, pay more than one-third of their income in rent. Home ownership is at its lowest level in two decades. Most millennials, burdened as they are with student loans, can’t afford homes or would rather rent than own.
The situation is severe in Concord, where the rental vacancy rate is under 2 percent, the lowest of any city in the state. That affects not just the availability of housing for the homeless, but nearly everyone, including the young people the city wants to keep or attract and the employers who want to hire them. The shortage is a drag on the economy.
Last week, Monitor reporter David Brooks wrote about a legislative change that, in a small way, could help.
The law, which goes into effect on June 1, 2017 [note, other article just says June, implying June of this year], gives homeowners the right, despite local ordinances to the contrary, to add accessory housing units to their home. No longer do the unit’s residents have to be relatives. They will be open to anyone.
Last year, the Center for New Hampshire Public Policy Studies found a fundamental mismatch between the state’s housing stock and what the market wants.
The state and Concord are chock-full of big, old homes, or big suburban homes, but today’s buyers want to rent or buy small starter homes and apartments, preferably in the center city…
Given the shortage, a few cities and towns have increased density limits for workforce housing and made other permitting and zoning changes to encourage construction. That helps.
Another trend, the “tiny house” movement, also holds promise.