Critics of Mayor Joyce Craig’s administration say her mishandling of crime and homelessness has made life harder for Manchester’s businesses. Now, a new rule stripping some 1,500 landlords of their municipal trash pickup has got businesses feeling under the gun again.

Starting December 1, the City of Manchester will halt its taxpayer-funded trash collection services for apartment complexes with five units or more. The owners of those buildings will have to pay for their own private trash removal, a cost that will be passed on to tenants.

The city’s Department of Public Works (DPW) sent a letter informing owners of the 1,500 multi-family properties affected by the action. Those property owners will still pay the same taxes they are currently paying, though they will no longer receive the services.

“This decision is completely unacceptable,” said Jay Ruais, candidate for mayor. “At a time when the cost of living in the city is already far too high, and with a growing homeless crisis, the focus should be on making our city more resident and business-friendly, not hurting Manchester businesses and families by raising the cost of doing business and driving up the price of rent for tenants. One estimate is that this saves the city $200,000 while taxpayers will foot the bill for $4.5 million. As mayor, I will fight to protect businesses and taxpayers and lower the cost of living here in Manchester.”

Ruais is running against Craig’s handpicked successor, Alderman Kevin Cavanaugh. Craig is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in the 2024 election.

According to reporting from WMUR, “Manchester officials said the new plan is similar to other cities in the state, saying it not only saves money but addresses the vermin problem, allowing an expansion for downtown collection to include areas where most of the nightlife is and more stops per week.”

In addition to addressing “the rodent infestation,” Chaz Newton, Manchester DPW’s Solid Waste & Environmental Programs Manager, told Manchester Ink Link that the move would save the city $200,000 annually.

But the move came as a major surprise to the owners, as there weren’t any public hearings to discuss the action, and affected owners didn’t receive any advance warning about the move. Among those property owners is Craig St. Pierre.

In a video with Ruais, St. Pierre highlighted how the city’s action will affect many property owners like himself.

“The building that we’re standing next to is an affordable housing development I created last year that is five units and will be impacted. So, as of December 1, [I’m] no longer going to have trash pickup,” St. Pierre said. “[I] can’t find a vendor, and I spoke with DPW to get some assistance. They explained that this is a $200,000 savings to the city annually and that it’s good for the city, but I can’t see that.”

As Ruais and St. Pierre emphasize, the city’s action won’t harm the wealthy complex companies and owners in Manchester who can afford to outsource their trash collection. This action will most hurt the small business owners and landlords of modest means who own these rental properties — often affordable housing properties — and rely on this service, as well as the low-to-middle income renters occupying them.

“We’re talking a $4.5 million increase to building owners in the city,” St. Pierre told Ruais. “These are the people that are providing housing in the most dense parts of our city in the hub of affordable. So, for thousands of tenants they’re going to see a rent increase that is at the worst time it could be — at a time when our homeless population is at its highest, the shelter beds are full, and families are struggling to get by.”

To cover this $4.5 million increase, many property owners will feel compelled to increase what they charge for rent despite rents already sitting at record highs. According to the Union Leader, as of July, “Rents for a two-bedroom apartment surged 11.4 percent statewide in the past year to $1,764 a month, with few units on the market.”

What’s more, there doesn’t appear to be a plan to give affected landlords any tax abatement for the lost service, meaning they will continue paying for a service they are no longer receiving through their property taxes.