Rent in New Hampshire has gone up an average of 24 percent since 2016. The cost of a home has soared, locking many people out of the market and limiting mobility. Businesses across the state say they can’t find workers because workers can’t find housing. One major reason costs are so high is because there isn’t enough housing on the market. New Hampshire has a 0.6 percent vacancy rate in its housing stock. A healthy market has 3 to 5 percent.
This isn’t sustainable. We need more housing so that workers can afford to live here, our kids can afford to move back here, and our seniors can afford to stay in the communities they love. That’s why I released my Building New Hampshire Values plan, to unlock our potential.
Sununu’s Invest NH plan puts one-time federal dollars towards demolition, municipal grants, and stop-gap funding for projects that are already shovel-ready. The state says it’ll bring a couple of thousand housing units online. We need at least 20,000 housing units. This is not a problem that can be solved with a one-time fix.
My plan is about the long-term investments and structural changes we need to fill the remaining 90 percent of New Hampshire’s housing needs. Far too many projects never get to the shovel-ready stage in the first place because the math doesn’t work for a developer or because a community doesn’t have the infrastructure it needs to support it.
Getting all the necessary permits and permissions to build in New Hampshire is complicated and time-consuming. Existing state departments meant to streamline these processes are understaffed. We can move things faster by starting with the basics and fully staffing the Regional Planning Commissions and Office of Planning and Development. These offices can work more closely with communities to help them move projects along, access loans for infrastructure improvements related to housing, and learn how zoning updates could help them build the housing that’s right for them. I would also ask department commissioners to review regulatory hurdles and prepare legislative recommendations.
I would provide ongoing funds for communities to audit their overburdensome codes and implement new, updated zoning codes. Zoning is ever-evolving, and we need recurring support for communities if we want to make sure projects continue to move forward. My plan would also encode model zoning that municipalities could choose to easily adopt, since the cost of writing new zoning can be onerous for many towns.
In some communities that want additional housing, they first need to update their water and sewer infrastructure. I would streamline this process and create revolving loan funds for municipalities for sewer, water, and transit investments tied to housing, and incentivize zoning changes that allow for more housing with additional DOT and DES state aid. Existing loan programs are cumbersome and have limited uses, making them hard for cities and towns to navigate.
Too many affordable housing projects don’t make it to the shovel-ready stage because the financial math doesn’t work much earlier in the project. New Hampshire has some great lending programs already, but they need to be scaled up to meet the current demand. I would triple the tax credits awarded by the New Hampshire Community Development Finance Authority, which allows businesses to lower their state tax burden by donating to non-profits engaged in community development initiatives. I would also double the annual base funding for the Affordable Housing Fund so that everyone involved can more reliably plan long-term.
New Hampshire’s historic downtowns are fundamental to the character of our communities, but the buildings often need repairs in order to be converted into housing. To facilitate revitalizing our downtowns, I would create a state-level historical rehabilitation tax credit like 39 other states around the country already have. This could be paired with federal credits and with the state’s existing Community Revitalization Tax Relief Incentive to encourage local historic rehabilitation. This is how we incentivize restoration that will make sure our main streets stay central to our communities.
Building more housing is critical to growing New Hampshire’s workforce broadly, but it’s not possible unless we invest in growing the highly trained workforce in the trades that will help to build new housing stock. That’s why I would increase funding for job training and collaborate with stakeholders to identify promising apprenticeship programs and curricula within our high schools, CTE programs, and community colleges.
In order to build the 20,000 housing units we need, we need sustained and reliable resources for communities and developers throughout the state. New Hampshire’s economic growth depends on making sure the Granite State remains somewhere that workers can afford to move to, our kids can afford to move back to, and our seniors can afford to stay. Let’s build a New Hampshire that works for all of us.