inside sources print logo
Get up to date New Hampshire news in your inbox

Exec Council Approves $50 Million for Sununu’s Housing Fund

The Executive Council approved the first $50 million in funding for Gov. Chris Sununu’s InvestNH Housing Fund, an ambitious plan to deal with the Granite State’s housing crisis. 

“This initial $50 million investment will create 1,500 new rental units across the state, helping increase supply, drive down costs, and ensure New Hampshire is the best state to live, work, and raise a family,” Sununu said.

InvestNH is a $100 million investment plan to boost housing construction by covering the gaps in hard construction costs on affordable multi-family developments.

The plan uses money from the state’s portion of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act. The fund will eventually direct $60 million toward developers, with $10 million going to the New Hampshire Housing Authority, and another $10 million earmarked for non-profit and small-scale for-profit developers. The remaining $40 million is going to municipalities to help streamline the zoning and planning process to get the projects built. There is also money that municipalities can use to demolish old structures and update zoning ordinances to meet current needs.

This first $50 million will be used for housing projects which will be held to affordability restrictions and construction completion deadlines within 18 months.

Both Sununu and his Democratic opponent, state Sen. Tom Sherman agree the current crisis in affordable housing availability is putting the state’s economic growth in danger. There are tens of thousands of high-paying jobs available in New Hampshire, but not enough potential workers can find places to live.

Sherman has released his own housing plan, which he said builds on Sununu’s $100 million investment.

While the council approved the housing funds, it stalled funding for a decade-old sex education plan a fourth time. No member of the council moved to vote on the $682,000 contract, leaving it in limbo.

The program is aimed at reducing teen pregnancy in Sullivan County and the city of Manchester, pockets of the state with the highest rates.

Republican councilors Joe Kenney, David Wheeler, and Ted Gatsas all previously supported the same program, but now cite concerns about parental rights when arguing against the contract. While parents must give permission for their children to participate in the program, details about what the curriculum exactly teaches are not available to the public.

Liz Canada, Advocacy Manager for PPNNE/Planned Parenthood New Hampshire Action Fund, blasted the move, saying it puts women and children in harm’s way. The council has previously voted to defund family planning contracts with clinics that also perform abortions.

“By gutting the family planning program and rejecting routine funding for after-school sex education, the Executive Council has jeopardized New Hampshire’s capacity to reduce rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases in our state at a time when the landscape of reproductive health care nationwide is in chaos because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Canada said. “Now is not the time to risk the ability of trusted community organizations to deliver what could be life-saving information and support.”

Sununu Launches $100M ‘InvestNH’ Initiative to Fight Housing Shortage

Thousands of housing units could be added to New Hampshire in the coming months if Gov. Chris Sununu and his allies in the state’s business community get their way.

Sununu unveiled details of his $100 million investment plan on Tuesday. He hopes it will alleviate the housing crisis that experts say is making it harder for employers to recruit workers and for young people to remain in the state.

Starting next week, developers will be able to apply for money from the new InvestNH Housing Fund, which will help cover the financial gaps in hard construction costs on affordable multi-family developments.

“We’re moving quickly. We don’t want to just talk about things in this state, we want to make them happen,” Sununu said.

Though New Hampshire’s economy is booming, the lack of affordable housing could put that growth in danger. There are tens of thousands of high-paying jobs available in New Hampshire, but not enough potential workers can find places to live, Sununu said.

“We just need affordable housing in this state to keep up with the level of economic growth,” Sununu said.

Elissa Margolin, director of Housing Action NH.

Businesses cannot find workers, and people are not taking jobs in the Granite State because there is nowhere to live. Ellisa Margolin, director at the non-profit Housing Action NH, said the $100 million fund represents a serious effort to address the crisis that impacts the state’s entire economy.

“The workforce shortage that we’re experiencing is directly related to our shortage of housing in this state,” Margolin said. “If it’s difficult for a new medical resident to accept his residency at an area hospital because he can’t find housing he can afford, you can imagine what it’s like for a single parent with children.”

Nicole Ward, general manager at the Copper Door in Bedford, is lucky enough to live in workforce housing located behind the restaurant. She said the potential for more businesses to be able to provide affordable housing for employees will make for better businesses and communities.

“I just think a project like this, being able to provide more affordable living for employees like myself, would lead to a better work ethic, more longevity and less turnover, and a better work environment altogether,” Ward said.

The InvestNH Housing Fund will use money from the state’s portion of the American Rescue Plan Act. The fund will direct $60 million to go toward developers. Of that, $10 million will go to the New Hampshire Housing Authority, and another $10 million is earmarked for non-profit and small-scale for-profit developers.

The remaining $40 million is going to municipalities to help streamline the process to get the projects built. There is also money municipalities can use to demolish old structures and for updating zoning ordinances to meet current needs.

Taylor Caswell, New Hampshire’s Business and Economic Affairs commissioner, said the state wants to encourage affordable multi-family developments, whether it is a large apartment project or a small Victorian home on Main Street that could be converted into a five-unit apartment building.

“The goal is to get more units online as fast as possible,” he said.

According to the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a free-market think tank based in Concord, the unwillingness of communities like Manchester to allow more housing construction has limited their growth when compared to nearby communities.

Between 1970 and 2020, the total number of housing units in the Queen City grew by just 37 percent. In Salem, they grew by 76 percent, in Nashua by 80 percent, and statewide by 127 percent. As a result, Manchester’s population and economic growth also lagged behind.

“Because city officials chose to limit growth, Manchester’s population and economy have grown at a slower rate than the rest of the state as a whole,” wrote the Bartlett Center’s Drew Cline. “Artificially limiting the city’s housing supply created a drag on the city’s economic growth and cultural life.”

The state’s housing shortage, which is contributing to its employee shortage, is just one of the current challenges facing the state. Another is the recent announcement of soaring electricity rates from the state’s largest utilities.  Sununu recently announced a $60 million utility bill relief package that includes a one-time $100 dollar grant to some 600,000 electric ratepayers. He also has plans to address the looming home heating crisis that will take hold this winter as oil costs continue to skyrocket.

Sununu said Washington is to blame for rising prices that are hurting New Hampshire families.

Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Business and Economic Affairs Taylor Caswell.

“This energy crisis in America — the Biden administration has created a massive problem,” Sununu said Tuesday. “When it costs you twice as much to put gas in your car, it’s going to cost you at least twice as much to put home heating oil into your tank.”

Sununu’s Democratic opponent in November’s election, state Sen. Tom Sherman (D-Rye) dismissed Sununu’s efforts as too slow and lacking in transparency.

“New Hampshire’s housing crunch is making it difficult for families to pay their bills each month and companies to find workers,” Sherman said. “While Granite Staters have been struggling for years, Sununu delayed so long in distributing rental assistance funds that nearly $20 million in federal funds were reallocated to other states. Sununu was the last governor in the region to put ARP funds towards affordable housing and chose to create a brand new program with more red tape instead of efficiently investing in existing programs. We need to make sure this is a transparent process that helps Granite Staters, not just a handout to campaign donors during an election year.”

Sununu said he was working with House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, and Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem, to address the heating crisis using state surplus funds. Sununu’s plan would allow the state to expand eligibility for heating assistance so that more families would be able to benefit. He is not interested in waiting for Congress to change the rules to make the federal assistance program more accessible as Granite Staters struggle to heat their homes. 

“We are not going to wait for the winter to see if the feds get around to fixing their problem,” Sununu said.

Information about the InvestNH Housing Fund and how to apply can be found at 

NH Near Top Of Home Value Rankings–Is That Good News Or Bad?

In a new analysis of home value and purchasing power trends, New Hampshire ranks fourth in the nation, with home values up 6.1 percent in the last year alone.  Compared to the national average of a mere 2.3 percent increase, that’s good news for Granite State homeowners. In fact, some people are asking if the news is too good.

Housing prices are frequently mentioned by workers thinking of relocating to New England, in particular younger workers.  While rising home values can make existing homeowners happy, it makes relocating to New Hampshire that much harder for renters and would-be future buyers.

“We can say all day long that we want young people to move back here, but there is no place for them to live where they would like to live.” That’s the view of Carmen Lorentz, executive director of Lakes Region Community Developers. She told the Laconia Daily Sun: 

“Many of the young and talented workers that we are begging to stay or move to New Hampshire do not want to live in an apartment. Many of them want to own a house – that is part of the New Hampshire lifestyle they envision for themselves.”

And with New Hampshire home prices consistently rising faster than both the New England region and the rest of the nation, it makes that vision harder to realize. In an interview on NHPR last month, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority Dean Christon, described the NH housing market as “an environment where there’s price pressure and limited inventory of both [housing] up for sale and rental housing.  It affects lower income people more, and it affects people trying to purchase their first home.”

So are rising home values creating a crisis?  Mark Fleming says… not yet. Fleming is Chief Economist for First American Financial Corporation, the company that calculates the Real House Price Index (RHPI) rankings based on income, mortgage rates and an unadjusted house price index.  Fleming told that, while New Hampshire housing prices are up, they still aren’t “back.”

“Our index for New Hampshire is a 68 on a 100 scale, 100 being the purchasing power of a homeowner in the year 2000,” he says.  “In real terms, New Hampshire is still 32 percent away from getting back to their year 2000 levels.”

A key factor in that relative affordability? New Hampshire incomes, which also rose last year. Personal income in the Granite State grew by 3.5 percent—the fastest in New England.

Still, Fleming says, unless something changes, the housing market could start having a negative impact on the rest of the economy by pricing out both young families and the skilled workers employers need. The issue, he says, isn’t on the demand side—even if interest rates doubled, there would still be a net increase in demand, Fleming estimates. It’s on the supply side.  There just aren’t enough housing units being built in New Hampshire for long-term price stability.

Bob Quinn, Vice President of Government Affairs for the NH Association of Realtors. agrees.

“We believe the best long-term solution is increasing housing stock and thereby maintaining our growing economy,” Quinn told  “The most significant impediments to housing from a public policy perspective are restrictive zoning laws. Some communities put up unnecessary obstacles to the development of housing, which increases the cost. We strongly believe in allowing developers to build more densely, therefore accommodating both the desires of home buyers while preserving New Hampshire’s natural resources.”

Data from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority appears to back this view. Their February 2018 Housing report found:

  • A relatively low inventory of homes for sale, particularly under $300,000
  • Housing permits (reflecting construction activity) of multi-family and single-family homes at half the level they were prior to the Great Recession (end of 2007)

In addition to increased supply, Fleming also urges New Hampshire leaders to promote education in high-skill, high-wage jobs.  “Your region is never going to compete on price,” Fleming says. “But you can encourage young people to pursue the high-wage jobs of the future to pay the housing prices of the future.”

The good news is that New Hampshire’s housing assets continue to increase in value. Perhaps the better news is that, with increased inventory and an educated workforce, New Hampshire has the public policy tools to keep from “valuing” itself into a housing crisis.