Let's Talk Housing

Bringing community members into the housing discussion will lead to a supported vision and solutions.

In New Hampshire we lack an adequate housing supply, lack housing that people can afford and lack quality housing that is safe and attractive. Employers across the state are talking about the need for housing for workers. Young people need to find a home here so they can put down roots and bring investment to main street and ideas to town hall. The housing crisis impacts our economy and our quality of life.

front door of a grey house with an American flag

When meeting with a local committee, I often ask about their housing situation. I frequently hear the same answer across the state. Something like – we do not have a housing issue – but I am looking to find a place close by for my aging parents or wish my kids and grandkids could find an affordable place and move back here. That is a housing issue, just framed in a very personal way. Communities can start to grapple with solutions to the housing crisis and find local solutions by considering the following:  

Bringing community members into the housing discussion will lead to a supported vision and solutions. It is important to listen to personal experiences about the need for an affordable apartment, starter home or to downsize. Understand the concerns about what addressing the challenge means for individuals and the entire community.

You likely need more information on your local housing challenge. Consider the housing supply, quality, affordability, and location in your town. NH regional planning commissions are undertaking a housing needs assessment. Look to them for information and determine what else your community needs to know.

Thinking about housing as a community and economic issue. People living downtown will walk, shop, and eat close to home. This adds to the vibrancy on Main Street. Having a job close to home helps keep money in our own pocketbooks and limits the impact of commuting. Neighbors living near trails are using and maintaining these important community and visitor resources. A strong local economy needs a variety of housing options.

We can keep our rural character and enhance our housing quality and supply. Rural character is about helping each other and coming together, often with limited resources, to solve problems. It is time to consider our vision for the future and how we are going to get there. Those who want to retire here, start their family here and work here, all need housing and value our small-town life.

We can increase housing one unit at a time and in places where we already live and work. When we talk about housing people immediately think it strictly means building new subdivisions and large apartment buildings. That is not the case. Increasing housing in your town might mean small apartments added to existing homes (accessory dwelling units), refurbishing apartments above main street shops and embracing historic preservation efforts to add housing in older buildings, allowing doubles or duplexes in existing neighborhoods.

Funding is available for municipalities to start this process of assessment, engagement, priority setting and regulatory review and change. Addressing this crisis will not be easy, it will take time and effort. UNH Extension can help. We are proud to partner with NH Housing and Plan NH on the InvestNH Municipal Planning & Zoning Grants. Check out the details on this important opportunity including Extension’s Housing Academy. For Information: www.NHHOPgrants.org

Author(s)

Molly Donovan
Community Economic Development State Specialist
Assoc State Specialist
Phone: (603) 862-5046
Office: Cooperative Extension, Nesmith Hall Rm 204C, Durham, NH 03824