Analysis measures North Country housing needs and suggests solutions

Comprehensive report calls for revamped and new programs and policies to promote affordability

House Construction.

Despite their striking differences in landscape, population and economic activity, New Hampshire’s North Country and southern tier have something very much in common: the extreme need for more affordable housing.

That’s according to the North Country Housing Needs Analysis, a report by the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority and North Country Council, a year-long study that seeks to provide a comprehensive review of the housing needs of the region, with a focus on Coös County.

The report includes research, focus groups interviews and the results of online surveys. The interviews – with residents, housing professionals, social service providers, business leaders and housing advocates – measure the impact of regional housing trends on North Country residents.

Many of the issues identified in the report are familiar, including the area’s aging and declining population, location of available housing in areas far from where jobs and commerce are, a dearth of affordable housing for both low-income and middle-income individuals and families, the failure to address the housing problem as a regional problem and a lack of “buy-in” of comprehensive solutions, particularly among members of the business community.

As for solutions, the report’s recommendations include:

  • Aligning existing funding programs and policies with regional housing needs to incentivize higher-density development and account for the “unique situations” of low-wage workers, including seasonal workers, gig-workers, and others who may not fit within current program guidelines.
  • Developing new programs, including one through New Hampshire Housing aimed at helping lower-income and first-time buyers to compete in the Covid-impacted market. Another would set up a model land bank program with an option for local first-time buyers to secure right-of-first-refusal with financing to come later, similar to conservation organizations.
  • Launch an advocacy campaign focused promoting a broader buy-in for comprehensive regional housing solutions, similar to the efforts being made by the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition.
  • Offering technical assistance to municipalities, including review of housing conditions and needs, site location for affordable housing development and design charettes.
  • Develop model ordinances and technical assistance for a variety of local housing regulations, including inclusionary zoning requirements, increased opportunity for detached accessory dwelling units and allowing development of some housing without special zoning permits, such as duplexes and “missing middle” housing typologies, such as cottage courts.

The North Country Housing Needs Analysis was a joint effort of New Hampshire Housing, the North Country Council and Stepwise Data Research, with funding provided by the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation as well as NCC and New Hampshire Housing.

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