Housing market forces still hamper younger people in New Hampshire

‘Daunting trends’ noted in latest NHHFA report

Despite a robust state economy, young people in New Hampshire continue to face difficult odds while searching for affordable housing, according to the NH Housing Finance Authority’s end-of-year Housing Market Report.

The report, which is published three times a year to summarize the economic factors affecting the state’s housing market, also coincides with the recommendations of Governor Chris Sununu’s housing task force, which were released in late October.

For young people in New Hampshire, the NHHFA report emphasizes continuing challenges, from low availability of affordable housing to large volumes of student loan debt many recent college graduates bear.

For those wishing to buy a home, the NHFFA points to a continuing low inventory of “affordable” homes under $300,000. In fact, in the last five years, the number of listings under $300,000 have dropped 60%.

For renters, meanwhile, the prospects are not much better.

The rental market has experienced a significant decrease in vacancy rates over the last decade, as rates for all units have fallen from over 5% in 2009 to less than 1% in 2019. Any vacancy rate below 3% is typically considered a turnover rate, as units are re-rented rather than left vacant for any period of time.

While low vacancy rates indeed can be indicators of a booming state economy, they do not help workers looking for affordable places to live.

‘Unthinkable’ debt

Added to the burden of finding a place to live, many young people also face crippling student loan debt.

College graduates in New Hampshire have the highest percentage of student loan debt in the nation, at 76%, according to the report. The state is also among three in the country where students have the highest amount of debt upon graduation, at $36,776.

“Millennials are saddled with an unthinkable level of student debt,” writes Russ Thibeault, economist and president of Applied Economic Research of Laconia, in an introduction to the report.

He adds: “These are daunting trends for New Hampshire’s young households, of which we desperately need more.”

Indeed, predictions for the future demographic makeup of the state show a disproportionate number of individuals over the age of 60 living in the state when compared to young people, according to the report.

According to the NH Regional Planning Commission, New Hampshire will see a 29% increase in the number of individuals 60 and older living in the state by 2040. By contrast, the number of individuals ages 15 to 59 will decrease by 3%.

In an address at a NHHFA in October, futurist John Martin told the audience, “In a state where population growth over the coming years is projected to be majority 65 and older, New Hampshire’s leaders will need to embrace a new model of economic development to be competitive”.

Martin noted that “perhaps the most important trait for New Hampshire to strive for is becoming a “Big Tent,” a pluralistic community where everyone feels they belong.”

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