Study: Rural areas in affordable housing crunch

UNH research finds units tough to come by in communities

Many rural places, especially those desired by second-home owners and retirees, are challenged to provide affordable and adequate housing for local working families, according to new research released by the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire.

“Though vacant housing is plentiful in rural areas – in New England 29 percent of rural housing units are vacant – it is not necessarily available,” the researchers said. “Three-quarters of New England’s rural vacant housing units are designated for seasonal, recreational or occasional use, while just 3.5 percent are available for rent.”

The researchers also found that land use regulations limit options for developing affordable housing, and that while the federal safety net does provide options for many rural residents struggling with housing costs, the programs are often insufficiently funded.

“Subsidies and publicly funded programs can play a part in alleviating the challenges of affordable rural housing, but addressing the issue in rural places will require a variety of approaches,” the researchers said. “Policymakers need to consider innovative ways to improve and leverage existing housing stock to expand options for local working families.”

The research was conducted by Jess Carson, a vulnerable families research scientist at the Carsey School, and Beth Mattingly, director of research on vulnerable families at the Carsey School. The full report can be found at

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