Three projects could significantly boost workforce housing in Peterborough

Town’s lack of housing linked to worker shortage in region
Peterborough Town House
The Peterborough Town House. (Caleb Symons/The Keene Sentinel)

Peterborough officials are pushing for more housing in the region amid a staggeringly low rental vacancy rate and a worker shortage.

Carol Nelson, co-chair of the Peterborough Affordable Housing Committee, sees promise in a trio of new housing projects. And she hopes this will make a mark in boosting the local economy and welcoming more people to the area.

Catholic Charities New Hampshire, a statewide nonprofit organization, is set to go before Peterborough’s planning board Aug. 14 with 96 mixed-income affordable workforce housing units. The proposal includes converting two commercial condominiums at 10-12 Vose Farm Road into 32 apartments and building a four-story, 64-unit structure.

Last October, the planning board approved Halliday Properties’ proposal for 30 multi-family apartments at 241 Union St., with three of those to be rented at workforce housing rates.

Mercer Holdings, a Miami company, is scheduled to go before the planning board Sept. 11 with its plans to build 100 units at a 7.7-acre site on Mercer Avenue.

More than half of the proposed units from all three projects would be workforce housing.

New Hampshire law defines this type of housing as being affordable — in the case of rental units — to a family of three earning 60 percent of the area median income. According to 2022 census data, Hillsborough County’s median household income is $86,930.

Citing data released last month by NH Housing, Nelson said the need for more housing in Peterborough is great, with a zero percent rental vacancy rate. A healthy rate would be 5 percent. This lack of housing contributes to a shortage of workers in the area, she noted. Meanwhile, the town’s affordable housing committee found in May that Peterborough’s six largest employers had more than 200 job openings.

“That vacancy rate isn’t healthy for anybody,” she said. “It’s not healthy for those looking for housing, and it’s not healthy for employers because they can’t fill those 200-plus positions. It hurts communities overall.”

Jeff Lefkovich, executive director of real estate and affordable housing development at Catholic Charities, said that of the 96 units proposed, 80 percent are planned to be designated for people earning up to 60 percent of the area median income while the rest would be for those earning up to 50 percent of the area median income.

“The project is still early,” he said. “But like everywhere else in the state, the housing situation is pretty dire, and this area of the state is no exception. We’re very excited about the project. The town has been absolutely wonderful in supporting the effort.”

If the Catholic Charities and Mercer Holdings projects gain town approval, Nelson is hopeful Peterborough will see a jump in its vacancy rate.

“We went from a totally dry well to huge possibilities almost overnight,” she said. “So we’re hoping the vacancy rate will be much better in the future. Constructing something that big doesn’t happen overnight, but we’re hoping in the next year or two we’ll make a dent.”

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