Affordable housing: Hassan visits city to discuss high rents and low vacancies

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan speaks with Jennifer Vadney, neighborhood development manager at NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire. Hassan toured one of the affordable housing units at Nashua’s Casimir Place housing development.

NASHUA – A new housing development set to open in Londonderry has 33 apartments and more than 70 families already on the waiting list. This is just one example of many in New Hampshire where, thanks to high rents and low vacancy rates, people are clamoring to get into affordable housing units that are far and few between.

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., met with representatives from several Southern New Hampshire housing-based organizations Friday to discuss the state’s growing needs for affordable housing.

Officials gathered at Casimir Place, located on Temple Street, an affordable housing development by NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire. The project is funded by Section 42 Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and the HOME Investment Partnerships Program.

The building has 28 units and, like most of the others in the state, they go very quickly, Jennifer Vadney, neighborhood development manager told Hassan on a tour of the property.

In fact, Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess added that Nashua has a vacancy rate of only 1 percent. With rents that have increased by 19 percent in the last three years, with the average single person needing to make $40,000 to afford just a one bedroom apartment, many people are being forced out of housing.

Staff photo by Hannah LaClaire U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan talks about the city’s affordable housing options with Nashua Mayor Jim Donchess and Dean Christon, director of New Hampshire Housing.

“If you’re working hard, everybody deserves a safe place to call home,” Hassan said.

Dean Christon, executive director of New Hampshire Housing said he was glad to see the city was supportive of bringing in more affordable housing, something he hopes will attract more young families to the area.

The housing crisis is a complicated issue, the officials agreed. The state has a relatively low unemployment rate, but employers still need a workforce. Workers need a place to live in order to work, but with no housing, or unaffordable housing, they are less likely to take a job. BAE alone has announced its intent to bring in 1,000 new jobs this year, and another 1,000 next year.

“I’m committed to supporting affordable housing in New Hampshire to expand opportunity for hard-working Granite Staters and ensure that our businesses have the workforce they need to continue to grow and thrive,” Hassan said.

Part of drawing more people in, said Elissa Margolin, director of Housing Action NH, is to change the public’s perception of what affordable housing developments are.

“We see a shift from ‘not in my backyard’ to ‘yes in my backyard,'” she said, adding that these developments add a marked economic benefit to the communities.

The city is hoping to stimulate housing growth for the needs they see, Donchess said.

Hassan agreed there is a “huge need here,” noting that for many, the burden of paying rent is “squeezing people” and making it hard to keep up.

She and other colleagues introduced the Rent Relief Act, which would provide a refundable tax credit to people who live in rental housing and spend more than 30 percent of their income on rental costs.

She also co-sponsored legislation to increase the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, which places like Casimir Place depend on.

However, as Hassan said Friday, “there’s a lot more work to do.”

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashua