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Rental costs are still on the rise

NASHUA – Monthly rent for a typical two-bedroom apartment in Greater Nashua is now $1,456, an increase of nearly $100 per month from just last year, according to data compiled by the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.

Furthermore, the authority states that in order to comfortably afford the Hillsborough County median cost of a typical two-bedroom apartment with utilities, a renter would have to earn 130% of the statewide median renter income – or $58,200 per year.

“New Hampshire Housing provided financing for over 700 rental units in the state last fiscal year. Even with those units, it is clear that we need to encourage and support the development of more housing opportunities throughout the state to meet the needs of our state’s residents and businesses, and its economic well-being,” New Hampshire Housing Executive Director Dean Christon said.

The authority was established by the New Hampshire Legislature in 1981 as a self-sustaining public corporation, with a mission to promote, finance and support affordable housing and related services for residents.

As rents continue rising, it is becoming increasingly difficult for many to avoid homelessness. U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., hopes to mitigate the problem by introducing the Prevent Evictions Act.

“When a family is kicked out of their home because an unexpected expense prevented them from making the rent that month, the entire community, and economy, suffers,” Hassan said. “The Prevent Evictions Act would provide support to help landlords and tenants reach fair agreements that keep families in their homes.”

As proposed, the act would:

• Create a landlord-tenant mediation grant program to bring landlords and tenants to the table to find informal, mutually agreed upon solutions that keep tenants in their homes;

• Provide grant funding for translators, ensuring that all individuals have the ability to participate; and

• Direct the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to study the potential for certain types of rent insurance to be cost-effective eviction mitigation tools.

“Rising rents and unprecedented low vacancy rates in New Hampshire have created a concerning increase in housing poverty around the state,” Housing Action New Hampshire Director Elissa Margolin said. “We applaud Senator Hassan’s proposal to provide new tools to help with eviction prevention. Certainly one of the best ways for us to stave off an increase in homelessness is to decrease evictions.”

Nashua’s emerging epidemic of homelessness is such that the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter plans to transform the former Sacred Heart School at 35 Spring St. into a new shelter to meet demand.

Information provided by the authority states that since 2014, the cost of the average apartment in Hillsborough County has increased by 26%.

Meanwhile, New Hampshire’s vacancy rate stands at less than 1% for two-bedroom units, the authority states. In comparison, the U.S. vacancy rate is 7%.

There is recognition within both the public and private sectors of the state that to sustain New Hampshire’s healthy economy, additional housing is needed to support housing needs — about 20,000 more units, according to a recent study. While there has been some increase in the construction of new rental housing in the past few years, many of these units tend be on the higher end of the market.