City recognizes ongoing need for more housing
NASHUA – With a line approximately 6,000 people deep, it is abundantly clear that the cry for additional housing is not going away.
“It’s been that way for a while, Nashua is a very desirable place to live,” said Mayor James Donchess. “Demand is what the issue is, the demand far exceeds the supply.”
According to Redfin.com, the median sale price of a home in the city is $460,000, representing a year-over-year increase of 15 percent.
Donchess said the vacancy rate for apartments is still less than one percent. As of Sept. 18, the average rents in Nashua range from $1,550 for a studio to $2,151 for a two-bedroom unit, according to Rent.com.
Donchess also said that under state law, there is nothing to prevent landlords from raising rents to unimaginable levels.
“Rent control in New Hampshire is illegal,” he said. “We want to stimulate the growth of affordable housing.”
He said the Boston housing market also has a significant impact on Nashua’s housing costs.
“We’re part of Boston Metro, that’s the reality,” he said.
The mayor and his administration have responded to the housing shortage with the opening of Marshall Street Apartments, the Residences at Riverfront Landing and Lofts 34. All told, 500 units of housing have been added during the past four years.
Looking ahead, the Monahan Manor Apartments are slated to open on Oct. 1 with 206 of its 216 units being categorized as affordable housing.
Donchess said the city is also working with NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire to build a 45-unit apartment building at 249 Main St. Within the total number of units, 34 of them will be affordable.
Other developments in the pipeline include the former Indian Head Bank Building, the High Street Lofts and 150 units on Canal Street.
Donchess also called attention to the Mohawk Tannery, which has been an environmental problem since it closed 40 years ago. However, he said the city received $6 million from the federal Environmental Protection Agency to clean up the site. The clean-up will allow for the construction of 500 units which are expected to generate $200 million per year in property taxes.
In addition, Donchess said he put $10 million into the Affordable Housing Trust from the American Rescue Plan Act. The city also passed an inclusionary zoning ordinance requiring developers to “include a specific percentage set aside of below-market units as part of a market-rate rental or ownership development.”
While the housing shortage may never be fully eliminated, Donchess said the Housing and Redevelopment Authority continues to explore other options.
“The Housing Authority has the land to do it,” he said.
Realtor Cheryl Kisiday of Keller Williams Gateway Realty said New Hampshire’s tax free status and low interest rates has made the Granite State quite appealing, particularly during the past few years.
“Buyers from states with state income tax found that living in New Hampshire was equivalent to getting a raise,” she said. “A lot of the out of state buyers could sell their homes at a premium price and pay cash for a property here.”
As a result, she said Nashua’s housing inventory was quickly overrun by the demand.
Kisiday also said the cost of land and labor have “skyrocketed” thus, triggering a dramatic increase in the cost of new housing and making affordable housing nearly impossible.
Looking ahead, Kisiday said the city may want to consider senior housing.
“By creating 55-plus and 62-plus age-restricted developments, Nashua residents could sell their current home and stay in the town that they love,” she said.
Kisiday said homeowners are reluctant to sell in the current market.
“Sellers are afraid to put their homes on the market until they are comfortable with where they would move,” she said. “The lack of inventory has an effect whether the seller is upsizing or downsizing, there’s just nowhere to go.”
Having been in real estate for the past 30 years, Kisiday said the housing market has ebbed and flowed.
“At times there were too many homes for sale and I remember telling sellers to expect their homes to be on the market for at least six months,” she said. “The real estate market is somewhat cyclical but we seem to have missed a cycle. The experts have been predicting a crash for many years and that has yet to happen.”