HALE’S LOCATION — In presentations at a legislators forum on the “State of Housing” held Sept. 27 by the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition, N.H. Housing Finance Authority and White Mountain Board of Realtors, Victoria Laracy summed up the current state of housing by saying the valley is facing an affordability crisis.
“The lack of housing, and the price of housing, is literally forcing our work force away,” said Laracy, executive director of the coalition.
She said young workers can’t afford to live in the region. “There is something really wrong when people in their prime working years cannot afford housing without having to have multiple jobs.
“Unless we address this issue,” Laracy added, “the trend of losing our 25- to 55-year-olds is going to continue. We cannot afford to do nothing when it comes to affordable housing.”
Legislators attending the meeting included state Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), as well as state Reps. Ed Butler (D-Hart’s Location), Anita Burroughs (D-Jackson-Bartlett), Tom Buco (D-Conway); Steve Woodcock (D-Conway), Jerry Knirk (D-Freedom) and Susan Ticehurst (D-Tamworth).
Also present were Conway Selectmen John Colbath and Mary Seavey, as well as town planning director Tom Irving and town welfare officer BJ Parker, as well as Ben Frost, director of legal and public affairs for NH Housing Finance Authority.
Dean in his presentation outlined a draft affordable housing ordinance designed to allow developers to build more dense residential building projects — either houses or apartment buildings — if they set aside up to 25 percent for affordable housing.
Dean, 43, of Intervale, a real estate lawyer for Cooper Cargill Chant of North Conway, said he is excited about the opportunites this ordinance would open up.
Lot sizes would start with at least a quarter-acre for the first unit and 5,000 square feet for each additional unit on the same lot for qualifying developers — half the current regulation of a half-acre for the first unit and 10,000 square feet for each additional unit on the same lot. Other factors, such as water and sewer access, would also play a role in individual project lot sizes.
Bradley addressed the gathering and saluted the coalition for coming up with solutions like the draft affordable housing ordinance that will grant developers greater density for market-rate projects if they set aside 25 percent to affordable housing.
He outlined how funding has increased from $1 million of bonded money from the general fund to $2.5 million in the capital budget in 2017.
“At the end of 2018, we had a surplus so we were able to appropriate another $2.5 million for the affordable housing fund that you are in the process of using,” said Bradley, crediting former state Rep. Karen Umberger (R-Conway) for leading the bipartisan effort that resulted in $5 million for the fund.
“And there will be $5 million in future years out of the real estate transfer tax,” said Bradley.
During a Q and A, Janice Crawford, executive director of the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce, urged creative solutions for the local housing crisis. She told of how she took money out of her retirement account to buy a home she is renting to a friend who is raising two grandchildren. She asked those in attendance to consider making a similar investment.
In response to remarks by Conway welfare officer BJ Parker, who talked of difficulties in getting local motel owners to accept housing vouchers, Crawford suggested taking vacant commercial properties (such as the former Sears store in Redstone) and converting them into dormitories.
Emily Smith-Mossman offered a proposal for Conway to consider “mini-home” complexes as other towns have done.
Scott Badger of the Jackson Housing Coalition noted that Jackson is coming up with ways to incentivize landlords to offer longterm rentals and to increase density proposals for developers.
In response to a presentation by former selectman Theresa Kennett on local housing, Shannon Dunfey-Ball, 35, marketing communications manager for Ski NH of Conway, questioned the true affordability of available homes for first-time homebuyers that qualify for HUD and NHFHA financing programs.
She said homes in the under-$200,000 affordability range often require new roofs, windows and other improvements that might disqualify the homes for first-time buyer loans.
The coalition is scheduled to hold a Workforce Housing Design Charrette of the former Conway Recreation Property in Center Conway later this month, with a community listening session Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Conway Public Library and design day on Oct. 22 with the reveal later that day at 5 p.m. at the North Conway Community Center. For more information, go to mwvhc.org or call (603) 452-7414.