2019 Homeownership Conference – NHHFA

On March 19, 2019, the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority held its 2019 Homeownership Conference. Agenda is at: https://www.nhhfa.org/assets/pdf/HO_Conf_3-19_Agenda.pdf

How can we get more homes built? How can we keep pace with the demand?

Dean Christon – Executive Director of NHHFA pointed to several initiatives:

St. Anselms College Center for Ethics in Business & Governance

  • Need more funding
  • Need a state-wide housing board
  • Need a legislative study on housing density

There are three interesting bills in the legislature and their sponsors:
SB 306 – Housing Appeals Board – Giuda
SB 15 – Affordable Housing Fund – Bradley
SB 43 – Density Study – Fuller-Clark

Finally, he introduced the NHHFA 2019 Housing Market Report  Read it at https://www.nhhfa.org/assets/pdf/NHHFA_HMR_3-19_final.pdf

Improving Housing Affordability

Elliot Eisenberg (the “Bowtie Economist”, Econ70.com) gave an entertaining and insightful review of housing issues. His major points:

  • The yield curve has inverted. This is a symptom of a non-zero chance of recession but at least 12 months out
  • There is a slowing economy, both in the US and the world. This is leading to slow growth
  • Regulatory costs add about $20,000 to $30,000 to the typical home. Mostly these are costs of complying with zoning
  • There are labor supply problems – builders cannot attract qualified builders, driving up labor costs
  • Land costs are high, making it more expensive to build
  • Builders have stopped building homes below $250,000
  • Rent growth has slowed recently
  • Municipalities should practice dynamic zoning. We regularly rezone commercial and industrial properties, but rarely do we allow changes to the density of residential districts
  • We must get housing density up, to decrease the cost of homes

He gave a similar presentation to the Greater Houston Builders Association Conference two weeks prior. That video is at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jv1do15Yx_Q

New Hampshire’s Housing Needs

Russ Thibault, Applied Economic Research, gave a talk about the New Hampshire housing needs. High demand for rental housing – “If the paint is dry, it’s occupied.” There is a shortage of 15,000 to 20,000 units in NH, with a demand for about 3,500 new units per year.

However, new construction is lagging because of high prices for construction materials (especially lumber), high labor costs (2.5% unemployment makes it hard to find qualified carpenters), and high land prices mean that existing housing is a relative bargain, driving up those prices.

He also gave a lesson in the history of zoning: In the 1980s, there was a sense of unease that the entire state would become overrun because of development pressure from Massachusetts. Ordinances were put in place to create a regulatory framework to prevent towns (especially in the southern part of NH) from being overwhelmed. These laws succeeded, but are now too restrictive and keep towns and municipalities from developing reasonable housing alternatives.

Engaging Stakeholders to Find Solutions

A panel discussion with the following people:

Builder: KEVIN LACASSE, New England Family Housing
Realtor: MATT MERCIER, Jill & Co. Realty Group
Architect/Engineer: TIM NICHOLS, AECm
Banker:PETER RAYNO, Enterprise Bank
Local Government: STEPHEN BUCKLEY, NHMunicipal Association
Moderator: BEN FROST, New Hampshire Housing

I took a few notes:

  • Mixed use development is good: Single family or rental above office or retail on the first floor.
  • Modular/pre-engineered construction helps improve labor cost/schedule/quality, with less waste, environmental impact, and bigger (annual) energy savings.
  • Riggins Rules – a good framework for being an effective land use board.

Summary of the Day’s Discussion

Ignatius Maclellan, Managing Director, Homeownership Division of NHHFA offered these thoughts:

  • Fully fund the State of NH Sewer Expansion work.
  • There are planning grants that can mitigate developer risk
  • To get market-price homes, streamline approval processes

Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public bodies, such as the Lyme Planning Board or the Lyme Community Development Committee, where I am/have been a member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

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