New taskforce to address city’s housing crisis

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Screenshot 2020 09 23 at 11.11.54 PM
Screenshot from Sept. 21 Housing Task Force meeting.

MANCHESTER, NH – Escalating rents, a rental vacancy rate of 1.5 percent, and a severe shortage of inventory for homebuyers has fueled a significant housing crisis in the city of Manchester.  

As a response to concerns raised by the community, Mayor Joyce Craig has convened a new Housing Taskforce to examine and address the challenges the city faces on the housing front. 

At its first meeting on September 21, 2020, the 13 members and the mayor all agreed that there is much they can do to address the city’s housing needs. Members will form three subcommittees: Zoning, Regulations and Land Use; Incentives and Funding; and Support, Social Services and Code Enforcement. Subcommittee chairs have yet to be decided. 

The meeting was held online with a simultaneous broadcast on Manchester Cable TV, and is available for viewing now. The next meeting will be on Wednesday, October 14 at 2 p.m. at which any public comments will be read. Comments should be sent to Shannon MacLeod, Policy Director, Office of the Mayor.

After a welcome by the mayor,  task force member Robert Tourigny of NeighborWorks cited an unmet demand of 700 to 800 units for the lower-end, “affordable” part of the market, saying, “We are kicking the can down the road and creating a bigger crisis when the demand will grow to 1,200 in a few years. The crisis will get worse if we don’t keep up with supply.” 

Taskforce member James Vayo, Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission, noted, “The total deficit is 3,600.” He differentiated “lower case a” affordable housing from “upper case A” Affordable Housing that is financed with formally designated funds from the federal government, and is inadequate to address the total need.

Tourigny added, “Costs for construction material and labor are going through the roof at an exponential rate. Code enforcement contributes to the problem, with a significant disconnect between fire and building code enforcement in every location. It was addressed in the state legislature, but it is still a problem.”

Cathy Naczas, Executive Director of Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority, presented the early draft of the plan for affordable housing and the programmatic layout for the Consolidated Plan, which is how the city will spend federal money. 

Mayor Joyce Craig invited 13 members to participate, representing a range of sectors with interest in housing, including Pat Long, Alderman Ward 3; Cathy Naczas, Manchester Housing and Redevelopment Authority; Joe Wichert, Joseph M. Wichert, LLS, Inc.; Dean Christon, New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority; Jodie Nazaka, Planning and Community Development; Roland Martin, Cornerstone PDC; Max Latona, St. Anselm Center for Business and Ethics; Robert Tourigny, NeighborWorks; James Vayo, Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission; Chris Miller, Easterseals; Chris Wellington, FIT/New Horizons; Alissandra Rodriguez-Murray, Manchester Housing Alliance; and Sarah Jane Knoy, Granite State Organizing Project.

Watch the meeting below:

The task force was proposed earlier this year by a grassroots organization, the Manchester Housing Alliance. Its Facebook page states, “Our vision for the city is to have a good home for everyone, with increased supply and choice of housing.” The Alliance is hosting a series of forums on tenants’ rights in conjunction with Granite State Organizing Project, which plans to host the recorded videos of the forums.

Laura Aronson is a member of the Manchester Housing Alliance. Follow them on Facebook here.

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