What a futurist, an economist and journalist see for NH’s housing future

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From left, Ralph McLaughlin, John Martin, and Laura Kusisto from the Housing forum. Photo/Kathy Staub

MANCHESTER, NH —There is good news and bad news on the housing front. 

The good news is that foreclosures are down because fewer people are underwater with their mortgages and can sell their house if they get into financial straits. 

The bad news is that low inventories of homes for sale and low vacancy rates for rentals make the market very difficult for people looking to buy or rent. 

Ben Frost, Managing Director, Policy & Public Affairs for NH Housing Finance Authority reported at the organization’s Conference on October 10 that the vacancy rate for rentals continues to hover around 1 percent. A 4-5 percent rate is optimal. This has fueled continuing increases in rents. The average two-bedroom apartment in New Hampshire now costs $1,347 per month. 

More than 300 people came out for an Oct. 10 forum at the Doubletree Hilton on the future of housing in NH. Photo/Kathy Staub

Construction of new homes remains at half the rate it was before the recession and few of these homes are in the affordable range. The average price of a home purchased in New Hampshire is $295,000.

However, according to Frost, there is much to be optimistic about. In the latest legislative session, the state of New Hampshire committed to funding the Affordable Housing Fund with $5 million a year from real estate transfer tax revenue. On the federal level the Low Income Tax Credit, which is used as an incentive for developers to build affordable units, has been increased by 50 percent  

Over 300 people attended the Oct. 10 conference at the Doubletree Hotel in Manchester to hear about trends in housing from economist Ralph McLaughlin of CoreLogic, futurist John Martin of SIR Institute for Tomorrow, and Wall Street Journal housing reporter Laura  Kusisto.

Looking to the future, much of the discussion centered around changing demographics and the rise of the millennial generation. Millenials were born between 1983 and 2001 and they represent the largest generational cohort ever, even bigger than the baby boomers. By 2025 they will make up 46 percent of the workforce. 

According to Futurist John Martin, every generation is shaped by events that happen during their formative years. Millennials are shaped by technology, highly attentive parents, and the great recession. 

Source: John Martin, SIR Institute of Tomorrow

In general they are slower to reach life milestones such as home ownership. Only 32 percent of millennials are homeowners by the time they reach age 35. By contrast, 42 percent of baby boomers had reached that milestone by age 35. 

Lingering effects of the recession caused more people to remain in small starter homes instead of upscaling to newer, larger homes. This has created limited inventory for first-time buyers. Millennials are also plagued by student loan debt and low wages. About 41 percent of millennials live in poverty. 

Baby Boomers are the other large demographic group that is shaping the housing market. By 2040 the over 65 population will double to 20 percent.  Many are determined to remain active and age in place. Both groups are looking for dense areas with lots of amenities and access to public transportation, where owning a car is a choice, not a necessity. In a survey conducted in 2004, 70 percent of respondents indicated that they wanted a big house with a big yard, by 2014 that number had dropped to 47 percent.

Above: Presentation packet by Ralph McLaughin or CoreLogic

One big challenge that the state faces is its aging population. Economist Ralph McLaughlin pointed out that while NH’s over 65 population will increase significantly, the under 35 population is expected to decline in the next few decades. Healthy growth in this age cohort is key to maintaining a healthy workforce.  Massachusetts is the only New England state that is expected to see significant growth in this age group. 

“You should find ways to build off of growth in the neighboring state to change the forecast”, suggests McLaughlin.

Martin says that to accomplish this New Hampshire should focus on a regional approach to economic development that includes affordable housing, convenient transportation options, walkable neighborhoods with lots of opportunities for community building, and being a welcoming and inclusive community. 

About this Author


Kathy Staub

Kathy Staub is a freelance writer from Manchester.