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New Hampshire Launches $100M Housing Development Program

Gov. Chris Sununu announced the federally funded program on Tuesday, July 5, that could develop thousands of new housing units and will begin accepting applications on Monday, July 11.

(TNS) — New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a frequent critic of federal spending, touted a program Tuesday, July 5, that will use $100 million in federal dollars to create more housing in the state.

The Republican governor predicted at a news conference that "thousands of new housing units" could be built under his InvestNH Program, which will start taking applications Monday, July 11.

Sununu has tied government spending to the current high rate of inflation, but the state has benefited from that spending. This $100 million is part of more than $7 billion the state has utilized in extra federal money tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under InvestNH, developers can apply for a $50 million pot of money designed to close construction funding gaps for affordable multifamily housing projects. High inflation, supply chain issues and other problems can create these shortfalls.

Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the N.H. Department of Business and Economic Affairs, said the goal is "getting more units online as fast as possible."

The apartment vacancy rate statewide is hovering around 1 percent, he said. Nationwide, the rate stood at 5.8 percent for the first quarter of this year, according to U.S. Census figures.

Developers will be required to match the funds they get from the program. The money is to be used on hard costs such as building materials as opposed to soft costs like architectural fees.

Another $10 million will go to the N.H. Housing Finance Authority, which promotes, finances and supports affordable housing.

An additional $30 million is set aside as an incentive for municipalities that approve multifamily housing developments. The program designates another $5 million for upgrades in planning and zoning systems in towns and cities, and $5 million more is for the demolition of derelict structures.

Also speaking at the news conference was Elissa Margolin, director of Housing Action NH, which works to improve state and federal housing policy.

She said housing development is an excellent use for COVID-19 federal relief money.

"The workforce shortage that we're experiencing is directly related to the shortage of housing in this state," Margolin said. "If it's difficult for a new medical resident to accept his residency at an area hospital because he can't find housing that he can afford, you can imagine what it's like for a single parent with a couple of kids."

Keene Mayor George Hansel, who attended the news conference, said the program could help the city.

Lack of housing is holding the city back even though area employers are looking to grow and tourism is on the rise, he said.

Hansel added that there are some private developers who could take advantage of the InvestNH program funding on local projects, but he didn't have specifics.

"We're taking this seriously," he said. "It's nice to see that all branches of government are being proactive about housing, finally.

"We just need housing across the board, and it's not going to be just a Keene issue. I'm hoping that the smaller towns around Keene really take this as a call to action. They need to get active and they need to get proactive."

Last November, Hansel said Cheshire County must add 760 residential units by 2024 to keep pace with ongoing efforts to improve housing stability in New Hampshire. He is a member of the state panel leading that push.

The 760-unit goal is the county's share, based on population, of the 13,500 new units the N.H. Council on Housing Stability has said are needed statewide by 2024.

(c)2022 The Keene Sentinel (Keene, N.H.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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