Housing forum in Goffstown tackles fears, poses solutions
By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader
June 18. 2018 11:29PM
GOFFSTOWN — One Seacoast fire chief worried that a proposed affordable housing development would attract drug addicts, a Manchester developer told a housing forum Monday.
“The fire chief said it’s going to turn into a slum and it’s all going to be drug addicts and we don’t have enough Narcan in our town to go there and cover it,” Dick Anagnost recalled at the event at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College.
A few hours later, attendees ranked changing zoning regulations as the top action that should be taken to address the lack of enough affordable housing in New Hampshire.
Developers, finance people, legislators and housing advocates gathered to brainstorm in small groups before voting by smartphone.
The top two solutions were to increase density regulations and to provide consistent funding statewide for affordable housing, such as from the real estate transfer tax. Shifting the state’s tax structure away from property taxes to other tax structures tied for sixth.
A task force will be formed help build on the event.
“It’s a good start,” said Mary Sliney, executive director of The Way Home, a Manchester organization that provides affordable, transitional and permanent housing. “It’s a powerful group of people here who could make change.”
Private developers will need to step up to create more affordable housing, according to Pam Patenaude, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“I mean the fiscal environment that we’re in, eventually somebody is going to wake up and realize that we are spending far more than what we have and that someday that debt’s going to come due, so I think we have to look for alternative sources,” said Patenaude, a former Bedford resident.
Around the country, she said, Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) often slows development of affordable housing projects.
“I think NIMBY is the Number 1 concern everywhere and the D-word (density),” she said.
Some towns, Anagnost said, are reluctant to increase the density of housing units on a piece of property to make individual housing units more affordable.
“Nobody wants density,” he said. “Density is how you solve the problem.”
Anagnost said he took the Seacoast chief and that community’s police chief, who worried about not having enough officers, to meet with Manchester police to help allay fears based on Anagnost’s affordable housing complexes in Manchester.
The community still didn’t approve the affordable housing project, he said.
Anagnost declined to name the chiefs or the community.
Last weekend, Anagnost said he heard from a second fire chief from one community in the Greater Manchester area where Anagnost plans to build affordable housing but hasn’t publicly announced the proposal. That chief was concerned that making 30 of 120 proposed housing units devoted to affordable housing would lead to overcrowded schools, he said.
Anagnost wouldn’t name the chief or community.
“Housing brings people. People bring the workforce. Workforce brings business. Business brings economic development and prosperity,” Anagnost said. “For years in New Hampshire, we’ve been doing it opposite.”
Fidelity Investments, which employs more than 5,200 in New Hampshire, offers a program to provide up to $10,000 toward student loan payments, giving employees more money for housing costs, said Joe Murray, vice president of public affairs at Fidelity. That has saved employees $22 million firm-wide in principal and interest over the past couple of years, he said.
Patenaude applauded the forum attendees for advocating for a statewide advertising campaign.
“If you have a roof over your head, why worry about the people who don’t have a roof over their head? But it is absolutely fundamental and it’s the platform for everything else,” including keeping people healthy, she said.