How I love the Mount Washington Valley! Growing up here and attending local schools prior to going off to college, I feel lucky to find myself back at home in this wonderful community, raising my family. Where as we have a natural playground that surrounds us everyday, living and working in MWV can present challenges to young families with regard to quality, affordable housing, and well-paying jobs.
If we wish to grow our local economy, we must undertake some common-sense actions to make New Hampshire more attractive to young workers and their families. The Mount Washington Valley and the rest of the state now face a real housing affordability crisis. Vacancy rates statewide are lower than 2%, and locally, closer to 1%.
Housing costs have climbed to a point that it’s driving our workforce away. Consider this - NH’s housing wage (the hourly rate required for a worker to afford housing), is now over $21 an hour, ($21.71 to be exact), but the average renter in NH earn $14 an hour, and that wage is lower in MWV. To state the obvious, the math doesn’t work out. A large percentage of our workforce cannot afford to live in the MWV. For those who finding housing elsewhere, the average wage doesn’t provide much money to be spent in the MWV.
If we wish to have a strong, healthy economy, workers need to have access to housing that they can afford. We will continue to lose our young families and workforce to neighboring states if we do not take the opportunity to act now.
Homes serve as the hub of a very important wheel in our economy. In my conversations with many valley employers, they share that they are struggling to find and retain workers. Why? One of the top reasons recognized by most employers, is lack of available affordable housing. Our workforce is our community. Firefighters, law enforcement, teachers, hospitality workers, healthcare workers…..our community, unable to live close to their jobs because of the lack of an affordable place to live. We need housing that doesn’t take more that 30% of someone’s monthly income.
Since 2010 the MWV has seen a 17.9% increase in rental rates for 2 bedroom apartments, while employment wages have increased by only 5 ½%. The vacancy rate for MWV 2 bedroom apartments is essentially 0% and the vacancy rate for other rentals hovers at about 1%. We do not have the available housing stock to bring young families and young workers to the valley. And with the tight rental market, rentals that are available are not affordable to our workforce. Many long term rentals have turned to Air B&B.
Young families, who want to lay down their roots and become part of our community, are having difficulty finding homes or rentals that they can afford. By 2030 almost half of our community, our current workforce, will be over the age of 65. With lack of available housing, who is going to move here and fill those jobs? Our situation is not unique and many communities across the state are in the same situation. This problem cannot be fixed overnight.
MWVHC works very hard to advocate at the local and state levels to promote housing legislation that is part of the solution. We work with planning boards to look at their zoning and land use regulations to help make communities more housing friendly. We need your help. Learn more about us. Engage your local and state officials. Discuss, educate, advocate and support.
Executive Director of the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition