NH program wins top honors for age-friendly housing effortsBy GRETCHEN M. GROSKY
New Hampshire Union Leader
September 07. 2017 11:40PM
CONWAY — One Mount Washington Valley group is earning national honors for a program aimed at teaching homeowners about how adding living space can help their aging loved ones, make the community more age-friendly, and possibly put a little more money in their pocket.
The Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition won the first-ever AARP Community Challenge for its “Accessorize the Valley” program. The program teaches people about the benefits of the state’s new accessory dwelling unit law, which allows single-family homeowners to build in-law suites, above-the-garage apartments, and similar housing units with few restrictions.
Victoria Laracy, executive director for the coalition, said her group has been hosting events at their Conway offices to educate people about the benefits of these types of units, but felt they weren’t reaching the homeowners.
With help from the Gibson Center Senior Services and the Carroll County Coalition for Public Health, the group will take the “Accessorize” program on the road to churches, senior centers, libraries, farmer’s markets and craft fairs to reach more homeowners.
“We kept doing these workshops and we would have Realtors there and the bankers there who already know about the law,” Laracy said. “It’s the people in the community that just didn’t know they had the opportunity to do this so we’re going to get out there and get to them.”
Laracy said such spaces can help families caring for loved ones, but these additional units can also increase the limited stock of affordable housing in the area. She said these units could be rented out to help the much-needed seasonal workforce and the homeowner benefits from some added income.
“There is a growing need for more diverse, affordable housing opportunities for the citizens of New Hampshire,” Fahey said. “Older adults may no longer need a big house, but want to remain in their community and maybe even generate extra income. Adult children wish to give care and support to their parents in a semi-independent living arrangement and many elderly and disabled citizens are in need of independent living spaces for caregivers.”
Fahey said one of the reasons “Accessorize the Valley” won the award was because it can serve as a model to other communities in the state.
“Great communities require careful planning and time, but quick action projects such as the one in Conway can give community leaders the motivation and momentum to create greater change,” Fahey said.
The group will receive $5,000 for the program.
Silver Linings is a continuing Union Leader/Sunday news report focusing on the issues of New Hampshire’s aging population and seeking out solutions. Union Leader reporter Gretchen Grosky would like to hear from readers about issues related to aging. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (603) 206-7739. See more at www.unionleader.com/aging.