Declaring housing a “fundamental human right,” a report examining the affordable housing crunch in Manchester and across New Hampshire calls for a statewide strategic approach to the issue, which it calls too “complicated and multifaceted” to be solved by the Queen City alone.

On Tuesday, Mayor Joyce Craig released the report of the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Task Force, which she says will serve as a blueprint for Manchester to address the affordable housing crisis.

Announced during Craig’s 2020 State of the City Address, the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Taskforce marked the first Manchester housing initiative since an Affordable Housing Task Force created by former mayor Frank Guinta in 2008. This task force began its work in the fall of 2020 and focused on funding and incentives, zoning, regulations, and land use and support services.

‘We began our work with the belief that housing is a fundamental human right,” said Craig in a statement. “I’m thankful to the members of the Affordable Housing Taskforce for their commitment to identifying solutions and outlining a path forward to respond to the challenges associated with affordable housing in Manchester.”

The report outlines 14 recommendations from the subcommittees, including updating zoning regulations, streamlining the permitting process for developers, compiling a comprehensive audit of all city-owned properties, and creating a housing-resource portal on the city website.

The task force also recommends the creation of a housing commission to track progress on the report’s recommendations, provide updates to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, and connect with the community on housing issues.

Rent prices in Manchester for a two-bedroom apartment increased 25% over the past decade, including a nearly 10% increase from 2020 to 2021, according to the report.

“This is a much larger jump than other New England cities, with Boston prices increasing 1%, Burlington, Vermont increasing 3.4% and Portland, Maine, increasing 5% in the past year,” the report states. “If housing trends continue, the city would need to add approximately 1,800 units to the market in order to maintain a healthy vacancy rate.”

The report says while private developers are building new units across the city, most of these rental units are at market rate, making them inaccessible to low-to-moderate income earners.

“In fact, the average salary for a renter in Hillsborough County is $48,498,” the report states. “To afford a typical two-bedroom apartment with utilities, that same renter would have to earn an additional $12,902 a year.”

Task force members say these rising costs come in conjunction with a shortage of available housing stock, making it difficult for residents to find affordable housing options.

“Housing affordability challenges have reached a critical level across New Hampshire,” said task force member Robert Tourigny of Neighborworks. “I am pleased to have had the opportunity to work with the mayor and a team of individuals who are dedicated to addressing these needs in Manchester. I am hopeful that these recommendations will lead to an increase in the supply of affordable housing in the city.”

“Manchester is uniquely positioned with an abundance of organizations dedicated to housing services,” said Alderman Pat Long, a task force member, in a statement. “The Mayor’s Affordable Housing Task Force was an opportunity in bringing these groups together in collaborating with finding short-term and long-term deliverable solutions.”

“The development community can play an important role in trying to resolve the affordable housing issue,” said task force member Joe Wichert. “The task force was an excellent opportunity to meet with other dedicated community members and hear their concerns.”

Task force members include:

Mayor Joyce Craig; Alderman Pat Long; Kathy Naczas with Manchester Housing and Community Development; Joe Wichert of Joseph M. Wichert, LLS, Inc.; Ben Frost, New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority; Jodie Nazaka, Planning and Community Development; Roland Martin, Cornerstone PDC; Max Latona, St. Anselm Center for Business and Ethics; Robert Tourigny, NeighborWorks; James Vayo, Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission; Chris Miller, Easterseals; Chris Wellington, FIT/New Horizons; Alissandra Rodriguez-Murray, Manchester Housing Alliance; Sarah Jane Knoy, Granite State Organizing Project; and Shannon MacLeod of the mayor’s office.

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