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Nashua calls for creative proposals to build more affordable housing

Main Street in Nashua, New Hampshire. Dan Tuohy photo.
Dan Tuohy
Main Street in Nashua, New Hampshire. Dan Tuohy photo.

Nashua’s Housing Trust Fund is accepting proposals to build affordable housing or maintenance of existing inventory within the city. The new $10 million fund comes from the American Rescue Plan, a federal incentive Nashua received during the pandemic.

The city plans to allocate the funds to developers who have the capability and team to bring affordable housing proposals to completion. Nashua hasn’t disclosed yet how much assistance a project could receive or how many projects will be chosen, but its local government officials are clear that the money has to be destined exclusively for affordable housing construction or promotion. The proposals must also support a First Time Homebuyer Program.

The request for proposals is based on Nashua’s 2020 housing study that determined that by 2030 the city’s population will increase by 8%, many of them potentially young professionals and young families. The city estimates it will need around 2,480 owner-occupied housing units and 2,289 rented housing units by the end of the decade – a mix of condominiums, single-family homes, and apartments, to meet the demands of a changing city.

Matt Sullivan, Nashua’s community development division director, said the city's downtown area in particular needs more affordable housing, where the low-income households, renters, and old housing stock are concentrated.

“The anticipated demand will be of smaller units, one to two bedrooms, particularly multifamily apartment-style units,” he said. “We still need to produce more 4 or 5 bedrooms, but not at the same rate.”

Nashua’s home prices have increased 19% in the past decade, and the 2020 study anticipates the number of renters will increase slightly over the years, as well as the number of people in need of more affordable housing options, especially, says the study, for minorities whose salaries are less and have more issues paying high rents and mortgages.

Dan Tuohy
Downtown Nashua

Nashua’s ethnic diversity is changing rapidly, according to the study. Between 2013 and 2018, the city lost 3,400 white residents and gained 5,700 residents who identified with an ethnicity other than white.

Nashua’s also aging. The city experienced a sharp decline in school-age children, and the study anticipates residents between the ages 35 to 54 will shrink over time, while Nashua’s residents who are 55 and older have increased by 22%. While projections could have changed with the pandemic, Sullivan says, age-restricted housing development could influence apartment vacancies in the city.

Sullivan says Nashua could have invested the new fund in a new shelter, based on their empirical observations that homelessness is growing in the city, but he says the city is prioritizing long-term solutions that will “still relieve some pressure for families and individuals in need for affordable housing."

The city will announce the results of an unhoused population count in the next few months. Until then, Sullivan said they can’t determine if a shelter is the best solution. Nashua recently hired a new person to create programs to alleviate the homelessness issue in the city.

A 2021 New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness reportcounted 142 chronically unhoused individuals, 427 unhoused students, and 226 homeless families in Nashua and eight surrounding towns.

The city is also willing to allocate the funds in other creative ways that promote housing affordability and not just financial assistance to build units. Sullivan is looking for landlord incentive program proposals that encourage them to fix properties for low and medium-income people who otherwise would not be allowed on those properties.

“[The proposals] can also come in the form of setting up an outreach educational program about the criticality of affordable housing,” he said. “There are many potential uses of the fund.”

Sullivan says his department is also interested in spreading the word about other types of housing, such as tiny houses or manufactured homes, that can help remedy the housing crisis in New Hampshire.

“There may be misinformation about what those things are,” he said. “When in fact it can be very realistic and attractive housing options.”

The applicants must start the process by sending a one-page letter of intent with the development team, the amount requested, the total project budget, and the projected timeline to by Feb. 23. More information can be found here.

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.
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