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Homelessness On The Rise In New Hampshire From Lack Of Affordable Housing And Low Wages

Annual Report From NH Coalition to End Homelessness Shows
Alarming Rise In Homelessness Throughout New Hampshire

Today, the NH Coalition to End Homelessness (NHCEH) has released its sixth State of Homelessness in New Hampshire Report, which provides an overview of statewide indicators and trends in homelessness from 2015 to 2017.  After decreasing by 19% from 2015 to 2016, the overall number of people experiencing homelessness in New Hampshire rose by 11%  in 2017. This is in part due to increasing rents in conjunction with extremely low vacancy rates, which place low income renters in tenuous positions to find affordable housing.

“The increase in the numbers of children and families experiencing homelessness is concerning,” said Cathy Kuhn, director of the NHCEH. “Reversing this growth will require continued commitment and investment in the proven strategies that we know are successful in quickly rehousing those who become homeless.”

In the NH Labor News write up on NHCEH’s 2016 report, chronic homelessness was declining but there were serious concerns about affordable housing that could lead to a rise in homelessness.

This year saw a significant increase in homelessness in a few key areas.

  • After decreasing by 19% from 2015 to 2016, the overall number of people experiencing homelessness rose by 11% in 2017.
  • After dropping by 29% last year, the number of persons in families experiencing homelessness rose by 26%, from 539 people in 2016 to 680 people in 2017.
  • Unsheltered Homelessness rose by 22%, from 143 to 174 in 2017
  • From the 2015-2016 school year to the 2016-2017 school year, the statewide number of students experiencing homelessness rose by 6%. This rise continues a pattern of increases in the number of students experiencing homelessness in recent years.
  • Increases in median gross rents continued to outpace increases in median household renter incomes, diminishing an already sparse market of affordable housing. Vacancy rates continue to decrease to alarmingly low levels across New Hampshire, with the state average falling from 2.2% in 2015 to 1.4% in 2017. A healthy vacancy rate is normally around five percent.

Over the last year, Strafford county saw the largest increase in homelessness with a 67% increase from 2016, but everyone in the state is feeling the pressure.

“Last year, our shelter was at or over capacity every night from December to July. We’ve had to bunk beds and place extra mattresses and cots in spaces not normally meant for dorm rooms to accommodate the increased demand,” said Martha Stone of the Cross Roads House in Portsmouth.

The NHCEH found that families make up 47% of overall homeless population. Persons in families who have experienced homelessness often have histories of violence and trauma, which can have harmful effects on the long-term wellbeing of both adults and children.

“Every month, we receive calls for shelter that we are unable to house. We receive calls daily from families looking for space,” said Arolyn Chappell of the Friends Emergency Housing Program in Concord.

In 2016, family homelessness dropped by 29%, however those gains were quickly erased after a 26% increase in 2017. Eight of the ten counties in New Hampshire saw in increase in family homelessness in 2017.

“Due to a lack of affordable housing in conjunction with a shortage of emergency shelter beds for families across New Hampshire, many service providers report increasing numbers of families residing in cars, campgrounds, and other unsafe and unsanitary living conditions,” wrote NHCEH.

Over the last three years, unsheltered homelessness — those who are living in temporary shelters, such as emergency shelters or transitional housing, and those who are living unsheltered, such as in a tent, a car, or somewhere else not meant for human habitation — is down by 33% but 2017 New Hampshire saw a rise in unsheltered homelessness by 22%.

The largest concentration of unsheltered homelessness is in Hillsborough County, but thanks to recent efforts to combat homelessness, Hillsborough County reduced their unsheltered homelessness by nearly 48% since 2015.  Strafford County saw a 123% increase in unsheltered homelessness over the last year going from 18 to 38.

According to NHCEH, the key factors that lead to homelessness are “poverty and the lack of affordable housing.” While New Hampshire has one of the lowest unemployment rate’s in the country at 2.8%, workers are still struggling to find affordable housing.

One recent analysis reports that someone working full-time at minimum wage would need to work 120 hours per week in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent in New Hampshire,” NHCEH stated. “The same report lists New Hampshire as having the 14th highest housing wage in the country, with a worker having to earn almost $22 an hour in order to afford a modest two-bedroom unit in the state.

 

The difference between getting by paycheck-to-paycheck and becoming homeless is “one unexpected financial, medical or familial event.” Overall the poverty rate in New Hampshire fell slightly, 8.2% in 2015 to 7.3% in 2016,  NHCEH says “financial stability is still out of reach for many in New Hampshire.”

As previously stated the biggest issue facing New Hampshire is lack of affordable housing.  NHCEH found that monthly rental costs rose 8.8% to a median of $1259 per month.  This is unacceptable considering that workers wages only rose 3.3% over the last year.  The average renter makes $38,569 a year and pays over $15,000 a year in rent alone.

“We have seen a huge increase of people in threat of being evicted for nonpayment, and not just one or two months behind… five and six months, or more behind at times.” Dawn Ferringo, Prevention Services Division Director at Tri-County CAP in Lancaster.

To make matters worse, just finding an apartment has become increasingly difficult.  Statewide the “vacancy rate” for rentals fell to 1.7%.  Carroll County reported that  they have a no rentals available and Cheshire Country reports less than 1% vacancy.

“These low vacancy rates further exacerbate the scarcity of affordable housing in these regions of the state, making it even more difficult for low income renters to find stable housing.”

There are many things that need to be done to decrease the homeless population in New Hampshire and the NH Coalition to End Homelessness will continue to push for policies and programs that will help eliminate homelessness in NH.

“With a continued commitment to collaboration in conjunction with a renewed investment in prevention strategies, it is possible to end homelessness in NH, creating a state in which every citizen has the opportunity to achieve long-term stability, wellness and success.”


Full NHCEH report can be found here

A quick reference info-graphic from NHCEH

The NH Coalition to End Homelessness is a nonprofit organization with the purpose of eliminating the causes of homelessness through research, education, and advocacy. For more information about the NHCEH or the State of Homelessness in New Hampshire Report, visit www.nhceh.org or call 603-641-9441.

NHLN Coverage of the 2016 NHCEH annual report

Granite State Rumblings: Affordable Housing Vs Minimum Wage

Minimum Wage Vs HoursOut of Reach 2016, a new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition tells us that in no state, metropolitan area, or county can a full-time worker earning the prevailing minimum wage afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.

In 2016, the national Housing Wage is $20.30 for a two-bedroom rental unit and $16.35 for a one-bedroom rental unit. A worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would need to work 2.8 full time jobs, or approximately 112 hours per week for all 52 weeks of the year, in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment at HUD’s Fair Market Rent (FMR). If this worker slept for eight hours per night, he or she would have no remaining time during the week for anything other than working and sleeping.

As Julian Castro, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development points out, “Three-quarters of extremely low-income families pay more than half of their income just to keep a roof over their heads, leaving less money for food, child care, transportation, and so many other basic necessities. And it’s not just people of very modest means who are working harder to make ends meet.  Last year, rising rents in a number of cities outpaced the rate of inflation, which is hurting low-and moderate-income Americans… The crisis is also affecting seniors, many of whom live on fixed incomes.”

According to the report, the lowest income households face the greatest housing affordability challenges. Extremely low income (ELI) households have income at or below 30% of their area median. On average, they can afford to spend no more than $507 per month on housing costs. An individual relying on Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in 2016 can only afford monthly rent of $220. Meanwhile, the national average monthly rent for a modest one-bedroom apartment is $850. The national average cost of a modest one-bedroom apartment would consume more than a single SSI recipient’s entire income. Such an individual would be unable to maintain shelter without housing assistance.

Wage stagnation and income inequality contribute to the gap between what people earn and the cost of their housing. From 2007 to 2015, the bottom 10% of wage earners saw a 0.2% increase in real hourly wages, while the top 5% saw an 8.7% increase, continuing a long-term trend of growing income equality. Between 1979 and 2013, the bottom 10% of wage earners saw a 5.3% decline in real hourly wages, while the top 5% saw a 40.6% increase.

The demand for rental housing is at its highest level since the 1960s.  In the past decade alone, the U.S. has added nine million renter households, but only 8.2 million rental housing units to its housing stock. Vacancy rates are at their lowest levels since 1985 and rents have risen at an annual rate of 3.5%, the fastest pace in three decades.

Growth in the supply of low cost rental units has not kept pace with the significant growth in demand. Between 2003 and 2013, the number of low cost units renting for less than $400 increased by 10%, but the number of renter households in need of these units increased by 40%.

In addition to raising the minimum wage, public investments in housing programs are essential to address the shortage of rental housing affordable and available to ELI and VLI households. One new and promising tool for addressing this shortage is the national Housing Trust Fund (HTF).

The HTF is the first new federal housing program in a generation to focus on Extremely Low Income (ELI) households. It will receive a first time allocation of nearly $173.6 million in the summer of 2016 for distribution to the 50 states and the District of Columbia. At least 90% of HTF funds must be used to build, preserve, or rehabilitate rental housing affordable to ELI and Very Low Income (VLI) households. A maximum of ten percent (10%) of HTF funds can be used for affordable homeownership activities. At least 75% of funds must benefit ELI households, and up to 25% can benefit VLI households.

Out of Reach 2016 highlights the affordability gap between the cost of rental housing and the wages of millions of renters who do not earn enough to afford a decent and safe home without significant sacrifice. Low income renters face the greatest challenge. Higher wages and a greater supply of affordable rental housing are necessary. If we make further gains in minimum wage legislation and expand funding for the national Housing Trust Fund, we can address the affordability gap.

GROWING UP GRANITE

In New Hampshire, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,097. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities — without paying more than 30% of income on housing — a household must earn $3,655 monthly or $43,865 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into an hourly Housing Wage of $21.09.

Mind the Gap: Housing Costs Outpace Earnings for Thousands of NH Renters

By Elissa Margolin

Many Granite State families breathed a little easier as New Hampshire gained jobs, and its leaders rightly took a victory lap as unemployment rates fell to the second-lowest in the nation.

But new reports show a side of the state’s economy that is not often measured: the significant gap between what families earn and what housing costs in NH.

According to the 2016 Out of Reach report, an annual look at what it takes to pay the rent around the country, NH families now need to make over $21 an hour to afford rent and make all ends meet. There are about 150,000 renter households in NH, and their mean salary is just $14.08 an hour, according to the report’s author, the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Standard economic practice suggests no more than 1/3 of income is spent on rent and utilities in order to have enough left for groceries, childcare, and transportation. That means the average renter family should ideally not spend more than $732/month on housing expenses. Meanwhile, in NH, fair market rent statewide is $1,097 a month, and even higher in places like the Seacoast.

It’s not hard to see where the struggle begins.

The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute (NHFPI) recently released two reports detailing how difficult it can be to make ends meet here in the Granite State.  For instance, NHFPI finds that the incomes families need to secure basic necessities here in NH are actually several times the official poverty threshold.  A family of three living in the Strafford/Great Bay area, for example, needs an income of more than $63,000 per year to purchase essentials like housing, food, and medical and child care.

The upshot? Families are either paying more for housing than they can afford, sacrificing from groceries, or perhaps settling for situational childcare that is not of high quality or reliability.

The good news is New Hampshire has some tools in the toolbox to close the gap between housing costs and incomes and attain better outcomes for families, businesses and communities. The state recently removed a regulatory barrier standing in the way of private homeowners who wish to add accessory dwelling units to their homes, adding to the supply of units for people with disabilities, seniors, caregivers and young people just starting out. NH should now step up to fund its state housing trust fund in a meaningful way, as most other states do, in order to add more affordable rental homes to our inadequate supply. NH must also look at wage policies, including re-establishing its own minimum wage and raising it to a level that better meets the needs of the modern economy.

In the long run, housing must be included in the equation toward a more family-friendly economy.

Elissa Margolin is director of Housing Action NH, a statewide coalition of 80 organizations and businesses united around a common vision that everyone benefits when all Granite Staters have a safe, affordable place to call home. At www.housingactionnh.org.

Kuster calls for Increased Federal Funding for Affordable Housing during Roundtable Discussion in Lebanon

  

Kuster brought together stakeholders and community members to discuss New Hampshire’s affordable housing needs


Lebanon, NH – This afternoon, Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) brought together stakeholders, affordable housing advocates, and community members to discuss New Hampshire’s housing needs. A strong advocate for protecting federal funds for affordable housing, Kuster called on her colleagues in Congress to put a stop to dangerous cuts to housing programs, and to fully fund the programs that help our communities shelter those in need.

 

“I’ve long called on my colleagues in Congress to preserve crucial funding for affordable housing, and today’s roundtable underscored the urgent need for increased investment in these programsnow,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster. “The stories I heard during today’s roundtable truly illustrate how affordable housing units across the Granite State can help our hardworking families get ahead, but without federal funds, many of these programs are threatened and these families’ livelihoods are put in jeopardy. I will continue to work with the USDA to encourage expansion of rural development programs that are particularly important in communities like those located in the Upper Valley, and I urge my colleagues in Congress to come together and support federal affordable housing programs across the board.” 

 

Today’s roundtable gave community leaders a chance to share with the Congresswoman their own thoughts on how Congress can better support the sustainability and development of affordable housing units in New Hampshire, and roundtable participants highlighted the most pressing needs of the Lebanon housing community. In particular, participants and audience members discussed the recent news that as many as 50 tenants and families living in the Pine Tree Lane apartments may be facing relocation after federal affordable housing subsidies for their complex expired. Congresswoman Kuster has reached out to the USDA to encourage the continuation of the housing subsidies needed to allow Pine Tree Lane residents to stay in their homes, and the roundtable participants and audience members discussed other possible solutions and courses of action. 

 

Kuster was joined at the roundtable by a variety of community members and affordable housing advocates, including Laurel Redden from NH Housing Action, Dean Christon from NH Housing Finance Authority, Ditha DeSimone from Lebanon Housing Authority, Anne Duncan Cooley from the Upper Valley Housing Coalition, Lynne Goodwin from Lebanon Human Services Department, Andrew Winter from Twin Pines Trust, and Keith Thibault from Southwestern Community Services, among others. In addition to the roundtable discussion, Kuster heard from and took questions from community members in attendance.

 

During the roundtable, Kuster provided an update on her longstanding efforts in Washington to fight for funding for important programs that support affordable housing, as well as her work to provide tax relief to encourage the development of new units. In addition to working closely with the USDA to encourage an extension of the subsidy program, Kuster has also advocated for the expansion of the Section 8 program, which provides rental assistance to seniors, people with disabilities, and low-income families, and she has fought for funding for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which helps states and local governments build affordable housing for families in need. She is also a cosponsor of legislation to make permanent the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, which provides tax relief for private developers who construct affordable rental housing, and she is a cosponsor of legislation to make permanent the New Markets Tax Credit, which incentivizes private economic development in low-income communities, including through investment in affordable housing projects. 

 

Kuster will take the thoughts and concerns she heard during today’s roundtable back to Washington, where she will continue to urge her colleagues to stop harmful cuts and increase their efforts across the board to ensure that every hardworking Granite Stater and American in need has access to housing that they can afford.



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