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Proposed New Law Could Require Up To 3 Months Rent Before Moving In

Renting an apartment is not easy.  Some places require first month’s rent and a security deposit equal to a month’s rent before you can even move in.  This is a lot of money.  The New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness reported that the median fair market rent for a two bedroom apartment is $1259 a month.  This means you would have to put up $2500  just to move in.

For the landlord, the security deposit is to ensure that the tenant leaves the rental in the same shape as when they first moved in.  If the tenant leaves the rental in good shape the renter would get their security deposit returned to them.  In most cases the landlord uses the security deposit to clean and freshen up the apartment and returns the unused amount to the tenant. In many cases, tenants never see their security deposits returned to them after the leave.

A group of New Hampshire legislators is looking to make it harder for people to rent and more profitable for landlords by increasing the amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit.

Introduced this week, House Bill 1485, would allow landlords to collect a security deposit equal to two month’s rent up front as a condition of the rental agreement.  Currently the law only allows for a maximum of one month’s rent.  With this change a renter could be forced to come up with $3,700 up front to move into their new apartment.

This is an exorbitant amount of money for most people.

According to a  2015 study, “62% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts and 21% don’t even have a savings account.”  They continued by saying “62% of Americans have no emergency savings for things such as a $1,000 emergency room visit or a $500 car repair.”

If if the average American cannot come up with $500 dollars for an emergency repair on their car, how are they going to come up with $3,700 for a downpayment on an apartment?  This also speaks to the fact that we need to raise the minimum wage to a real living wage, but I digress.

This bill is unnecessary and spiteful. Even paying two months rent up front is hard enough, making them pay three is obscene.  Making it a “security deposit” that they may or may not get back is even worse.  One month’s rent for a security deposit is more than ample. If the tenant does more damage than the security deposit covers, take them to court.

The legislature should kill this bill.

Statewide Homelessness Is Down In New Hampshire, But For How Long?

A new report shows that progress has been made to reduce the homeless population in New Hampshire but systemic problems could lead to future increases.

The NH Coalition to End Homelessness just released their fifth annual report on the State of Homelessness in New Hampshire. The report show some good news in the fight to eliminate homelessness but the report also shows some alarming trends the could undue all of the gains made over the past few years.

“2016 saw significant reductions in our overall homeless numbers. Data among specific subpopulations of the homeless also indicates that important progress is being made,” wrote Cathy Kuhn Ph.D, Director of The NH Coalition to End Homelessness (NHCEH). “The number of individuals living unsheltered continued to drop over the past year and homelessness among veterans and among the chronically homeless also declined.”

The report shows that programs like the NH Governor’s Interagency Council on Homelessness (NHICH) are making real progress in combating homelessness.

“Under the leadership of the NHICH, the state has made significant progress towards creating a Supportive Housing Services Benefit for Medicaid beneficiaries who are experiencing homelessness. Research consistently shows that combining affordable housing with tenancy support services and care coordination can help those with the greatest challenges to live with stability and wellness,” Kuhn added.

With a goal of completely eliminating homelessness in New Hampshire, NHCEH reported a significant drop in homelessness in 2016.  Overall homelessness in New Hampshire dropped by 19% from 2014 numbers with Merrimack County seeing the largest drop at 56%.

This is great news, especially when added with the fact that “Chronic Homelessness,” that is people who have been continually homeless for over a year, fell by 17%.

The state also saw a 45% decrease in “unsheltered homelessness.”  This is a 63% drop from 2014 numbers. “Providing appropriate interventions as quickly as possible for people who are experiencing unsheltered homelessness, particularly for those who are newly homeless, is critical to preventing the development of additional complications associated with long-term, chronic homelessness,” NHCEH stated.

NHCEH also found that nearly half (41%) of the overall homeless population in New Hampshire are “persons in families.”  The good news is that family homelessness is also down by 29% in 2016.  221 homeless persons in families were able to move off of the streets and into stable housing this year.

The last bit of good news is that veteran homelessness in New Hampshire fell by 19% in 2016 and is down over 32% since 2014.  This dramatic drop over the last few years comes from a combination of state and federal assistance to end “functional homelessness” for veterans.

“In New Hampshire, significant efforts have been made to reach functional zero among the state homeless veteran population. With substantial support from the Governor’s Office, numerous agencies serving veterans across the state are working together to identify and immediately house any veteran who is either unsheltered or residing in an emergency shelter or transitional living program. These efforts are reflected in the continual declines that the state has seen in its homeless veteran population,” reported NHCEMH.

CAUSE FOR CONCERN

Overall the report shows astounding results in lowering the homeless population in New Hampshire, the report also shows some serious issues that need to be address that if unchanged could lead in an increase in homelessness.

It is a fact that New Hampshire has one of the lowest unemployment rates in that country, sitting at 2.7%.  Most counties in New Hampshire saw more than a 30% decrease in unemployment over the last two years.  This means that more people are working which should be good news in the fight to end homelessness but the NHCEH report highlighted some of New Hampshire’s unique problems.

“While low unemployment rates are being enjoyed across all New Hampshire counties, it’s important to note that even when working full time, many low income people are still unable to attain stable housing due to low wages and/or temporary and irregular work opportunities. One recent analysis reports that someone working full time at minimum wage would need to work 91 hours per week in order to afford a one bedroom apartment at the Fair Market Rent in New Hampshire.”

Gaining employment does not always lead to prosperity.  NHCEH notes that the poverty rate in New Hampshire, currently 8.9%, has grown by 6% a year since 2014. “Given the link between homelessness and poverty, the steady increase in the state has the potential to slow recent decreases in the number of homeless individuals and families,” stated NHCEMH.

To make matters worse wages have not kept up with the increased cost of housing.  Statewide wages have increased by 3.7% but have failed to keep up with the 8.8% increase in median rental costs.

Below is the breakdown of  the “median gross rent” for a 2-bedroom apartment by county in NH.  As you can see the median cost for a 2-bedroom apartment in Rockingham and Hillsborough are $1,321 and $1,278 a month, respectively.

median-rental-costs-nh-2016

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition the median “fair market rent” for a 1-bedroom apartment in New Hampshire is $861 a month. Remember, a full time (40 hour) minimum wage worker ($7.25 per hour) earns $290 a week or $1,160 a month. That means that 74% of their monthly paycheck would go to paying for housing alone and does not include food, heat, electricity, transportation or any other expenses.  The cost for a 2-bedroom apartment it ranges from 68% of their monthly paycheck in Coos County to 113% in Rockingham County.

To keep their housing costs below the 33% guideline, the National Low Income Housing Coalition also estimates that a worker would need an hourly wage of $16.55  for a 1-bedroom apartment and $21.09 for a 2-bedroom apartment. To meet the 33% guideline a minimum wage worker would need to work 91 hours a week for a 1-bedroom and 116 hours a week for a 2-bedroom apartment.

The New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness also highlighted another problem plaguing New Hampshire: a lack of affordable housing.  Nearly 30% of Granite Staters are renting and that means there is a very low “vacancy rate.” The vacancy rate is defined as “the percentage of available rental units in a given area.”  Statewide the vacancy rate is 1.5%, which leads many to struggle to find stable and affordable housing.

vacancy-rates

“These low vacancy rates further exacerbate the scarcity of affordable housing in these populous regions of the state, making it even more difficult for low income renters to find stable housing. The combined impact of rising rents and declining vacancy rates often leads many individuals and families to still live in temporary rooming houses or motels, often thought of as the housing of last resort by many advocates,” noted NHCEH. “These living environments can be particularly difficult for children and families who are forced to relinquish their privacy and to live in very cramped and sometimes unsafe quarters in order to maintain some semblance of shelter.”

These three factors (stagnant wages, high rent increases, and low vacancy rates) should be a warning sign to everyone that New Hampshire is teetering on the very edge of dramatic increase in the homeless population.  Many Granite Staters a struggling to hold on. In a 2013 survey, 76% of people national, said they are living paycheck-to-paycheck and more than 47% said they do not even have enough to cover a $400 emergency expense.

All it would take for many of these people is one incident, one missed paycheck to be in real danger of ending up homeless. If our goal is to completely eliminate homelessness, then we need to start by increasing wages, slowing the increasing cost of renting, and building more affordable housing across the state.

Dr. Kuhn summed it up perfect by saying:

“Once again, I am so proud of the excellent work being done by service providers, volunteers, advocates, policy makers, community leaders, and concerned citizens to end homelessness in our state. It is clear that our work is making an impact! Despite our progress, however, there are still far too many men, women and children who are homeless in New Hampshire. Over the next year, it will be important that we continue our commitment to permanently and immediately house anyone who falls into homelessness in New Hampshire. For our part, the Coalition remains steadfast in our belief that, together, we can and will end homelessness in New Hampshire, I invite you to join us as we work towards this achievable goal.”


Until we eliminate homelessness many find refuge in community shelters. These shelters are always in need of donations and here is a quick list of things, aside from food, your local shelter could use.

A list from the Homeless Shelter Directory:

Tooth Brush
Tooth Paste
Dental Floss
Bandaids
Underwear
Neosporin
Cortisone Cream
Cotton Swabs
Listerine
Deodorant
Razors
Nail Clippers
Baby Wipes
Thick Socks
Batteries
Feminine hygiene products
Anti-diarrhea tablets

(I would also add linens, pillows, and blankets)

The NH Charitable Foundation also released their list of 12 Things Food Pantries Wish They Had…But Might Not Ask For as a guide for donations.

Granite State Rumblings: The High Cost Of Rent On Low-Income Families

In New Hampshire 61% of renter households with incomes below $20,000 spend more than 50% of their income on rent. But only 1 in 4 qualifying renters receives housing assistance due to limited government funding.

A child born today could wait until s/he is 8 years old before his/her family is able to receive a housing voucher. The New Hampshire Housing 2016 Residential Rental Cost Survey shows that the median monthly gross rent for a 2-bedroom unit in NH ranges from a low of $790/month in Coos County to the high of $1,321/month in Rockingham County.

Our friends at the Coalition on Human Needs posted this blog on their weekly Voices for Human Needs page last week.

THREE IN FOUR EXTREMELY LOW INCOME RENTERS SPEND MORE THAN 50 PERCENT OF INCOME ON RENT

By Lecia Imbery

Housing costs eat up an exorbitant amount of low-income families’ budgets. A new report from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) shows that three-quarters of extremely low income (ELI) renter households, defined as earning no more than 30 percent of their area’s median income or the federal poverty guideline, whichever is higher, spend more than half of their income on housing costs alone. The Long Wait for a Home spotlights the problems around Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV) and public housing waiting lists and how the limited supply of housing assistance affects these extremely low income households.

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered “cost burdened.” Those who spend more than 50 percent are considered “severely cost burdened.” CHN’s recent report, The High Cost of Being Poor in the U.S., used Census Bureau data to show that 59 percent of American renter households with incomes less than $20,000 are severely cost burdened. Of the 13 state reports [the Maine and New Hampshire reports we co-authored with CHN can be found here] we produced with state partners, Florida ranked worst in this category, with 66 percent of Floridians who earn less than $20,000 a year spending more than half of their income on rent alone. When rent eats up this much of a family’s budget, little money is left for other necessary expenses.

The vast majority of recipients of Housing Choice Vouchers and public housing are ELI households; in fact, according to NLIHC’s report, 71 percent of the nearly 1.1 million public housing households and 74 percent of the nearly 2.2 million HCV recipient households fall into the extremely low income category. However, this doesn’t mean that the supply is meeting the demand – far from it, in fact. There are 10.4 million ELI renter households in the U.S., but the private and subsidized rental markets make available only 3.2 million affordable homes for them. This results in a national shortage of 7.2 million rental homes. As CHN noted in our report, the number of families with children receiving rental vouchers dropped by 250,000 (a 13 percent decline) since 2004.

This discrepancy between the number of affordable homes available and the number of families in need means that far too many ELI renter households are put on waiting lists for housing assistance, and that wait can stretch into years. Seventy-four percent of households on the average Housing Choice Voucher waiting list and 67 percent of households on the average public housing waiting list were extremely low income. Families with children accounted for 60 percent of households on the average HCV waiting list. HCV waiting lists had a median wait time of 1.5 years for housing assistance, with 25 percent of HCV waiting lists having a wait of 3 years or longer. More than half (53 percent) of HCV waiting lists were closed, meaning they were turning away new applicants. Public housing waiting lists aren’t much better. The median wait time there is 9 months, with 25 percent of public housing waiting lists stretching to more than 1.5 years. Eleven percent of public housing waiting lists were closed.

Rental vouchers limiting the amount low-income families pay for rent make a tremendous difference in child health, educational outcomes, and future earnings, and housing subsidies lifted 2.5 million Americans above the poverty line in 2015. 

That’s why CHN’s report calls on Congress to increase funding for Fiscal Year 2017 to provide millions more low-income Americans in need with access to safe, stable housing. Additional funding over FY16 levels is also needed to ensure existing housing vouchers keep pace with inflation and to expand the supply of vouchers for those left out in the cold. Beyond these immediate needs, CHN also calls on Congress to fully fund President Obama’s request for $11 billion to end family homelessness by 2020 (providing housing for 550,000 families).

The reports from both CHN and ECM and the National Low Income Housing Coalition (a member of CHN) reach the same conclusion – we must expand housing resources for our nation’s lowest income renters.


GROWING UP GRANITE

Please join us on Thursday, November 17th for a Children’s Policy Summit.

What About the Kids? The Invisible Victims of the Opiate Crisis

Join providers, policy advocates, parents & grandparents, and policymakers for an interactive discussion on the opiate crisis and how it impacts New Hampshire’s most vulnerable population: Our Children.

This epidemic is affecting the lives of too many Granite State kids. Learn about the programs and resources that are emerging to support them and brainstorm with us about what still needs to be done.

Every Child Matters in NH is awarding scholarships to grandparents who are caregivers to their grandchildren to attend this event. If you would like to sponsor a grandparent to attend this event, please select “Sponsor a Grandparent” while selecting your tickets. 

The Children’s Policy Summit is sponsored in partnership by Every Child Matters in NH and Child and Family Services of NH.

Lunch will be served. 

Date and Time: Thursday, November 17th  11:30 am to 4:00 pm

Location: Holiday Inn, 172 North Main Street, Concord, NH 03301

Register HERE

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