The Bulletin Board

New Hampshire renters need to earn $24 an hour to afford ‘modest’ housing, report shows

By: - July 16, 2021 12:17 pm

Eighteen units of affordable housing are being built in Hanover. Twenty-four units of senior and disabled housing have already been completed. (Amanda Gokee | New Hampshire Bulletin)

New data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that a New Hampshire renter would have to earn $24 an hour to afford a modest apartment.

That puts New Hampshire 13th highest among states in “housing wage” – how much a renter would have to earn to afford a two-bedroom apartment, according to the report.

At the state’s current minimum wage of $7.25, the report finds that a renter in New Hampshire would have to work 136 hours a week to afford the same apartment.

New Hampshire’s neighbor, Vermont, ranks 16th, requiring a wage of $23.68 per hour to afford comparable housing, while Maine ranks 24th. Massachusetts has the third highest wage required at $36.24 an hour.

A state specific report with additional information on rental housing was also released Thursday by the New Hampshire Housing Authority, illustrating that rental prices have risen while vacancies have dropped dramatically.

In 2021, a typical two-bedroom unit rented for $1,489, the survey found. By county, typical prices were as low as $879 in Coos County and as high as $1,643 in Hillsborough County.

This represents a significant increase in rental prices over the past five years. In Grafton County, for example, the cost of rental units increased nearly 30 percent compared to 2016. The report attributes high cost of rentals in Grafton County to Lebanon and Hanover. Rents in Strafford and Hillsborough counties weren’t far behind, increasing by 28.7 percent and 28.6 percent, respectively.

The vacancy rate – or percentage of available units – is low, at .9 percent. That rate has gone down since last year.  And it’s much lower than the 5 percent vacancy rate that “is considered a balanced market for tenants and landlords,” according to the report. The vacancy rate for two-bedroom apartments is even lower, at .6 percent.

The report finds that both across the country and in the northeast, the vacancy rate is 6.8%, which means New Hampshire’s housing market is particularly challenging for renters in comparison.

The data aligns with anecdotes about the difficulty of securing affordable housing. These findings come as local communities are grappling to address the shortage of affordable housing.

Hanover is among them, and housing was a main topic in the town meeting held Tuesday. A measure to increase the number of unrelated occupants allowed in a unit failed in a 594-1,088 vote. 

College students – who have been struggling with a lack of affordable housing – had pushed the measure. Pro-student candidate David Millman, who ran in part on a housing platform, lost his bid for select board.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.