Close to Home: Affordable Housing Solutions

Originally published in Monadnock Shopper News

By Tammy (Weekend with Dee) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Part of a thriving local economy is safe, affordable and comfortable housing for all — where people can afford to live in the same town or city where they work. 

According to Vital Communities, an organization that supports workforce housing in the Upper Valley, “When residents live and work in the same community, there are lasting positive impacts. People have more time to be involved in civic life, support local businesses and invest themselves in the long-term health of the community. They save money and reduce environmental impacts from commuting. Local employers benefit, too, when their employees have stable housing they can afford.”

Over the past decade listings for housing under $300,000 in New Hampshire dropped 63%. With housing out-of-reach for many, we need to provide more affordable housing options in our communities. Also, with an aging population and climate change in mind, we need more flexible, energy efficient and regenerative housing options.  Here are a few close-to-home examples.

Affordable and Regenerative: Resident-Owned Communities

One resident-owned community in Lebanon will combine the power of cooperative ownership with renewable energy to make housing even more affordable for its low- to moderate-income members — while reducing residents’ carbon footprint.  Mascoma Meadows plans to install a 384-panel solar array this fall.  The community plans to purchase the array with financing provided by the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund.

Monadnock Food Co-op and its member-owners support resident-owned cooperatives like Mascoma Meadows through its Monadnock Cooperative Community Fund.  By combining its dollars with over 50 cooperatives nationwide, this fund provided the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund with over $600,000 to support resident-owned communities in our state.  Are you a co-op member-owner who received a patronage refund?  You can donate it to the Monadnock Cooperative Community Fund to support efforts like Mascoma Meadows.

Flexible and Affordable: Accessory Dwelling Units

For those of you who own your own home and hope to “age in place” during retirement, an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) can offer you the flexibility and financial means to do so.  ADUs include an apartment over a garage, tiny house in your backyard or any second small dwelling on the same land as your single-family house.

In 2017, New Hampshire laws changed to make it easier for homeowners to build ADUs as a means to boost affordable housing supply throughout the state without developing more land. The City of Keene now allows property owners to build ADUs in residential districts without a conditional use permit.

Want to explore this option more?  In October, New Hampshire Housing will host Kol Peterson, author of Backdoor Revolution: The Definitive Guide to ADU Development.  Kol will offer ADU presentations followed by question and answer sessions throughout the state.  See the full schedule at nhhfa.org/events.  Learn more about ADUs.

Efficiency and Resiliency: Tiny House Villages

Based in Brattleboro, the Resilient Design Institute’s (RDI) mission is to create solutions that enable buildings and communities to survive and thrive in the face of climate change, natural disasters and other disruptions.  One of RDI’s current initiatives is to develop a cold climate prototype of a tiny house village.  Typically, tiny house villages include small private living structures clustered around shared buildings with bathrooms, kitchen and laundry facilities.

RDI’s goal is to develop a prototype with low construction costs that is easy to replicate.  They plan to use waste materials from other construction sites and design for “passive survivability” (the building will maintain a habitable temperature even if power or heating is shut off for an extended time).  In addition to providing housing for the homeless, this model will also be designed to offer emergency housing following natural disasters.  Stay updated.

“We are hoping that out of this initiative one or more businesses will emerge in our tri-state region to manufacture kit or modular homes using the designs we develop,” said Alex Wilson, RDI Board President. “This manufacturing capacity would be an initiative developed in concert with the Ecovation Hub—an economic development program that is seeking to replace jobs lost through the closure of Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant with jobs in the so-called green economy.”

Know of other affordable housing solutions both close-to-home and not so close-to-home?  We’d love to hear about them. Please contact us at jen@monadnocklocal.org.

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