Federal report: Rental housing costs continue rise, NH rents expected to increase this year


LACONIA — A new national snapshot of rental housing costs suggests that New Hampshire will see a continued creep upward in its rents this year.
In the state's surveys, rental costs have been on an upward trend, year after year, said Jane Law, communications manager at New Hampshire Housing.
In the past five years, "the trends have been upward," Law said.
"On a statewide basis, the vacancy rate has been dropping for a number of years," she said, meaning fewer units going for higher prices.
In New Hampshire, officials are working on this year's rental trends report, due out in June, but results in the past five years suggest a continued climb in rents and a shortage of vacancies.
And last month, the U.S. Census Bureau issued an update on rental housing, and the trends were for higher rents and less availability.
Nationally, a $1,507 median asking rent in the third quarter of 2016 was $161 more than the median asking rent of $1,346 in the third quarter of 2015, according to the new report on rental housing trends, "Survey of Market Absorption of New Multifamily Units – Annual 2016 Absorptions."
The Census Bureau designed the survey to provide data concerning the rate at which privately financed, nonsubsidized, unfurnished units in buildings with five or more units are rented or sold, or "absorbed."
Issued last month, the Census Bureau survey does not target information by state, but 59 percent of seasonally adjusted newly completed, unfurnished rental apartments built in the third quarter of 2016 were rented within the first three months after completion. "The 59 percent seasonally adjusted rate in the third quarter of 2016 was six percentage points higher than the 53 percent for the second quarter 2016, but approximately the same as the third quarter 2015, as seasonally adjusted," the report noted.
"The three-month absorption rate by asking rent ranged from 46 percent (units renting for more than $2,450) to 73 percent (units renting for less than $850). The median asking rent for units absorbed within three months was $1,453," the report noted.
The Northeast and Midwest accounted for 14 percent of the new construction during the third quarter of 2016, the Census Bureau reported.
Law at New Hampshire Housing said in June, the agency will issue this year's rental numbers based on April and May data, collected by the survey center at University of New Hampshire.
"Last year, our rents were up, and vacancies were very low," she said.
Demand, particularly in southern New Hampshire, where rents often exceed $1,200 a month, "the market is opening up. There is more rental housing construction going on, especially in the lower tiers of the state," Law said.
"But those units typically go on the market on the high end for rents because it's covering the cost of construction," she said.
In Belknap County, rents hovered just under $1,000 for a two-bedroom apartment, including utilities, in the 2016 report. Vacancy rates were below 5 percent, compared with 1.5 percent statewide.
Southern New Hampshire counties struggled with vacancy rates below 2 percent. A 2 percent vacancy rate is considered a turnover rate, Law said.
In Merrimack County, the median two-bedroom rent was $1,113; in Hillsborough County, it was $1,219; and in Rockingham County, it was $1,270. In Belknap County the median two-bedroom rent was $997.
"It's still up there," Law said. "The cheapest place to rent is in Coos County, and that's $790 for a median two-bedroom rent."
In Belknap County, a three-person household needed a median income of $39,900 to afford the rent. In Rockingham County, the needed median income was $55,800.
To be affordable, housing should not cost more than 30 percent of income, New Hampshire Housing estimated.
"The for-sale housing, that market has become very tight. Purchase prices are up. The housing economy is still very strong and very tight in the state," Law said.
The state has seen almost a 15 percent increase in rents including utilities for two-bedroom apartments since 2011.
For more on the Census Bureau survey, visit https://www.census.gov/housing/soma/.
For more on the New Hampshire Housing survey, visit http://www.nhhfa.org/studies-publications-presentations#rentsurvey.


Laconia raising price of vehicle registration


LACONIA — It will soon become a little more expensive to register a motor vehicle in Laconia.

The City Council decided Monday to increase to $5 a registration surcharge that helps pay for road improvements and other transportation needs.

The charge now stands at $1.50. The city registers about 20,000 vehicles per year, so the $3.50 increase is expected to raise an additional $70,000 annually.

City Manager Scott Myers said the hike will go into effect on July 1.

He said the additional money can be used to help pay costs for a $2.5 million transportation bond that is included in the proposed budget. There is also an additional $1.55 million in transportation funding in the budget as the city works to upgrade roads in need of repair.

Bond debt makes sense as a way to handle large projects in a community, Myers said.

Also, interest rates on a 10-year bond of this type are only about 3 percent.

"From a longer-term perspective, rates are historically low right now," he said. "We would expect more normal levels as the economy improves."

At a council meeting on March 27, Councilor Robert Hamel explained that this fund will be flexible for a number of potential transportation uses.

"All the things this fee can help support go from roads to bridges to bicycle and pedestrian facilities, parking lots, electric charging stations for vehicles," he said.

Councilor Henry Lipman said city roads are in major need of improvement.

"My recollection is we are about $10 million short of where we want to be in terms of having our roads up to condition," he said.

The city manager concurred.

"I think it's a greater number than $10 million, but yes we are many millions behind in bringing everything up to an acceptable average or better condition," Myers said.

The surcharge was created under state legislation, which capped the fee at $5. Hamel said a proposal in the Legislature would increase that cap to $10.


Chamber Community Hero awards recognize Franklin developer, others


FRANKLIN — The Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce held its Community Hero awards ceremony at the Franklin Opera House Tuesday night, and, fittingly, the winner of the coveted James R. Irwin Award was Todd Workman, who is leading efforts to revitalize downtown Franklin.
Workman heads PermaCityLife, which owns seven block buildings and three mills in the downtown area of the city and is undertaking renovations focused on environmentally conscious living and quality of life measures.
"We desire a downtown that is walkable, locally sustainable, and has a distinctive sense of place" said Workman.
Other nominees for the award, which is based on portraying pioneer service and attitude to the Lakes Region, economic visionaries and a spirit of progress in the community were Randy Eifert, Al Mitchell and Rusty McLear.
Winner of the J. Bart Conners Award, which is awarded to an individual who best exemplifies an outstanding dedication and commitment to the mission of the Lakes Region Chamber, was Penny Raby of Malone & Dirubbo, who has served the chamber in many capacities, including chair of the Finance Committee. Other nominees were Ted Fodero, Donna Keeley and Maureen Wilkins.
The Hurst Award, which is presented to an individual who represents the citizens of the greater Franklin area, demonstrating a volunteer passion for the betterment of the community was well-known local radio personality and Winnisquam Regional High School baseball coach Fred Caruso. Other nominees were Michael Mullavey, Melissa Lee and Ken Merrifield.
The Public Service Award, for demonstrating a commitment to leadership and charity and public service, was presented to Clare Persson, founder and chair of Stand Up Laconia. Other nominees were Bob Cormier, Tony Felch and Allison Ambrose.
The Young Professional Award winner was Kara LaSalle of the Laconia Area Community Land Trust. Nominees are individuals with a strong community engagement, demonstrating leadership development, inspiring role models. Other nominees included Jaimie Sousa, Brie Stephens and Katelyn Nash.
The Student Leader Award winner was Jackson Williams of Inter-Lakes High School in Meredith. Nominees are currently enrolled in school, whose studies and extracurricular activities show entrepreneurial spirit and peer leadership. Other nominees included Kyle Minery, Brittany Petell and Ryan Kelly.

04-12 Hero awards group
Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce presented Community Hero awards Tuesday night at the Franklin Opera House. Shown, from left, are Kara LaSalle, Young Professional Award; Todd Workman, James R. Irwin Sr. Award; Jackson Williams, Student Leader Award: Clare Persson, Public Service Award; Fred Caruso, Hurst Award; Penny Raby, J. Bart Connors Award. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

04-12 Hero Persson

Clare Persson, winner of the Public Service Award, accepts congratulations and the award from Kevin Donovan, president and CEO of LRGHealthcare, at the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Community Hero awards ceremony at the Franklin Opera House Tuesday night. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)