Rental housing crunch hits

04 14 rental housing folo

Lindsay Thayer, a self-described lifelong resident of Laconia, said most two-bedroom rentals she encountered in the city cost about $800 a month with utilities included. Thayer lives with her mother in a two-bedroom unit which rents for $600 without utilities. She praised her landlord, Sheri Minor, but conceded that Minor competes with subsidized housing. This wrinkle in the local rental housing economy puts pressure on certain landlords with lower-cost units. (David Carkhuff/Laconia Daily Sun)

River's Edge fills up; private landlords continue to worry about competition from affordable housing


LACONIA — River's Edge, a 32-unit affordable housing complex on Union Avenue on the bank of the Winnipesaukee River, is completely full.
Laconia Area Community Land Trust's largest property in the city opened last August amid a clamor for housing, while some landlords cringed at the prospect of competing with yet another subsidized rental complex in the region.
On Thursday, Carmen Lorentz, who recently took the helm at the trust, announced the "no vacancy" status of River's Edge. In an interview, she also confirmed that rent prices continue to surge across the region, even affecting the heavily regulated affordable housing sector.
"I don't think we've seen rents going down within the parameters that we have to deal with," said Lorentz, the new executive director at the Laconia Area Community Land Trust.
"Our vacancy rate has gone down. I think that has to do probably a little bit with the market, but we've invested in our portfolio in the past few years," which created more demand for the trust's units, driving up tenancy, she said.

"We have not experienced downward pressure on our rents," Lorentz reported. Going back to 2008, a review of gross potential rent across the trust's entire portfolio revealed a trend of rents going upward, even after adjusting for inflation, she reported. "Our vacancy rate has also decreased over that same time period. We have invested heavily in refurbishing our older units over the last three years, which I think has made them more marketable. Most of those older units are in the City of Laconia (135 of our 341 apartments are in Laconia)," Lorentz reported.

Yet some Laconia landlords have complained that affordable housing, when built in communities, places these landlords at a competitive disadvantage.
"We're struggling," said Sheri Minor, president of the Lakes Region Rental Association.
"We compete with subsidized housing," Minor said, echoing a concern raised in February with the Laconia City Council.
"What happens is we have a lot of low-income housing and subsidized housing that's through the government and the (Laconia Area Community Land Trust)," Minor said.
Tenants will gravitate to those forms of housing, leaving private landlords competing with subsidized housing rates and confronting the risks of serving a financially challenged demographic.
"I have to charge lower so they can afford to live in my apartments," Minor said.
Minor rents out about 80 traditional apartment units and an assortment of mobile home rentals. In Belmont, she is asking $675 for a two-bedroom mobile home. "In the past it's been $600, which is a steal," she said. "I can't afford to charge $600."
Lorentz said she is aware of the landlords' concerns, but noted that the trust typically builds where it's invited.
"We do have a lot of people in the community who require affordable housing, and I think that we are providing a product that is needed and in demand in the market," she said.
With 341 apartments in the region, the trust plans to launch construction on Gilford Village Knolls III, a phase of senior housing in Gilford, this spring. This past winter, the trust announced the completion of a 65-unit preservation project purchasing 40 units in Ashland and 25 units in Meredith, saving the imminently expiring 25 units as well as preserving the other 40 units as permanently affordable.
"Communities that are wise are thinking about housing affordability for working people," Lorentz said.
When it comes to the concern about affordable housing edging out private landlords, Lorentz said, "It's certainly a good question to be asking right now, and it's a positive thing that the city is going to be working on its master plan."
Minor said she rents out a two-bedroom apartment for $600 a month, utilities not included, because the economy at that segment of the rental housing market is so lopsided.
"They sit empty. I'd rather get somebody in there for a little bit lower," she said.
Lindsay Thayer, a self-described lifelong resident of Laconia, is one of Minor's tenants. Thayer said she lives with her mother in a two-bedroom unit which rents for $600 without utilities.
Most two-bedroom rentals she encountered during her time in Laconia cost about $800 a month with utilities included, she estimated.
Thayer agreed that subsidized housing can pull away tenants and create pressure for landlords.
"It's hard to find landlords who are respectful and are on top of taking care of stuff," Thayer said, categorizing Minor as one of the landlords who is conscientious and respectful.
Thayer said the housing crunch boils down to responsibility by both landlords and tenants.
"A lot of people don't have much respect," she said.
Some landlords fail to maintain their properties.
"A lot of times you'll find places that are more or less run down," Thayer said.
Landlords who don't conduct background checks can "end up having their apartments trashed, which of course, in that case, they up the rent because of the fact they're not doing the background checks, basically finding out that people are disrespectful or not paying rent, they're squatters."
So those destructive tenants create a quandary for renters on a limited income.
"It's making it hard on honest people who are trying to find good, decent places," Thayer said.

The mustachioed woman - there’s a mission for that mom


MEREDITH — Yes, Jessica Colgan-Snyder has a mustache. It's OK for you to look at it, it's even OK with her if you point and laugh. It's especially OK if you want to stop and ask her about it.

In fact, that's the whole point of her lip shade – she started sporting her 'stache about seven years ago as part of a group effort to start conversations and raise funds to help send children to summer camp on Lake Winnipesaukee.

Colgan-Snyder, and her husband, Garrett, own and operate Camp Hawkeye, a summer camp in Moultonborough that they started together in 2005. Camp Hawkeye offers traditional summer camp activities but with a novel twist. Their camp is dedicated to providing the summer camp experience to every kind of child – Hawkeye's campers come from all socioeconomic backgrounds, from all types of neighborhoods, from many religious traditions, from differing family situations and from various places around the world.

Those campers all come to Moultonborough, for anywhere from two to eight weeks, to learn and play together, and to build friendships in the face of these differences.

To help make that possible, about a third of the campers are offered a scholarship to attend, which means that that Jessica and Garrett, and the non-profit they work with, have to raise $80,000 each year for campers that otherwise wouldn't be able to attend. That's why she adorns her upper lip each April.

"Seven years ago, my husband was with some of his guy friends on a hiking trip," she said. On the hike, Garrett was discussing the challenge of raising enough money each year to serve their mission. One of the friends suggested the "'Stache for Cash" idea, where the group would sprout a mustache each April 1 through May 1, and whenever someone commented on the facial hair, they could steer the conversation toward the need for camp scholarship funds, and how they can contribute.

There are five men, plus Jessica, who wear a mustache each April as part of the effort. As a group, they aim to raise $10,000 for scholarships. Jessica, who started with a stage mustache but switched to a temporary tattoo when her first child came along three years ago, consistently collects more than her male counterparts. She wears her mustache wherever she goes, and takes every opportunity to suggest people visit, or follow her on Instagram at @jcs_stache.

Despite the whimsical sight of the blond Colgan-Snyder with a black mustache, not everyone is is amused to see her. Some have interpreted her mustache as a mockery of women who naturally grow facial hair, or as an offensive transgression of gender norms.

Those are rare exceptions, though. The vast majority of people don't say anything. Mustachioed men tend to be most tickled by her April appearance.

"Kids are the most honest – 'That lady has a mustache!'" she said she often hears. To her amusement, the child's mother often shushes her child, "As if I don't know I have a mustache."

"It's a really good social experiment," she said.

04 13 Mustachioed Woman

Jessica Colgan-Snyder, shown at the Hannaford supermarket in Meredith, with her 6-month old son, Huxley, wears a mustache every April as a way to raise funds for summer camp scholarships. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)

Bloody mess left at American Legion Post after break-in


LACONIA — It didn't go well for whoever broke into the American Legion post early Thursday.

Shortly after midnight, someone pushed in a window air conditioning unit and climbed through the window, but fell, cut himself, set off the burglar alarm and left the way he entered, said Earlon Beale, post adjutant.

The alarm company called police. Beale, who has examined video from security cameras, said officers came, checked the front and back doors and left. They returned around 6 a.m. when a cleaning lady arrived and saw the pushed-in air conditioner and found a bloody mess on the floor.

Beale said he was surprised police didn't do a more thorough investigation, or test the blood. He also was surprised that he, or other post leaders, didn't get a call from the burglar alarm monitoring company or from police.

"I've watched 'NCIS' for years," he said. "The blood was just left there. The cleaning lady mopped it up. Any evidence is washed away."

Police Sgt. Bob Cameron said there is scant mention of the incident on police logs, but it does show police responding to the post at 12:10 a.m. and again at 6:14 a.m. Officers noted that the air conditioner was pushed in or may have fallen in. An attempt was made to reach a contact for the premises but the number may have been disconnected, he said.

As far as testing blood at a burglary scene, Cameron said that would depend on the particulars of a case, and he wasn't aware of the details in this instance.

"I don't know the circumstances," he said.

Beale said he's getting the word out about the burglary because he wants people in Laconia to understand the problem of burglary.

"This can happen to any business or residence in Laconia with so many individuals looking for easy money to support their habits," he said. "All businesses and residents, please be a little more vigilant than usual."