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Housing Questions - Still Grasping for the IIHO

Let's save the Town $3,500


I'm not sure if anyone had the chance to view the questions proposed by the remaining member or two from the "old" Planning Board. They are outlined below, but ask yourselves; what is the basis for asking these questions when we have a report that already provides housing data specifically for Amherst? Could it be so that the IIHO holdovers can have some form of data to say to town officials, residents and developers that Amherst "NEEDS" a certain type of housing - you see, because the Nashua Regional Planning Commission (NRPC) told us so?


The report would cost the town $3500, not a fortune, but do we really need this information that we already have? Are they looking to gain a different conclusion that suits their idea of what Amherst needs?


Proposed Questions


  1. What is the appropriate mix of housing types necessary to accommodate Amherst’s existing and projected population with respect to the town’s demographic composition, income levels, household types, family composition and lifestyle preferences? Specifically, what is the need for: Senior (age-restricted) housing, Studio units, One-bedroom units, Two-bedroom units, Single-level units, Handicapped accessible units, Rental multi-family housing (including duplexes and quadplexes), Owner-occupied multi-family housing (including duplexes and quadplexes), Accessory dwelling units?

  2. How many of the types of housing units listed above does Amherst currently have?

  3. How will the town’s existing housing composition need to change to meet projected changes in the town’s demographic composition, income levels, household types, and housing preferences?

  4. How does Amherst’s existing housing composition compare to that of the region?

  5. How does Amherst’s existing housing composition compare to that of the similarly situated rural/residential communities?

  6. How would the town’s existing housing composition need to change to meet projected changes in the state and region’s projected demographic composition?

  7. What density levels or bonuses are necessary to provide realistic opportunities to develop the range ofhousing types noted above?

  8. What types of density bonuses or incentives are offered in other communities to encourage differing housing types?

  9. Does the value of homes in open space developments differ from that of conventionaldevelopments?

  10. What forms of open space developments need to be incentivized with density bonuses or by othermeans?

  11. Should Amherst encourage diversity of housing in a single subdivision (i.e mixed housing types in the samesubdivision)?


#2 seems to be a totally fair question to ask, what types of housing units exist in Amherst. What is totally not appropriate or necessary is to analyze the need for the Town's demographic make up, income levels, household types, family composition and lifestyle preferences! What the "heck" does lifestyle preference have anything to do with housing needs????? So, #1, #3, and #6 are not appropriate questions and the need for this information is not needed.


Lets also throw out #7 through #11 since those are IIHO hold-over questions and the residents of Amherst were very clear about what was thought of the IIHO.


So that leaves #4 and #5 and do we really care what all the other towns are doing and how Amherst compares? I think most of us feel that Amherst is an awesome town to live in, so should we try to be like our neighbors or maintain the make up of what and why the majority of us moved here or continue to live here?


Again, what is the major need to "change" Amherst?


Analysis


In February 2020 the NRPC provided Amherst with a very comprehensive report based on population projections by age group and municipality utilizing NRPC’s 2018 projections and New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority’s (NHHFA) 2014 headship model for projected households given its ability to more accurately model the complexities of changing household sizes. The report is still posted on the town website at: https://www.amherstnh.gov/community-development-office/news/amherst-housing-needs-assessment-2020-1

It is unlikely that any new data will be mined to support the questions posed above since the last report was just a few months ago.


Overall, with the data presented in the February 2020 NRPC report, I'm pretty sure the background information exists for the current Planning Board to perform its job and evaluate the applications they are presented with and not have to waste taxpayer money to obtain fluffy data to support a few member's vision on what Amherst should be.


Furthermore, it should be up to the town to decide, so that any survey questions posed should also be made available for the resident's feedback as well.


Data


Starting on page 20 of the report, the NRPC provides a very detailed and comprehensive presentation of Housing projections based on the projected population growth.

The report further states that Regionally, those aged 35 to 64 years old will comprise the majority of total household heads throughout this projection. However, their portion will progressively decline from 57% in 2020, down to 49% in 2045. To get an impression of the other age groups, the following table and graphs were provided:



In total, it is roughly estimated that the region will increase by 3,000 households every 5 years. The report makes critical statement regarding these projections: "Understanding these trends is important when considering new housing construction, types of housing, the repurposing of existing structures and how the community envisions legislation around zoning and other land use regulations. The needs of a growing 65-plus community with a declining percentage of younger households may or may not coincide with the town and region’s vision, character and/or regulations."In other words, the NRPC is clearly saying it is UP TO THE TOWN to determine its needs.


To convert these regional projections for households to the municipalities, NRPC multiplied these projections by each municipality’s current share of regional households. This percentage was calculated using the most current ACS data available. The method used for estimating housing units is based on a projection of households that are then translated into units. For every single household, there must be one corresponding housing unit. Approximately 9,700 additional housing units are projected to be needed in the NRPC region between 2020-2040 and it is estimated that about 70% (roughly 6,900 units) of the 9,700 additional units will need to be built before the end of 2030.


The report concluded that as the estimated growth in Amherst is relative to the region, so are the estimates for housing units. Amherst also has a front-loaded need in the first half of this decade with a tapering need leading up to 2040. The total units, along with units per year, can be found in the table below. The 38 units per year average from 2020-2025 is on pace with the Town’s current building activity (about 40 units/year).

As for demographics, an appropriate analysis was provided on Page 4 of the report. Amherst has been experiencing slow population growth in comparison to the rest of the region and State. This slow growth has been driven by increases in the number of young adults, aged 20-34 years old and those primarily 65 years and older. Amherst has also experienced overall decreases number of children and people aged 35 to 55 years old. These changing dynamics are important to understand when identifying potential housing types, needs and preferences for development. Even though Amherst still boasts a healthy percentage of their population that are 19 or younger and those 45 and older, the trends in the graphic to the left could be indicative of what future housing needs may be. Will the growing number of older adults be able to (or want to) backfill existing housing stock? Does the municipality have adequate housing for the increasing number of people 65 years and older? How will migration factor in?


The report even provides what type of structures exist on Page 10:


American Community Survey (ACS) data details the breakdown of housing structures by building type. Not surprisingly, Amherst has a large percentage of units which are classified as single-family detached units. This correlates with the very high percentage of the Amherst population that is comprised of large households with married couples and children and with relatively high household incomes. Notably, all these indicators are trending upward.

Finally, if we really want to get some comparative data between Amherst and our neighbors, the report provides a summary on Page 8:


Amherst’s existing housing supply is very similar to most rural and suburban communities within the region in that it is dominated by single-family detached units. As of 2018, however, Amherst does have a supply of over 600 multi-family and manufactured housing units (about 15% of overall stock) according to NH Office of Strategic Initiatives (NHOSI).


Overall, we are not too different than our neighbors.


So it really seems a few holdovers are still trying to push the IIHO through any means necessary despite voter outcry. We already have our answers!



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