Four Ways to Help Homeless Veterans in New Hampshire

homeless - pixabayThe United States has set a lofty goal—to end veteran homelessness. Across New Hampshire, the Governor’s office, local and state officials, homeless service providers, public housing authorities, veteran service organizations, nonprofits, and state and federal agencies are working together to reach what’s called “functional zero.” Functional zero means a community has met criteria that ensure once a homeless veteran is identified, he or she is quickly placed in housing with a timeline and a plan for access to permanent housing and supportive services.

However, even with a comprehensive campaign, these agencies and service providers need the public’s help in identifying and reaching unsheltered veterans. If you live in New Hampshire, here are several ways that you can connect veterans to housing and services.

  1. Reach out to local organizations or 2-1-1 NH. There are a variety of programs and organizations across the state that are designed specifically for veterans experiencing homelessness. Harbor Homes, Liberty House, and the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) Program are just a sampling. If you are a homeless veteran or know a veteran who is homeless, please reach out to one of these programs, or dial 2-1-1 to find out what resources are available in your area.
  2. If you are a property owner or landlord, consider making apartments available to VASH voucher holders. In today’s tight rental market, it is often difficult for veterans who are homeless to find stable housing that is safe, clean and affordable. The VASH Program, which offers Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) rental assistance along with case management through the Department of Veterans Affairs, is one way that veterans can find their way home again. Through these vouchers, veterans pay an affordable percentage of their income toward rent, and the landlord receives a check for the remainder of the rent in the form of a Housing Assistance Payment. If you have a rental property, consider accepting VASH vouchers. First Lady Michelle Obama has released video encouraging property owners to help in this effort: watch it here.
  3. If you are a service provider, participate in Ask the Question. Ask the Question, an effort through the Department of Health and Human Services, is a statewide initiative to encourage service providers from a variety of sectors to ask clients if they or a family member has ever served in the military. The initiative also helps assist providers with what to do next if the answer is yes. Learn more on their website.
  4. Get informed. Want to learn more about the overall effort to end veteran homelessness, homelessness in general, and what other communities are doing to reach functional zero? Check out these resources made available through the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. For more local information, email SSVF@nhpartnership.com or dial 1-800-273-8255. You can also visit the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

Now accepting grant applications for Emerging Opportunities Program

Funding available for nonprofits to improve structure, expand services

New Hampshire-based nonprofits who are engaged in affordable housing activities may be eligible for grant funding through New Hampshire Housing’s Emerging Opportunities Program. The program encourages and supports innovative new initiatives related to affordable housing and is now accepting applications.

Initiatives must be directly related to an improvement in an organization’s structure, leading to long term sustainability of the organization, a substantial expansion of existing services, or the addition of new services. Funds cannot be used for the construction of new affordable housing. Organizations that apply must be nonprofit and have as their primary mission the development of, or advocacy for, housing in New Hampshire that serves very-low to moderate income households.

Applications must be received by end of business on Monday, March 28. Funding decisions will be approved by the New Hampshire Housing Board of Directors.

More details about the program and application requirements can be found at www.nhhfa.org under the “What’s New” section. For more information regarding the Emerging Opportunities Grant Program, please e-mail George Reagan at greagan@nhhfa.org.

Housing New Hampshire’s Seniors

senior-woman-845522_1920As the country’s Baby Boomers continue to age, New Hampshire in particular will be facing a housing challenge brought on by the so-called “silver tsunami.” Currently, New Hampshire has the fourth oldest median population in the country. Our population of people aged 60 and older is projected to grow so that by 2025 they will occupy one in three housing units in the state. As the state’s demographics shift, we will have to decide how to best create affordable housing for a generation that will require more services, often on a fixed income.

The Challenge of Aging in Place

It was once assumed that seniors would want to downsize once they retire; however, the data indicate this isn’t happening. According to American Community Survey data for the Northeast, only 3% of seniors move annually, compared to 55% of people aged 18-46. AARP surveyed the nation’s population of people aged 45+, and the majority of seniors indicated they would prefer to stay in their current home as long as possible.

Although seniors are holding off on downsizing, there are real limits to seniors aging in place. Forty-two percent of the state’s seniors have at least one significant disability, and one in six seniors living in conventional housing report difficulty living independently. The majority of New Hampshire homes and rentals are older buildings with multiple floors. They don’t usually have characteristics like a first-floor bedroom and bathroom, wide doors, or a step-free entrance that would help seniors stay in a home longer.

The rural characteristics of the state are also a challenge to seniors’ desire to age in place for as long as possible. With more than three-quarters of New Hampshire seniors living in the suburbs or rural communities, service delivery can be expensive and challenging, and a lack of public transportation limits their mobility.

Most (77%) senior households aged 65 and older in New Hampshire own their home rather than rent. Many of these seniors live in large houses. About 57% of the housing units in the state have three or more bedrooms. Many senior households, which tend to have only one or two people and would be better served by smaller units, will eventually be forced to downsize due to the physical and the financial challenges of maintaining a large home, despite their wishes to age in place.

Beyond Age-Restricted Housing

Most housing that seniors live in is not age restricted and creating more age-restricted housing is a popular option, but it is only part of the solution. Another option is to move forward with “lifetime” housing. Existing housing can be rehabilitated using lifetime design principles to ensure that existing units are not lost to deterioration and so they can accommodate an aging population. Also, new housing can be designed with these features in mind so residents who will become seniors can age in place longer.

Creating smaller housing units is another option that can help seniors age in their communities. Allowing new construction of smaller units, ideally near services or public transportation, can increase options for seniors when they need to downsize. For much of the state, modifying zoning regulations to allow accessory dwelling units, commonly called “mother-in-law apartments,” could be an effective strategy to increase the number of smaller units. Local regulations often inhibit the development of smaller housing units. The result has been a lack of smaller homes and affordable rental units available to the baby boomers as they age or young households as they start out. Allowing accessory dwelling units and smaller new homes can help seniors age in place within their communities.

The state will also have to find creative solutions to the challenges of providing services for seniors, who don’t always live close to services or have access to public transportation. Privately funded service providers will respond to the needs of clients who can afford the delivery of services in a scattered environment. This may mitigate some of the need for age-restricted housing developments; however, publicly funded and nonprofit service providers will likely struggle to meet demand for those on fixed incomes due to funding challenges. Age-restricted housing developments consolidate seniors in order to provide affordable centralized services, but since seniors represent only a portion of the need for smaller units and will age in place as long as possible, there may not be sufficient demand for age-restricted housing to make it economically sustainable in many small communities. So encouraging lifetime housing that is not limited to such a small portion of the market may be the best way to provide housing choice.

Retaining younger residents through creating new, smaller units of affordable workforce housing will also be vital as caregivers are the single largest source of support for aging in place. It is predicted that in the next 15 years, the caregiver ratio will drop from seven potential family caregivers for every person over age 80 to only four.

Although a focus on flexible zoning, retaining people of caregiving age, and providing service-enhanced housing can help seniors age in place as long as possible, seniors will ultimately reach a stage where they can no longer live independently and will need around-the-clock care. New Hampshire’s current nursing home occupancy rate is at 100%, and demand for beds is expected to rise from 7,000 today to over 11,000 by 2025. While additional supports for aging in place may help stem this number, it cannot be ignored that additional long term care and assisted housing options will be a key factor in housing seniors late in their lives.

Federal Tax Credits to Create, Preserve Affordable Housing across the State

construction - pixabaySix developers across the state were recently awarded Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), a key federal funding source for creating and preserving affordable housing. The tax credits will provide almost $31 million in upfront cash equity to be used for building 170 affordable apartments and preserving 100 more.

The tax credits are awarded over a ten year period. Private businesses then purchase the credits and become limited partners in the housing developments. The end result is high quality affordable housing with significant private investment. Tax credit projects are also known for creating jobs, both immediately in the form of construction-related jobs and over the long-term in the form of staff to maintain and manage the new properties.

The six projects that received tax credits were Chandler Place in Plaistow, The Meadows at Grapevine Run in Hampton Falls, Franklin Mill in Franklin, Renaissance RENEW in Manchester, Kensington Lane in Bedford, and Bradley Commons in Dover.

  • Chandler Place in Plaistow will create 25 units of senior housing within walking distance of local grocery stores, banks, and other stores and amenities. It is the first part of a proposed two-phase project by Steven Lewis, Inc., which is based in Atkinson.
  • The Meadows at Grapevine Run will be built in Hampton Falls. The development, which is sponsored by Avesta Housing Development Corporation from Portland, Maine, will offer 24 one-bedroom apartments for seniors.
  • Franklin Mill, which is currently unused, will be rehabilitated by CATCH, which is based in Concord. The mill was built at the turn of the 20th When the project is complete, it will host 45 family apartments.
  • Renaissance RENEW will rehabilitate nearly 100 rental units owned by NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire, which is based in Manchester. The properties will undergo capital improvements to improve energy efficiency and extend the useful life of the housing units. All of the properties are in the same neighborhood and play an important role in stabilizing and revitalizing downtown while providing affordable housing opportunities in Manchester.
  • Kensington Lane, a 41-unit family project in Bedford, will be developed by Dakota Partners, Inc. from Waltham, Massachusetts. The development will be a single garden-style building and will include a play area for children.
  • Bradley Commons in Dover, which is sponsored by The Housing Partnership from Portsmouth, will demolish a former church and replace it with a four-story mixed use building. The ground floor will have commercial space and the upper floors will be family housing. A second phase on the same site is planned for the future.

According to Housing Needs in New Hampshire, a study commissioned by New Hampshire Housing and performed by the Center for Public Policy Studies and Applied Economic Research, the state’s rental market has grown progressively less affordable. With low vacancy rates and a lack of housing construction to meet demand, renters have fewer options and are paying higher rents. Programs like the housing tax credit are one resource that developers can use to build more housing to meet demand and create more affordable locations for the state’s workforce to live.

“Housing tax credits are one of the few remaining federal programs that make it possible for developers to create new rental housing at affordable rates for consumers,” said Dean Christon, Executive Director of New Hampshire Housing. “It’s also becoming an increasingly important way for us to preserve existing affordable housing that may be in need of improvements. These credits are not only a vital resource that allows us to provide housing, but they also generate investment in our state and spur job growth. The effects of these projects aren’t just immediate—they last for years to come

New Hampshire Housing is the sole administrator of LIHTC funding in the state and is responsible for evaluating projects and deciding funding amounts. Details about the LIHTC program can be found at http://www.nhhfa.org/rental-housing-lihtc.cfm.

Policy Leaders in Washington, D.C., Meet with New Hampshire Housing’s Homeownership Fellowship Class of 2016

Program offers immersive education in lending, housing

The Fellows in front of the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

The Fellows in front of the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

New Hampshire Housing has welcomed its Homeownership Fellowship Class of 2016, and they quickly got to work by traveling to Washington, D.C., to speak with political leaders and key mortgage industry officials including Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Senator Kelly Ayotte, and representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Rural Development, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), and Ginnie Mae.

The Fellows kicked off their ten month program by meeting with key New Hampshire Housing staff and program alumni to share their ideas about housing issues and how to connect with housing leaders. The initial meeting made sure they could dive into their Washington, D.C., experience, where they met with political and industry leaders to discuss housing and mortgage policy. Following their D.C. experience, Fellows will attend sessions that explore state-level government and politics; the connections between demographics, the economy, and housing; and other affordable housing issues.

Fellows were selected through a competitive process that was open to members of the mortgage lending community. This year’s class includes Corey Bowman, Loan Officer, Merrimack Mortgage Co.; Samantha Canton, Homeownership Advisor, AHEAD; Mark Chalifour, VP/Residential Mtg. Sales, Merrimack County/Meredith Village Savings Bank; Christine Keller, Senior Loan Officer, Envoy Mortgage; Justin Macagba, Mortgage Planner, Regency Mortgage; Michael Pillsbury, Loan Officer, RMS Mortgage; Pamela Riesenberg, Branch Manager, Finance of America Mortgage, LLC; Kathy Sanderson, CMP, Loan Originator, Northway Bank; and Jeff Trudel, Loan Originator, St. Mary’s Bank.

“This will be a unique experience for them,” said Ignatius MacLellan, Managing Director of the Homeownership Division at New Hampshire Housing. “Through this program, they will build their commitment to New Hampshire Housing, interact with national housing policy leaders, and learn how New Hampshire Housing mortgages impact affordable housing statewide.”

As part of the ten month Homeownership Fellowship, the nine Fellows will discuss and learn about the mortgage lending system and the creation of affordable housing in New Hampshire. More information about the Homeownership Fellowship Program can be found at http://www.nhhfa.org/home-ownership-fellows.cfm.

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