As advocates and community members push for real solutions to Manchester’s housing crisis, the Manchester Housing Alliance has submitted the following letter to Mayor Joyce Craig’s office, calling for the establishment of a Housing Commission in the city.

February 23, 2021
Mayor Joyce Craig
City of Manchester
One City Hall Plaza
Manchester, NH 03101

Re: Establishing a Manchester Housing Commission to Address Unmet Demand

Dear Mayor Craig,

We commend the decision by the Board of Mayor and Alderman to hire a Director of Homelessness. To maximize the impact of this new hire, we ask that the city address the lack of affordable housing by establishing a Housing Commission as defined by NH RSA 674:44.

To increase choice and diversity in city housing, the commission would identify the scale of the issue and pursue opportunities to alleviate the lack of supply. The commission would give proper recognition to the problem at hand, promote solutions, elevate the dialogue around the solutions, and facilitate development of a balanced and diverse supply of housing to meet the economic, social, and physical needs of the city and its residents.

Through the powers provided by NH RSA 674:44, the Manchester Housing Commission would have authority to:

  • Conduct a housing needs assessment to define the scale of the problem,
  • Encourage and participate in the development of needed housing,
  • Assist in revision of the zoning ordinance to address housing cost and availability. 
  • Provide input on subdivision regulations that create barriers to development. 
  • Review those sections of the site plan regulations that address housing. 
  • Advise local agencies and boards in their review of matters affecting housing.
  • Coordinate with Community Housing Development Organizations and nonprofits.
  • Hold meetings and hearings necessary to carry out the duties of the Commission
  • Publish and report on the activities of the Manchester Housing Commission.
  • Hire consultants and contractors to fulfill the endeavors of the Housing Commission.
  • Receive gifts of money and property, both real and personal, in the name of the city, to assist in carrying out the purposes of the Housing Commission

The powers provided by state RSA 674:44 also imbue the City of Manchester with the authority to appropriate money to a Housing Commission as necessary to carry out its purposes:

“The Manchester Housing Commission may acquire and dispose of real property and use appropriated funds to purchase an interest in real property, subject to the approval of the local governing body.”

Further, we  request that the city task the new Director of Homelessness with the responsibility of staffing this new Housing Commission and appropriate $500,000 per year over the next two years to facilitate its activities. Within four months of convening, it should establish an action plan with BOA approval, and embark on those activities to advance its duties. The following activities should be included within the Housing Commissions action plan:

  • Contract with an industry professional to conduct a Housing Needs Assessment.
  • Collaborate with the Zoning Board of Appeals on revisions to the Zoning Code.
  • Advance (re)development of underutilized city owned property as new housing stock, including the creation of real estate development plans for selected sites and obtaining site plan approvals for those city-owned sites.

We thank you and your team for leading the way on establishing the Affordable Housing Task Force in 2020, and we eagerly anticipate its report. It was a meaningful step toward addressing  systemic issues with housing supply. We enjoyed participating and remain committed to assisting the city government as it moves forward with implementation of policy changes. We appreciate the fact that you are taking this regional housing crisis seriously, especially as we see the numbers of homeless individuals swell during a pandemic and subsequent economic hardship. This crisis affects everybody, including the homeless, homeowners, and renters. Let’s continue the work to make a Manchester that everybody can afford to live in. 

In solidarity,

Brandon Lemay &  The Manchester Housing Alliance

CC:

At-Large Alderman Dan O’Neil, Chairman, Manchester Board of Mayor and Aldermen
Dan LeClerc, Chairman of Manchester’s Planning Board
Matthew Normand, City Clerk