NH survey: Slight majority favor loosening zoning laws to encourage more housing
June 1 – More than two-thirds of New Hampshire voters say their communities need more affordable housing, and just over half support loosening local zoning ordinances to allow it, according to an online survey conducted last month by Saint Anselm College.
The college’s Center for Ethics in Society also found that 61% of respondents oppose the idea that multifamily housing should be limited to cities and not suburbs or rural areas.
The survey of 520 Granite State voters was conducted May 19 and 20 and has a sampling error of 4.3%.
The Center for Ethics said the investigation comes as the state experiences rising rents and housing costs.
Jason Sorens, director of research and education at the Center for Ethics and lead researcher of the survey, said economists blame zoning as a major cause of low home inventory and high rent prices .
“New Hampshire has some of the strictest zoning laws in the country, and voters are starting to change their minds about whether all of these restrictions are such a good idea,” Sorens said in a statement.
The survey also came as the state’s largest city, Manchester, is in the process of rewriting its zoning laws. A draft could be available by this fall, said Léon Lafrenière, city director of urban planning and community development.
Lafrenière said affordable housing was one of the most mentioned themes during public comment sessions.
The city is considering strategies that include increased density, easing parking requirements, and possibly density bonuses for affordable housing projects. Any modification requires the approval of elected officials.
Eased restrictions should make it easier for the market to respond by developing housing, thereby reducing housing costs, he said.
The survey found that 52% of New Hampshire voters support changing city and town zoning regulations to allow more housing to be built. Forty percent disagreed.
Seventy percent wanted a strict limit on the time it takes for zoning and planning boards to review a project.
“These survey results suggest that as more New Hampshire residents are impacted by the housing crisis, we are seeing a shift in attitudes as local leaders and citizens across the state understand how their zoning ordinances affect their communities,” said Rob Dapice. , executive director of New Hampshire Housing, in remarks released by the Center for Ethics.
Lafrenière warned that the survey was statewide and Manchester’s policies often contrast with cities, some of which limit single-family homes to lots of five acres or more. In some Manchester zoning districts, multi-family apartment buildings can be built on land around a tenth that size, he noted.
“Manchester is already, and always has been, at the forefront of housing provision in New Hampshire,” he wrote in an email. He said the city is an exception when it comes to housing it permits and fast permits.
Some ideas were not retained.
Just 38% approved of the concept of legislation, which failed this year, that would have allowed up to four homes on any residential lot served by municipal water and sewer. About as many, 35%, opposed the idea.
The Center for Ethics said a slight majority — 53% — opposed the idea of the state doing more to prevent housing development and keep New Hampshire as it is.