Businesses advocating for more housing, vital for retaining and growing NH’s workforce

This article, written by attorney Chloe Golden, was originally published by the NHBR and can be found here.

New Hampshire is ranked among the top 13 states most affected by labor shortages. According to the Business & Industry Association of NH, our state has 35 available workers for every 100 open positions. Workforce development is a top priority for NH businesses.

With a housing need of over 60,000 units by 2030, increasing housing stock and affordability is essential to retaining and growing New Hampshire’s workforce. The New Hampshire business community can, and should, play an important role in increasing New Hampshire’s housing stock. The New Hampshire business community can contribute to solutions by advocating for, investing in and building new housing here in the Granite State.

Advocate. The easiest — and perhaps most important — method for employers is to advocate for policy changes on the federal, state and local level. Federal and state advocacy is an opportunity for employers to join forces and advocate together for legislative change through trade groups. Local advocacy offers frequent opportunities for New Hampshire businesses to have direct impact on the housing communities where their employees live and work.

Each session, Congress sees many housing bills. This year, the bill getting the most attention is the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Improvement Act, now included in the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024. Many affordable housing developments in New Hampshire are funded, at least in part, through the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program that incentivizes investors to fund rental housing developments by granting tax credits for a percentage of the total cost to develop the housing. This bill will increase funding by temporarily raising the cap on the competitive 9% LIHTC, among other program changes.

Unfortunately, legislation takes time to make an impact, and you may not see the benefits of your advocacy in your community for years to come.

Luckily, employers can have a more immediate and direct impact on projects in their own communities: Participate in your local government. The officials sitting on land-use boards in our cities and towns have authority to approve or deny new housing development. Too often, only an outspoken minority of opponents participate in these hearings.

When the business community speaks in support of a project, you can counteract the nimbyism holding back many of our communities and help add new units to our housing stock. You can learn about upcoming projects under review by checking board agendas and building connections with local developers. When developers ask for your support at landuse board meetings, attend!

Invest. Development, construction and financing costs are rising, meaning developers need more funds to produce more units and buyers, and renters need more financial support to obtain housing. Funding, then, is another excellent way to contribute to housing solutions. Investments can take many forms: Create an employer-assisted housing program that offers no interest down payment loans that must be paid off when the house sold; join forces with other employers to establish a loan fund that can fill funding gaps on existing projects or provide homebuyer assistance; donate excess land to a housing development project; and make charitable contributions to local nonprofits developing and preserving affordable housing.

Build. In many parts of the country, including in New Hampshire, more employers are contributing to housing solutions by building their own housing to serve the local workforce. In some states, employers are developing small starter homes and offering them to employees at below-market prices. Others are using federal and state funding and the LIHTC program to build and develop affordable housing units.

The LIHTC program works by giving project developers true equity in exchange for federal tax credits. Owners of LIHTC projects must also keep their projects affordable for at least 30 years, meaning rent is capped at 30% of pre-determined area income levels. In communities with employer development, local governments often chip in gap-filling funds in the form of low or 0% interest-deferred payment loans, making the development true public-private partnerships.