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City official: Nashua in midst of housing crisis

Union Leader Correspondent

July 16. 2018 9:48PM

NASHUA — The Gate City is in the midst of a housing crisis, according to Nashua’s community development director.

“We are way short of the number of housing units that we have. We have been underbuilding for several years and it is absolutely reflected in our increased rents,” said Sarah Marchant, community development director. “Rents in Nashua have risen almost 20 percent in three years from the data that I have been looking at, and that is astronomical.”

More housing units need to be constructed in Nashua, according to Marchant, who said the city is looking internally to see what can be done to better market the community and work directly with developers.

“I do think that we are in a housing crisis,” she told the aldermanic Substandard Living Conditions Special Committee last week. “Rents are soaring, and in large part it is due to lack of supply.”

And although there are or will soon be about 500 new apartment units opening in the next few months in Nashua, Marchant said that is not nearly enough.

A variety of housing is also needed to help different populations throughout the city, she added.

City officials and department heads are continuing to explore what can be done to help provide flexibility for developers and entice potential builders, she said, acknowledging that there are limitations.

While the need for more housing persists, the city’s building department and code enforcement department are working to ensure that landlords are taking care of their existing apartment buildings so that tenants have safe places to reside, explained Marchant.

“Our goal is compliance with the codes,” she told the committee. “We want to work with people to come into compliance.”

The Substandard Living Conditions Special Committee was initially created nearly two years ago in an effort to determine the conditions and issues facing residents who live at local boarding housing.

It was first charged with focusing on all properties in Nashua that accept welfare vouchers from the city — including the Temple Street Hotel, Country Barn Motel on Broad Street and other facilities.

Sites that have welfare assistance vouchers were investigated, and the committee visited the locations to gain more knowledge of the living conditions.

Since then, the city has adopted a new ticketing violation program with a gradual fine system that provides landlords with a deadline to fix code violations before monetary fines are implemented in phases; if the problems are not remedied, the landlords are served a criminal summons and the case is prosecuted, said Kyle Metcalf of the code enforcement department.

Still, he said it is important for property owners and tenants to work in collaboration to resolve issues.

“The most frequent complaint I hear from people in lower income housing is bed bug treatments,” said Alderman Tom Lopez, Ward 4.

Metcalf said the city will record all bed bug complaints, but under new guidelines the problem is handled in the court system.

“It is getting better,” he said of the bed bug problem in the city.

Marchant said the boarding houses in Nashua are now inspected every two years as part of a proactive effort to prevent code violations or other issues such as bed bugs.

“We are in the process of doing that right now,” she said, describing that as a team effort by the city’s fire, health, building and police departments.

Nashua Local and County Government

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