by Ethan DeWitt, New Hampshire Bulletin
New Hampshire officials are hoping to distribute about $2 million in grants to cities and towns as part of the InvestNH housing program this week.
But the disbursements are far below the $40 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds that has been set aside for municipalities.
In items set to come before the Executive Council Wednesday, the Department of Business and Economic Affairs is proposing to distribute $1.37 million to four municipalities to reward them for quickly approving new affordable housing. Those cities and towns – Laconia, Littleton, Swanzey, and Troy – have collectively approved 221 new units since the InvestNH program launched last year.
The incentive grants are being used to support Troy’s approval of 113 units at the Troy Mill and the 84-unit Swanzey West Development, as well as smaller developments in Laconia and Littleton.
The department is also seeking approval for $640,000 in grants to pay for demolition projects in Berlin, Claremont, and Swanzey.
“Each municipality receiving an award has demonstrated that the funded project is part of a larger revitalization effort which will positively impact the available housing shortage in New Hampshire,” the department wrote in its explanation of the grants to the council.
The grants are part of InvestNH, the $100 million program pushed for by Gov. Chris Sununu using one-time COVID-19 recovery funds from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Of that $100 million, $50 million was already distributed to housing developers last September for the construction of new units; an additional $10 million has been sent to New Hampshire Housing to help fill the state’s affordable housing fund.
But of the $40 million set aside for municipalities, little has been spent so far. Thirty million dollars was designated to incentivize cities and towns to approve affordable housing projects within six months and be paid $10,000 per unit. For the towns that have participated, the payout is generous. Swanzey, whose population is 7,196, will receive $840,000 if the council approves the grants Wednesday.
If the grants are approved, the state will have spent just 4.6 percent of the $30 million of per-unit incentive money for towns, and 12.8 percent of the $5 million set aside for municipal demolition projects.
A third municipal housing program has seen more interest. The Housing Opportunity Planning program set aside $5 million of the $100 million to allow municipalities to hire consultants to help amend or overhaul their zoning codes in order to be able to approve new housing more easily. So far, 45 towns have received grants under that program, according to a New Hampshire Housing website.
This story was written by Ethan DeWitt, a reporter at the New Hampshire Bulletin, where this story first appeared.
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