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Rural areas face housing affordability crisis

By Mike Wheatley | November 20, 2017
  • It’s not a lack of inventory that is a challenge for families trying to find a home to buy in rural areas, but rather being able to afford what is available.

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    A new study found that rural areas, particularly those in second-home or retiree havens, lack enough affordable and adequate housing for local working families, according to a new research report released by Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire.

    The report found for example that in New England, 29 percent of rural housing units stand vacant. But three-quarters of New England’s rural vacant housing units are designated for seasonal, recreational, or occasional use. Just 3.5 percent are available for rent, note researchers Jess Carson, a vulnerable families research scientist at the Carsey School, and Beth Mattingly, director of research on vulnerable families at the Carsey School.

    “In rural communities with scenic amenities, the draw of second-home owners and retirees restricts housing options for local working families,” the researchers note. “Land use regulations to preserve the scenery in these places limits options for developing affordable housing.”

    The researchers also found that land use regulations are limiting options for development of affordable housing. Also, they say, federal programs aimed at helping rural residents afford housing costs are insufficient.

    “Subsidies and publicly funded programs can play a part in alleviating the challenges of affordable rural housing, but addressing the issue in rural places will require a variety of approaches,” the researchers said. “Policy makers need to consider innovative ways to improve and leverage existing housing stock to expand options for local working families.”

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