Town Planner Provides Update on Residential Housing Growth

Some may perceive that the number of residential dwelling units are increasingly rapidly in town, but data presented by Town Planner Colleen Mailloux to the Planning Board shows that the number of residential housing units permitted increased from 8,892 in 2016 to 8,972 in 2017, an increase of 80 units or 0.9%.  The rate of residential unit growth decreased in 2017 compared to 2016 and 2015 when the growth rates were 1.07% and 3.26%, respectively.

As an additional point of historical comparison, Mailloux added that, “The number of permits issued in the past year is higher than the number of permits issues over the average of the six preceding years. The average over the six previous years was 75.7.” By comparison taking the abutting communities of Windham, Litchfield, Derry, Hudson and Auburn together grew their residential housing units by a similar rate of 0.93%. Data for growth in Manchester is not yet available.

While growth of 0.9% may be lower than what many people expected, it does not tell the entire story. It is important to note that this data is based on the number of building permits issued.  When a development plan for projects with multiple units is approved by the Planning Board, sometimes building permits are not requested all in one year, especially when the development has multiple phases spread out over multiple years. So, while projects like Wallace Farms on Perkins Road, Woodmont Commons and Residences at McGregor Cut on Stonehenge Road will add a lot of housing units, these numbers will show up as growth in 2018 and beyond.

If a significant fraction of these planned units come online in one year, unit growth will show a sharp spike in the year.  A similar situation occurred in 2015, when building permits were issued for phase one of Wallace Farms (workforce housing), Hickory Woods (senior housing), All American Assisted Living, and single-family residential houses at Mill Pond and Lorden Commons.

Looking ahead, Mailloux offered, “I’m seeing some of the reports from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority on housing demand in southern NH, I would expect to see that these numbers will continue to grow throughout the region. It is slightly surprising that abutting communities were growing a little bit faster than us over the past year, but we do know that we have a lot of growth coming on the horizon based on some of the developments that have already been approved.”

The 80 building permits for new residential dwelling units include accessory dwelling units.  An accessory dwelling unit is an independent residential dwelling unit located on the same lot as a stand-alone single-family home. Examples of accessory dwelling units are in-law apartments or apartments added in a basement or over a garage.

According to Mailloux, “Accessory dwelling units have actually been on the rise the past couple of years.  I believe we had eleven units last year [2017], eight units each the past couple of years and that was up from five and three in prior years.”

The number of permits issued is also net of any demolitions of existing units.  For example, if a builder tears down an existing house and build a two-family house, the net add would be one dwelling unit.

According to Mailloux, about half of the 80 new units in 2017 were single family homes with the balance consisting of thirty-three multi-family units, some of the first phase of the McGregor Cut project and the accessory dwelling units.

Board Member, Ann Chiampa asked if the planning department had any estimates on the number of permits that will be pulled in 2018.  As it turns out the school district recently asked the planning department for their best guess on when the various approved developments would be completed to help with their enrollment forecasting.  Mailloux shared, “that they were working on that right now.” The board also requested that future updates break down the units by type, examples being single family residential, workforce housing, over 55, accessory dwelling and multi-family.