Workforce Housing Projects Abound in Londonderry

While he said he would have Planning Department staff provide more details at a future date, Town Manager Kevin Smith reviewed for the Town Council on Monday night the number of workforce housing units approved in town.

Smith acknowledged that questions have been raised by residents about workforce housing numbers.

At a recent Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) meeting, resident Pauline Caron suggested that no further workforce housing be approved until the town took an inventory of what it has.

Caron said she is concerned the town has been granting variances to the zoning ordinance too generously.

“We have zoning ordinances and we have them there for a reason. They should be the law of the land for Londonderry,” she said at the Zoning Board. “They shouldn’t be granted willy-nilly. If they need to be revised, they can be revised.”

According to New Hampshire Housing Executive Director Dean Christon, there are no minimums or maximums to the number of workforce housing units a town must have.

“There is the law that says there must be workforce housing available, but there is no minimum or maximum required,” Christon said.

Smith and Planning Director Cynthia May, asked by the Londonderry Times, both said workforce housing is required but no amount of housing is specified, either a minimum or maximum.

Smith cited the following approved workforce housing projects:

• Wallace Farm on Perkins Road near exit 5: 240 garden style rental apartments, with 50 percent or 120 units designated workforce housing.

• Neighborworks on Mammoth Road across from Mountain View Estates: 78 townhouses, all workforce housing.

“Those are currently under construction,” Smith said of the two projects.

• A conceptual plan for 288 apartments on Stonehenge Road, with 50 to 75 percent workforce housing. “They have been before the Planning Board and will need approval from the ZBA,” Smith said.

• Hillside Townhouse Condominiums on Hillside Road, off Londonderry Road, proposes 96 rental townhouses and condos, with 50 to 75 percent workforce housing. “They have been before the Planning Board and are scheduled to go before the Zoning Board in October,” Smith said.

Councilor John Farrell asked if that was a project that was originally for assisted living and Smith said it was but the target audience has now changed.

Smith noted that workforce housing is not subsidized housing.

“It’s rent that is capped at a certain amount,” he explained. “(The residents) are working but their income levels have to be under a certain amount. I believe in this area it is $56,000 annually per household and the rents are capped at about $1,400 per month. So it’s pretty close to market rate.”

He noted that Wallace Farm received variances to build on the Perkins Road site. Variances now allow phasing of the project to be over three years instead of the required five years, to construct 10 buildings with 24 units per building rather than the 16 units per building required by ordinance, and to have 50 percent workforce tenants where 75 percent workforce tenants is required.

At the Sept. 8 Council meeting, Town Councilor John Farrell told Caron the Town is “in the process of looking at all zoning ordinances.”

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