Story Produced by the Keene Sentinel
CONCORD, NH — Gov. Chris Sununu said Wednesday his $100 million plan to expand the state’s housing supply would aid businesses looking to add employees, such as MilliporeSigma, which operates a plant in Jaffrey that makes products used in the medical industry.
The Republican governor held a news conference in the Statehouse’s Executive Council chambers to tout his InvestNH Housing Fund proposal to be considered by the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee on Friday. Under the initiative to provide affordable housing, federal pandemic-relief money would be used to spur residential construction projects.
Sununu, who said his plan would give the housing industry “a shot in the arm,” was surrounded by business officials, including David C. Nichols, senior director of MilliporeSigma, which employs 1,200 people in Jaffrey and would like to add another 200 workers.
The company’s plant, which will soon have its 50th anniversary, makes products used in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, such as filters and membranes. MilliporeSigma recruits people, including from out of state, to work for wages that start at $50,000 a year, Nichols said.
“But it’s a challenge for us to find available housing for these people to live in,” Nichols said. “We’ve had as high as 80 people in temporary housing for months and months at a time as we try to find available space for them in the region and close to our plant.
“This is absolutely a critical issue for our ability to continue to grow and to meet the demand that is out there for our business.”
He said the former St. Patrick School on Main Street in Jaffrey is an example of a property that could potentially be repurposed for multi-family housing, and there have been initial discussions of such a project.
The need for workforce housing in the Monadnock Region is emblematic of a statewide problem, Sununu said.
His plan would provide $60 million in grants for multifamily housing projects and $30 million for municipalities that approve permits for these buildings within six months of application.
Another $5 million would be used for grants to demolish vacant and dilapidated buildings, and $5 million would be given to cities and towns to update planning and zoning regulations to boost development.
The governor said this is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“This $100 million will invest in thousands of units across the state.”
He said he would like to see the funds used over the next year to 18 months.
Cities like Manchester, Nashua and Concord have made some inroads into developing workforce housing, Sununu said, but housing availability continues to be scarce statewide.
New projects could be designed to fit in architecturally with existing buildings, he noted.
“We’re not trying to change the texture of our state or our towns at all, but really to add and to complement them with that housing opportunity,” Sununu said.
The housing plan will be considered by the Executive Council after its hearing before the Joint Legislative Fiscal Committee Friday.
The NH Council on Housing Stability has called for the state to add 13,500 new housing units by 2024, including 700 to 900 in the Cheshire County area.
The 2021 N.H. Residential Rental Cost Survey Report, which was conducted from March to May that year by the NH Housing Finance Authority, found a statewide vacancy rate of less than 1 percent.
Rick Green can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-355-8567.
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