State regulations governing a Workforce Housing mandate for towns did not pass behind closed doors. Londonderry did not vote to establish its zoning ordinances for workforce housing by randomly selecting words while hidden from public view.
So why is it so difficult for developers to understand the regulations in place, and why do they seek out properties that won’t produce a big enough profit for their liking unless they receive a slew of variances.
And why do Londonderry boards respond repeatedly that turning down a variance request won’t likely stand up in court. After the first instance, wouldn’t it be time to do something about that?
New Hampshire communities have been told by the legislature that they need to provide workforce housing. According to the law, a municipality’s existing housing stock is to be taken into consideration in determining compliance. If that housing is sufficient “to accommodate its fair share of the current and reasonably foreseeable regional need for such housing, it shall be deemed to be compliant,” the law states.
A housing stock assessment should have been the first step for any community, with Londonderry no exception. And while plans are in the works – all these years later – to spend money to create a formal assessment, why the delay?
If the planned assessment could make Londonderry’s position “legally defensible,” in the words of Planning Board chairman Art Rugg, why hasn’t this been done before now?
The out-of-town developers flocking to Londonderry with variance requests for workforce housing have one thing in mind – making a profit. That’s the nature of business. But has even one prospective tenant come to a meeting to demand the town boards waive ordinance requirements so they can be part of a development with more units in less space?
The bottom-line purpose of the law is to make housing affordable to people who work in the community. What it has produced instead is a rush to make multi-family apartment development a lucrative option for builders, who stand to make more of a profit by cramming large numbers of housing units on property where they normally would have to respect frontage and density requirements.
Why did the town go through a seemingly endless number of meetings to come up with regulations they thought they could live with, only to grant variances the first time a workforce housing development was proposed, in fear their regulations would not stand up in court? Shouldn’t that possibility have been addressed as the ordinance was written? Isn’t that why towns hire an attorney?
Plenty of questions, and a dearth of answers.