Just Bad Planning

A report from the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies at last week’s Londonderry Planning Board raised interesting points.

While Rockingham County is expecting a significant increase in jobs over the next decade, workforce participation is expected to decline as the population ages. That suggests the state’s labor force will limit growth, although it could also translate into a boost in wages to attract out-of-state workers.

But overall, the report suggests both slower population and slower economic growth.

That doesn’t necessarily translate into bad news, depending on your viewpoint. If you moved from Massachusetts to get away from wall-to-wall apartment development and endless suburbia, a slower lifestyle with plenty of open space is what you presumably wanted. And now you probably don’t like what’s happening in Londonderry.

Know anyone who moved to one of our towns because they were just desperate to live in a multi-story apartment complex? We don’t.

No, people want single-family homes with a big yard – close to services, for sure, but not so close that they can’t sit outside without hearing diesel trucks and other people’s business.

The report also noted the aging workforce, with the state’s largest growing sector persons over age 65.

Londonderry officials are quick to tout the town as booming, a place that will continue to attract people moving into the state.

But everything circles back to housing, and in Londonderry, much of the housing “boom” is in workforce apartments, opposed by their immediate neighbors for their drastic alteration of neighborhood character, but approved nonetheless. And workforce apartments are priced at over $1,400 per month, not a bargain to people moving to the area for “workforce” jobs.

That returns us to the increasing senior population, caught in a bind between wanting to downsize but uninterested in apartments that cost way more than their mortgages. Senior housing would be “accessible,” with wider entries, adapted kitchens and bathrooms, and access to public transportation. That currently does not describe Londonderry or its workforce projects.

If our towns are home to older residents wanting to age in place – and fewer younger people, why the emphasis on workforce housing in Londonderry?

What about the jobs coming into this area – are they likely to attract our college grads seeking high-paying jobs? The answer is no.

Woodmont Commons may meet the needs of both seniors and young people because of its “walkability” and mixed use, but that’s the only development addressing the new demographics.

People move to Londonderry to get away from endless apartment complexes; destroying the rural character of a town with more of the same on the “hunch” that people will like it is just bad planning.