In 2018, I ran for state rep in the 4th Ward of Manchester, New Hampshire. Two years later, I opted not to run as it was a transitionary year for me as much as anyone else. As we look forward to 2022 elections, I am focusing on settling down and am called to run for State Rep again. While I have not made any official decision, a lot of important issues have cropped up.
New Hampshire faces a housing crisis. There is simply little or no stock of rental units or houses to buy. Not only does this drive up prices and put housing out of reach of many, it hurts the ability of employers to fill jobs. This is lost prosperity and production for us all. I have travelled across the region and country over the years and New Hampshire is one of the only states where I have not seen much new construction. In fact, I do not recall ever seeing a house built anywhere in the Granite State in the past five years. Why is this?
There are several reasons that I have come up with, and we need to fix them. The most obvious one might seem to be property taxes, but many states have similar property tax levels, and much more construction. In reality, one of the biggest problems is land use restrictions. In many towns here, there are zoning restrictions on what you can build, and lot minimums that require properties to each be an acre, or even as many as 25 acres. This is absurd and a violation of property rights. As long as you are not directly harming another, what you do with your property is your RIGHT.
It is time New Hampshire adopt a county based zoning board system or statewide system. There are those who will claim that this is part of a globalist centralization scheme, but the fact of the matter is most small towns just take their zoning and building codes from international recommendations. It is precisely a county or state zoning board that would have the resources to develop a LOCAL zoning code. If a town has no zoning law, it should absolutely keep it, and others should be welcome and encouraged to join them. For those that opt to be zoned, they should be subject to the county or state system.
The county or state zoning code should be simple and streamlined. There should be a maximum use, not a restriction on use. This is how Japan zones neighborhoods. You can basically build a house or small shop anywhere. Only certain areas can have larger structures, but they also can have smaller ones. Much of America, including our own towns were built like this originally. Any Main Street in New Hampshire is an ideal basic zoning. Shops on the bottom floor and housing on top, whether single family homes or apartments.
A lot of our cities are plagued by restrictive zoning that would actually make most of their structures illegal today. This is ridiculous, and in many cases, notably Manchester, prevents safer redevelopment. Instead of tearing down an old triple decker shack and rebuilding better, developers simply gut buildings and redo them. This isnt safe or healthy. Many of these structures are dangerous, but grandfathered in. The wiring and plumbing is outdated and can lead to fires and floods.
With more housing stock added, people will be able to move around and move to the places that are best for them. There are many good paying jobs here that cannot find employees here or in other states because there simply isnt anywhere to live! This does not mean a massive apartment complex can or should come into your neighborhood, but it does mean cities will rebuild a little denser, and more rural areas will be able to welcome new families. This means jobs get filled, less traffic on the roads, and more money going to better uses. There is really no reason for anyone of any party or income level to oppose this. These ideas need more discussion, debate, and study, but it is important to start talking about them so we can help make a better New Hampshire.