Planning Board Presents Workforce Housing Ordinance to Voters

Warrant article proposes solutions

Press release

Like much of New Hampshire, Andover is experiencing a severe shortage of workforce housing, negatively impacting our local economy. Folks that have steady jobs and earn an average living find themselves priced out of the Andover housing market, unable to afford to buy or rent a suitable place for themselves and their families to live. 

The Andover Planning Board proposes changes to the ordinance to provide some different approaches to this problem and recommends that you vote “Yes” to adopt the warrant article.

In the June 2022 issue of the Beacon, Ken Wells described a hypothetical person who might like to accept an entry-level job in a local business, but would find that the cheapest available housing in Franklin would eat up more than half their income, leaving them unable to afford utilities, a car, groceries, and the other necessities of life.  In Andover, housing is even more expensive than in Franklin, and there are even fewer vacancies. Where are working people supposed to live around here? How can local businesses that need new workers hire them, if those workers are forced to live far away?

“Workforce housing” is different from the frequently-heard term “affordable housing.” When some people imagine “affordable housing,” they think of such things as subsidized rents (sometimes known as Section 8) or other types of public assistance. 

In contrast, workforce housing is specifically affordable to folks that have regular jobs and incomes typical for working people in our area. Workforce housing does not involve a handout.

Why does a housing problem exist in Andover? There are a few reasons. First, the prices of homes in our area have skyrocketed in the past three years. In part, that’s because many people decided to leave the big cities and their suburbs, sold their valuable real estate down there and moved to rural New Hampshire, contributing to a regional real estate boom. This did not create the housing shortage, which has been growing for years, but accelerates it and brings sharp attention to the issue.

The second and most important reason is that for decades, zoning restrictions in Andover have limited new home construction to only single-family dwellings. While many Americans aspire to such a home, it is the most expensive type of housing to own or rent, and is simply out of reach of many people. 

Up until now, Andover has only allowed multi-family units to be created by carving them out of existing homes but has not allowed new construction of multi-dwelling buildings.

During the past year, the Andover Planning Board studied our existing zoning ordinance, proposed solutions, and presented them at public hearings to solicit feedback from residents. Based on the feedback and observations by Andover people who participated in the first hearing on August 9, improvements were made and presented at a second public hearing on September 12. 

The new workforce housing ordinance allows cost savings and efficiencies for its residents, while protecting the “rural New England character” of Andover that we all value so highly. At a third public hearing on January 24, the final language was presented as it will appear for a ballot vote before Town Meeting on March 14. You may read the language of the entire ordinance on the Andover Beacon website, or pick up a hard copy at the Andover Town Offices.

The new workforce housing ordinance does not impose changes that restrict any types of development currently allowed, but rather opens the door to new possibilities for homes, especially for working families and those who would like to down-size but continue to live in Andover.

The Planning Board is also proposing and recommending a vote of “Yes” on a second warrant article to clarify existing language within Zoning Article VI – Nonconforming Structures Or Use.  The existing, enacted language mixes references to both nonconforming structures and nonconforming uses.  The Planning Board’s rewording maintains the intent of the article while clarifying the differences concerning structures and uses.  

The first public hearing for the proposed rewording of Article VI was held on January 24.  You may read the language of the entire ordinance at the Andover Town Offices.