The Eastern Lakes Region Housing Coalition grew from a Wolfeboro Planning Board ad hoc committee that was gathered in 2004. Its purpose was to develop a strategy to address a critical shortage of workforce housing as identified for 25 years of Master Plans. The committee recommended extensive community education regarding the need, removing barriers in the zoning ordinance, and bringing resources to address the issue. It also recommended that since non-profit groups provide most services in Wolfeboro, that one be enlisted to carry out the plan.
The plan received the unanimous blessing of the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen. Recognizing the shared mission to support the economic well being of the area, the Wentworth Economic Development Corporation (WEDCO) agreed to affiliate with workforce housing and allow use of their office space. Working with WEDCO brought recognition that the housing issue was regional, that our area towns were one community sharing a school district, health, human service, legal, commercial and transportation systems. The Eastern Lakes Region Housing Coalition board was formed representing major employers and different towns, was incorporated in May of 2005 and received its 501(c)(3) shortly after. Its mission is to encourage a diversity of housing to support the economic and social health of our communities while respecting the rural and village values.
It received startup grants from the NH Charitable Foundation (NHCF) and the NH Housing Finance Authority. Aggressive community education activities began with community forums, workshops for area zoning boards and conservation commissions. The ELRHC continued to work closely with the Wolfeboro Planning Board to develop its first Workforce Housing Ordinance that passed the town vote by a 2-1 margin in March of 2007.
PowerPoint presentations at area service clubs and on community TV and feature newspaper articles were provided. The coalition joined and has been an active participant in the NH Workforce Housing Coordinators (now WFH Council) and has worked cooperatively in statewide initiatives. Following the State of New Hampshire Legislature’s passage of the 2008 housing laws, the ELRHC provided support to 15 area towns to assist their compliance with the law. The ELRHC has continued to receive annual funding from New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, also known as simply ‘New Hampshire Housing,’ and from the Nancy Clement Beck Fund for these community education activities.
Our activities and outreach have helped us gain the respect and support of area media and regional large employers i.e. the towns, regional school district, hospital and Brewster Academy as well as area chambers of commerce. We have forged working relationships with state, local and regional groups including the Lakes Region Planning Commission (LRPC), New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, NH Charitable Foundation, NH Workforce Housing Council and other state housing groups. We worked directly in the annual Planning Board ordinance workshops of several area towns, had direct input on the Housing Element committee of the Wolfeboro, Tuftonboro and Brookfield Master Plans, and brought the community boards together in forums and workshops in preparation for the new state housing laws. This access is significant given the nature of these communities, and this grant will permit us to continue this work to expand it through more comprehensive activities with the towns in the coming year.
Harriman Hill Neighborhood:
In 2005, the coalition identified a parcel of “in village” land that would meet the Master Plan goals of village in-fill, access to public utilities, and close to services and employment. When attempts to find a private developer for a workforce development failed, the ELRHC voted to provide the model for the area. The coalition was able to negotiate the purchase of the land and secured feasibility funding from NHHFA. Shortly after, Bruce Beck contacted the chairman regarding his wish to make a donation in memory of his late wife, and the Nancy Clement Beck Memorial Fund was created. This enabling fund, currently valued at just under $300,000, is owned by the ELRHC and can be borrowed from or against to promote workforce housing in the area. It has its own trustees. It has provided the bulk of the pre-development costs for Harriman Hill.
Harriman Hill is a conservation cluster, workforce housing neighborhood located on 35+ acres of back land off the Pine Hill Road (Route 109A) behind the former Harriman Construction Company. More than half of the land is placed in Conservation Easement with the town of Wolfeboro Conservation Commission. Constructed in three phases – the first two of which have been completed – Harriman Hill will include a total of 68 housing units when fully built out. Phase I and II consist of 48 rental units in 12, four-unit buildings. The first two phases of rental units have been completed with full or nearly full occupancy every month. The rental units were constructed through a federal tax credit program (LIHTC) purchased by a Limited Partnership that will include the Laconia Area Community Land Trust as senior General Partner. The general partnership is responsible for the on-going management of the rentals and works with a professional management company.
Harriman Hill Phase III: There will eventually be 20 ownership units as single-family homes including some duplexes. The ownership housing will be restricted to households with incomes up to 120% of the area median income (the current AMI for Wolfeboro is just over $60,000) insuring affordable housing for those who work in and provide services for our community. The rental housing income will be restricted to those below 60% AMI as there are existing market rate rentals for those earning more.
Continued Education for our Citizens and Towns: The coalition is committed to continuing education in the way of community forums, business meetings and requested topics to inform all interested in affordable housing. Our Board of Directors is active in these education sessions as well as continued fundraising.
Recent educational activities include advocacy for the New Hampshire law, currently being adopted (or revised) in towns and municipalities across the state, that would make it easier for homeowners to build accessory dwelling units, otherwise known as in-law apartments, on their property, an education forum on ADU’s, with another ‘hands on’ workshop planned for the spring of 2017. We have also met with landlords and owners of rental properties to listen to their needs and concerns.