Despite the current downturn in the housing market, Keene’s home and rental prices have remained stable, lowering slightly. According to the U.S. Census, the median home-sale price in Keene increased by 110% over the last 10 years, or 7.7% annually ($95,000 to $200,000). In comparison, the county and the state median home-sale price increased annually by 7.4% and 6.9%, respectively. The “affordability gap” – the difference between the actual median home-price cost and what a median-income household can afford – increased from approximately $10,000 in 2000 to approximately $50,000 in 2007. There is a growing gap between what people earn and what they can afford for a home (Figure 6).
The rental survey for 2008 performed by the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority indicates that the community’s median rent exceeded the state’s median rent across all bedroom sizes. For example, the community’s median for a two-bedroom unit ($1,052) now approaches that of Hillsborough County ($1,082), which has the highest median rate in the state. Potential renters would require a combined total income of nearly $50,000 for this to be affordable.
To address this, the community and the city should support creative means to expand affordable workforce housing. For example, changes in land-use regulations can assist in creating a market for developers to build this type of housing through the provision of density bonuses or other incentives. Adding inclusionary housing into requirements for new residential development may be another way to support affordable housing construction. Creative financing means, such as creation of an affordable workforce housing fund, could also be explored. Regardless, community stakeholders, such as local employers, developers, agencies, and city leadership, should devise a specific strategy to address the community’s housing needs.