Affordable housing and child care remain top concerns for young people in N.H.

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A "for rent" sign is seen outside a home on Washington Street in Concord on Wednesday, July 12, 2017.  ELIZABETH FRANTZ/Monitor staff, file

By JAMES RINKER

The Keene Sentinel

Published: 04-23-2024 11:00 AM

Young people love living in the Monadnock Region, but they’re struggling to afford to stay.

That was one of the findings Stay Work Play New Hampshire released last week from its second "Policy & Pints" pop-up series, which looks into the reasons why young people in the state loved the regions they lived in and what might cause them to leave. The statewide nonprofit advocates for policies that can help attract and retain younger generations in the state.

Last year the organization spoke with 231 people ages 21 to 40 at breweries across eight regions in the state.

The average age in New Hampshire is 43, which is fourth highest in the nation, according to the 2020 census.

Access to affordable housing and childcare remained the top concerns for young people across the state, said Will Stewart, Stay Work Play NH’s Executive Director.

“Housing is the number one issue facing young people everywhere,” he said. “It contributes to everything.”

The vacancy rate for a 2-bedroom rental apartment in New Hampshire is 0.6 percent, according to a 2023 report from New Hampshire Housing. A healthy vacancy rate is about 5 percent.

The report also states the median rent for a 2-bedroom is $1,764 a month. A single person would need to make $21.51 an hour working full-time in Cheshire County to afford basic expenses such as housing, food, health care and transportation, according to the living wage calculator developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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A single person making minimum wage in New Hampshire, which is $7.25, would have to work over 244 hours in a month to afford the median cost of rent.

There’s also a dire need for childcare in the state, but costs often present a barrier for families. There are approximately 54,000 children ages 6 and below who need child care in the state, with only 33,000 licensed slots statewide, according to a 2021 study by the state Department for Health and Human Services.

A 2023 report from New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute found the average annual price for an infant in center-based child care in 2022 was $15,340, and $10,140 annually for family child care. Center-based care consists of licensed child care centers in commercial spaces providing care for children by age group. Family child care takes place in a caregiver’s own home.

The Policy & Pint’s report for the Monadnock Region also highlighted some of the positive aspects that currently appeal to younger generations.

Attendees said they enjoyed having access to nature and the outdoors due to its central location in New England. They also shared their admiration for the small town feel of the region, while still having a number of opportunities for entertainment, recreation and education.

According to the Policy & Pints report for the Monadnock Region, updating zoning laws to allow for more housing density could help retain younger people in the area. The report also mentions other policy-level solutions to retain younger people in the area, including enacting universal pre-kindergarten and child care, improving public transportation infrastructure and raising the state’s minimum wage.

The Policy & Pint’s discussions informed potential solutions that attendees could share with their local elected officials, Stewart said.

“We’re hoping local elected officials — zoning board members, city councilors, selectboards — will take a look at these issues and what Monadnock Region residents are saying, and take into consideration what can be done to help support young people staying here.”