For Kevin Kincaid, a chance from a local landlord provides an apartment of his own

  • Kevin Kincaid’€™s apartment is a one-bedroom place in downtown Concord. From his porch, he can see the gold dome of the State House. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Alycia Jordan and landlord Bill Deacon helped Kevin Kincaid secure an apartment in downtown Concord.

  • Kevin Kincaid’€™s apartment is a one-bedroom place in downtown Concord. From his porch, you can see the gold dome of the State House. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 1/29/2023 1:41:08 AM

From the porch of Kevin Kincaid’s one-bedroom apartment, he can see the gold dome of the State House a few blocks away. In his living room, Christmas lights decorate the blank walls.

This time last year, Kincaid lived in a hotel. Before that, he couch-surfed, living in friends’ basements or sometimes on the street. He says he was “residentially challenged.”

But on Dec. 1, the day before his 58th birthday, Kincaid received an early present. He learned a local landlord would accept his housing choice voucher.

For the first time in years, he’d now have his own space to call home.

Kincaid is one of few formerly homeless individuals who has now found housing thanks to a sympathetic landlord. Bill Deacon believes property owners like himself can help provide stable housing for all in the Concord community.

Finding a landlord

When Deacon lists a vacancy in one of his Concord properties, he knows within an hour he’ll be deluged with rental requests. A showing will bring dozens of people.

It is not a problem of finding a renter. Instead, it is a matter of choosing the right tenant from the stack of applications.

At a recent showing, Deacon expected 50 people to come and see a one-bedroom apartment in a multifamily house he owns on Warren Street.

The showing began at 10 a.m., but an hour before others arrived, Alycia Jordan stood on the lawn with her friend, who was desperately seeking a new place to live. The friend was evicted after her landlord sold the building after she had lived there for 21 years. With few landlords eager to accept a housing voucher, the woman was on the brink of homelessness as she looked for a new place.

Deacon decided to give her a chance.

“I get her story. She doesn’t have a car, and the more I listened, the more I realized this is a good fit for me and it is a good fit for the house and it is a good fit for her,” Deacon said. “Those components have to happen for us or it is not going to work.”

The ability to meet the applicant before placing her in a vacant apartment helped sway Deacon to accept her rent subsidy. It is not a one-size-fits-all solution for matching tenants, he said.

“You can place people in the right building,” he said. “Every building has a personality.”

But in renting to Jordan’s friend, he gained a new appreciation for housing vouchers and how they help lower-income individuals and families afford housing in the city.

So when a former tenant ended their lease in Deacon’s North Spring Street property, he chose Kincaid, who had a voucher for six months without use, to fill the place.

Legislation and legal discrimination

Although a housing voucher was designed to allow low-income families and individuals to find apartments in the private market, it is increasingly harder to do so.

New Hampshire is the only state in New England where landlords can legally deny a rental applicant based on source of income. Currently, the Concord Coalition to End Homelessness estimates that there are 30 clients who have housing vouchers and who can’t find a landlord to accept them.

A bill introduced working to change this again in the Legislature.

Rep. Cam Kenney, a Strafford Democrat, is a sponsor for HB 469, which would prohibit discrimination against tenants holding vouchers.

When a voucher is first issued, recipients have an initial 30 days to secure housing. Although the time period can then be extended, it is still a race against the clock to secure an apartment.

“This allows the individual to get their foot in the door,” said Kenney.

In a rental market that has a statewide vacancy rate of less than 1%, this can sometimes be an impossible feat.

Given the limited availability and length of the waiting list, Concord Housing + Redevelopment stopped accepting applicants in May of 2022.

“With this tight rental market, this tool is one that gets returned to the toolbox,” said Elissa Margolin, the Director of Housing Action NH, at a hearing for the bill before the House Judiciary Committee last week.

This is not the first time similar legislation has circled through the State House. Last year, Kenney introduced the same idea in HB 1291, which did not pass the committee.

Margolin recalled in her testimony that efforts to pass this protection date back to 2014.

Opposition for this comes from landlords like Nick Norman, who is the director of legislative affairs for the Apartment Association of New Hampshire. The legislation will restrict the market and force landlords to accept vouchers despite additional program costs like inspections, he said.

“We need more housing. We don’t need to tie up and bind the people that are providing housing,” he said.

Expanded outreach

But by renting to people like Kincaid and accepting his voucher, Deacon now sees the need for housing for people experiencing homelessness.

Now, the coalition hopes to find landlords like Deacon to help their clients with a new incentive program.

A landlord incentive program on the Seacoast helped provide a roadmap for this partnership. After a successful pilot year, where 150 individuals were permanently housed, the program is expanding to Merrimack County.

Incentives – which include signing bonuses, the guarantee of a case manager for tenants, and grants to pay for damages and renovations to pass housing inspections – encourage landlords to rent to tenants who are transitioning out of homelessness.

Permanent supportive housing is proven to be an effective way to end homelessness in a community, according to the Concord coalition.

For landlords, these incentives provide added securities, Deacon said. It can be a win-win scenario for property owners looking to rent, and those eager to find a home.

But it also is a small step toward addressing the larger issue of homelessness in the state, he said. While municipalities and local landlords can provide units throughout town, he wonders how the state will continue to support unhoused individuals.

The coalition is also in the process of increasing its own housing stock by purchasing and renovating buildings in the city. The multifamily home they converted on Green Street serves as a roadmap for future projects – creating one-bedroom apartments to house individuals who were formerly homeless.

Now, construction on Pleasant and South State Street will help add to the coalition’s housing portfolio.

The need in this community is clear, said Deacon. But housing is a complex issue that requires a combination of efforts on the city, state and federal level.

“This is an epidemic. This needs to be dealt with. This is not a joke. It’s not something that can be swept to the side,” Deacon said. “This is going to take some serious consideration in the state of New Hampshire.”


Michaela Towfighi is a Report for America corps member covering the Two New Hampshires for the Monitor. She graduated from Duke University with a degree in public policy and journalism and media studies in 2022. At Duke she covered education, COVID-19, the 2020 election and helped edit stories about the Durham County Courthouse for The 9th Street Journal and the triangle area's alt-weekly Indy Week. Her story about a family grappling with a delayed trial for a fatal car accident in Concord won first place in Duke’s Melcher Family Award for Excellence in Journalism. Towfighi is an American expat who calls London, England, home despite being born in Boston.

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