Affordable Housing-Energy Efficient As Well! Thanks to AHEAD In N.H. | Forum

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Affordable Housing-Energy Efficient As Well! Thanks to AHEAD In N.H.

America is in the midst of an affordability crisis in housing. The issue isn’t new and has been ongoing for the past 25 years, so says the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), in their recent report, Out of Reach 2014: Twenty-Five Years Later, The Affordable Housing Crisis Continues.

When NLIHC’s first report was published in 1989, the nation was reeling from the affordability crisis affecting home ownership, and the attendant increase in homelessness that it caused. Now, 25 years later, America is still falling short of paying on the promises contained in the 1949 Housing Act, which sought to provide all Americans with “a decent home in a suitable living environment.”

For 7.1 million American households, even a modest rental home is unaffordable and unavailable. In New England, a 795,000-unit shortfall exists in affordable rental housing, according to Housing New England, detailed in their 2013 report, Affordable Housing: A New England Perspective.   For those in New Hampshire who are in search of energy efficient, affordable housing options the market is very tight.  However, there is hope.

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AHEAD, a community development and social services agency, has been engaged for more than 20 years, providing residents of the North Country—a region of rural northern New Hampshire that includes Coös and northern Grafton Counties—with affordable housing options. AHEAD’s goal is to be the preeminent provider of quality, affordable housing in New Hampshire.

I spoke with Sally Ayers, AHEAD’s director of operations about the scope of the agency’s reach relative to needs and affordable housing.

“We have a variety of components to our work,” said Ayers. “We provide property management, develop real estate (for new projects), which leads to new construction.”

Ayers mentioned that AHEAD owns and operates 14 North Country properties with more than 300 affordable apartments for families and seniors.

“Currently, we’re working diligently to retrofit properties, making them energy efficient,” said Ayers. “Any new properties that we build will also have state of the art heating systems and components.”

AHEAD has launched a new program called Better Homes Ahead. The goal of Better Homes Ahead is providing high-quality, energy efficient, factory-built homes at affordable prices for low-and-moderate-income families.

Better Homes AHEAD

An example of one of the homes available through AHEAD’s Better Homes AHEAD program. For More information about this program visit http://betterhomesahead.org

“Funding for this has included Community Block Development Grant funds, as well as funds like the Founders Fund and other fundraising efforts,” said Ayers. “We’re looking to replace older homes, particularly pre-1996 mobile homes with newer, safer, more efficient places to live,” explained Ayers.

Affordable housing in New Hampshire’s and the lack of it in the state has been well-documented. While rural New Hampshire’s issues aren’t as dire regarding high rents and real estate prices like pricey Rockingham and Stafford counties, rural New Hampshire has been plagued with fewer jobs and jobs paying wages that make housing beyond the reach of the working poor.

“Housing is essential for strong families—AHEAD looks to provide support to families and individuals, helping them build and preserve assets for the future,” said Ayers.

While AHEAD is recognized statewide for their affordable housing efforts, according to Ayers, they are also member of the national NeighborWorks America network, which is as a leader in affordable housing and community development nationwide. As one of 40 of the nation’s best community development organizations, AHEAD can access a wider network structure, which helps to assist in building skills, while supplementing and amplifying the effectiveness of agencies like AHEAD.

Ayers said that education and financial literacy has become a big part of what AHEAD does.

“The education component is important and we are looking to involve the whole family including children, too. They see mom and dad taking money out of the wall at an ATM, but they don’t know what’s involved in money and finance,” said Ayers. “We try to do this training together with parents and children.”

“Foreclosure mitigation is another big part of our work. During the recession, our numbers were way up with families calling, panicked about losing their homes,” Ayers said. “Foreclosure is so stressful for families—they often don’t know where to turn. We provide a counselor that can help them and point them in the right direction and provide them with support.”

Like other similar New England northern New England states, New Hampshire’s population is aging, so senior housing continues to be in demand. AHEAD recognizes the demographic shift and is focused on addressing issues related to housing for aging residents in the northern reaches of the state.

In Berlin, where people over 65 make up 23 percent of the city’s population, AHEAD will be opening a new 33-unit senior housing project.

“We’re very close to opening,” said Ayers. “It’s in the former Notre Dame High School, an important part of the city’s past and history. We’re pleased that we could reclaim and renovate the building and offer this kind of housing for seniors.”

She explained that the Notre Dame Apartments are based on a service-enriched housing model. The model seeks to integrate a social support system for residents into the operation and management of the housing that will be provided to seniors. Seniors will either have necessary services provided, or be linked directly to them. The model also helps reduce resident isolation, build neighborly relations, and promotes resident pride in their home community.

Additionally, the building will have four energy-efficient wood chip boilers for heat. There are also plans for solar panels for hot water and electricity.

Ayers indicated that funding for this project came from a Community Development Block Grant, Historic Preservation tax credits and New Hampshire Housing Financial Authority low income housing credits.

To learn more about affordable housing and other efforts to provide housing options in New Hampshire’s North Country, visit the AHEAD website.

ENH Power, part of the Provider Power family of companies, supports AHEAD through our Power to Help initiative.  Each new ENH Power customer can select a Power To Help partner for us to support on their behalf.  To learn more visit www.enhpower/ahead.

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Trevor Chan Feb 16 '15
Its amazing how the prices of real estate in the USA are so low compared to that in Canada.