Over-regulation Drives Housing Prices

After posting about why it’s hard to build starter homes, I found further proof that zoning regulations serve to raise the price of housing. A new study from the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy and St. Anselm College’s Center for Ethics in Society states:

“Widely available measures show that New Hampshire is one of the most restrictive states in the country for residential development,” Sorens wrote. “By suppressing building, land-use regulations drive up the price of housing as demand rises.”

A summary of the research was posted in New Hampshire Bulletin this week. The summary notes:

  • New Hampshire is in the top four states with the highest housing regulation
  • This leads directly to a high cost of living, and a shortage of available homes
  • Many New Hampshire towns have “attempted to freeze themselves in time”
  • By reducing zoning restrictions, New Hampshire could substantially cut the cost of living for thousands of families.

The original report names Lyme, NH as an “especially unaffordable town.”

You can read the full report by Jason Sorens at Residential Building Regulations In New Hampshire: Causes And Consequences He’s the Director, Center for Ethics in Society, Saint Anselm College.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board where I am an alternate member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.

Why no starter homes?

College Arms Apartments, Collegeville, PA. That was our starter home. It was a basement unit in an apartment complex with about fifty units in rural Pennsylvania. Some faculty lived there, some people who worked in town, and some married students, like Lin and me. We didn’t have a lot of income (she was still a college senior), but because the rent was cheap, we could sock away a little money so we could move to a (nicer) place when she graduated.

Is there anything like this in Lyme today? No.

But there’s huge demand, from people who work in town and in the region (think Hanover, Lebanon, WRJ), and from people who want to downsize (whether they’re “seniors” or not).

All this is nicely shown in Eclogiselle’s article “Housing Supply and Demand in One Screen Shot”. It talks about how the demand for small units – most households today have one or two people – isn’t being met because of the preponderance of three or four bedroom houses that are being built.

Why can’t we build starter homes? Put simply – in Lyme, we aren’t allowed to… The web page (and accompanying video) give several reasons. Lyme’s ordinance hits them all:

  1. Single-family zoning keeps costs high. It prevents families from sharing the expense of purchasing the land and installing the septic, water, driveway, etc.
  2. Multi-family dwellings cannot be built anywhere in Lyme, according to the ordinance. This is a clear violation of NH RSA 674:58-61, the Workforce Housing Law, that requires “… reasonable and realistic opportunities for the development of workforce housing, including rental and multifamily housing.”
  3. The zoning ordinance requires large lots. Does a starter home need three acres? Why?
  4. The requirement for large lots creates sprawl. This spreads out homes, removes the possibility of walkability, forces people to drive (more), and increases the travel distances for services (parish nurse, police, fire, and even neighbors).
  5. Parking. The subdivision regulations use an older standard for the number of parking spaces. Best practice shows that the number of cars per dwelling is decreasing. (How many cars will a one-person household need?)
  6. The Master Plan has no Housing Chapter. It speaks vaguely about preserving the “rural character” of the town, but totally ignores the real needs and desires of residents in town.

Lyme urgently needs to revise its zoning ordinance to permit more housing options that meet the demands of the 21st century.


Feel free to share this post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or email by clicking one of the icons below. Any opinions expressed here are solely my own, and not those of any public body, such as the Lyme Planning Board where I am an alternate member. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts – you can reach me at richb.lyme@gmail.com.