Monadnock region towns reflect wider housing growth trends

  • A development on Pleasant Street in Greenville has put up its first phase of new housing. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • A development on Pleasant Street in Greenville has put up its first phase of new housing. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • A development on Pleasant Street in Greenville has put up its first phase of new housing. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/18/2021 1:04:40 PM

The New Hampshire housing market does appear to be steadily recovering from the early-to-mid 2000s housing crash. In 2019, the state experienced the sixth straight year of an increase in new housing, according to a review of state building permits by the state’s Office of Strategic Initiative.

But even with those gains, the number of new houses has yet to crest half of the number of the early 2000s housing boom.

Hillsborough County, which includes some of the state’s major population centers, Manchester and Nashua, saw the second-biggest housing growth in the state after Rockingham County, with 1,303 building permits for new housing issues. Cheshire County, in comparison, only issued permits for 125 new homes.

Multi-lot developmentslead to quick growth

In several towns, large developments, approved under zoning provisions that allow for multiple units under open space planning or similar structures, have been popping up.

While some of these developments, such as in Rindge, have drawn criticisms from townspeople as being too much growth, too quickly, developments of significant size are generally planned to be built over multiple years – and don’t always come to fruition immediately.

Wilton Land Use Administrator Michele Decoteau said that in 2021, while there are developments going up, most of the current construction in town is from applications that got Planning Board approval between five and six years prior, not recently.

“That's what’s being built right now,” Decoteau said. “Older subdivisions that have just been languishing and are now getting built.”

For example, in Rindge, in 2020, the town issued 34 building permits for new single-family dwellings, and one permit for an accessory dwelling unit.

That’s an increase from the previous year, where 22 permits for new residential structures were issued, and in 2018, when there were 25.

Potential growth for the town doesn’t appear to be slowing, either – in 2021 alone the town’s Planning Board has approved proposed developments that would add as many as 106 new housing units over the next several years.

Comparatively, in 2020, the Rindge Planning Board only approved a plan for a six-unit apartment and the creation of an additional five lots through subdivisions. In 2019, in terms of new housing, the town approved three new lots and a three-unit faculty dorm for the Hampshire Country School.

That growth rate has proved to be contentious among residents, including those who called for an overhaul of Rindge’s Planned Unit Residential Development ordinance, which allows more expansive development in certain areas of town.

In Wilton, 2019 was a housing high for the town, with a total of 43 new homes constructed. That compared to 18 permits that were issued in 2020. However, with two multi-lot developments currently before the Planning Board, the town could see another busy year in 2022.

The Wilton Planning Board is reviewing two developments at its next hearing on Oct. 20, including a 20-lot subdivision and a nine-lot subdivision.

Several large developments are also at the root of most of the growth in Peterborough, with most of the housing growth over the past three years coming from expansions at the RiverMead retirement community, including two 12-unit apartments, and housing developments on Church Street and Southfield Village Condominiums.

In the past three years, Peterborough has added 39 new single-family homes, 21 multi-family units, and three two-family homes.

Slow but steady growth in some areas

Jaffrey approved 17 new building permits for residences so far in 2021, already one more than last year and more than double what was approved in 2019, when only seven were requested.

New Ipswich also has seen an increase in potential housing in the past two years. After building permits for new housing held steady at 19 or 20 from 2017 through 2019, in 2020, that changed. The town approved building permits for 24 new single-family houses, and the conversion of a barn into three apartments.

So far in 2021, that number has grown even more, with 37 permits issued for new residential buildings.

Other towns saw a spurt of growth, though on a smaller scale, in 2020 as well. In Antrim, there were 11 new building permits for new homes issued – more than in the last five years, by a significant margin. Eleven permits were issued in 2020, compared to 2 in 2019 and 6 in 2018.

In general, in Antrim there were increases in construction. Though in 2019 there were more overall building permits issued – 95 in all, which includes renovations, demolitions, and accessory buildings like sheds, pools and decks – the estimated cost of construction done in 2019 was about $2.12 million in Antrim. In 2020, though there were only 78 permits issued, the cost of construction was estimated to be around $3.59 million.

In Greenville, there were seven building permits for new homes issued this year. While not a staggering number in itself, it is more than in the last four years combined for the town.

The reason behind the jump in development is the construction of six homes on Pleasant Street, as part of a planned development project. The project, known as Barton’s Ridge, will eventually develop a total of 55 new units, as part of the open space development allowed in Greenville. The plan was approved in 2019, and building began this year.

COVID-19 renovation trends bear out in local communities

In other towns, which are largely small and rural, the housing bump has yet to have an impact, though there is evidence that the 2020 building boom for renovations was well and truly present. In Mason, for example, there has only been one building permit for a new home this year, not out of step to the one or two new homes that are traditionally built there each year.

Mason Building Inspector Jacob Olson noted there are several reasons, including more restrictive zoning and lack of infrastructure and amenities in a small population like Mason. It’s also a matter of small-town culture among the residents, despite the potential large swaths of land – if a person settles in a place with little infrastructure, in-town commercial businesses or amenities, they are seeking a certain lifestyle.

“People come to a place like Mason to be left alone,” Olson said.

“2020 was a crazy year for remodeling,” said John Kendall, who is the building inspector for both Bennington and Francestown. “The pandemic created a huge demand. Which in turn created an increase in cost, which is why we’re now seeing some of those projects being put on hold.”

Kendall said the housing growth in Bennington and Francestown didn’t match the renovation boom, saying they were “steady” but “not overwhelming” in their growth.

In Bennington, while home renovations went wild in 2020 during the pandemic, construction of new homes remained mostly steady at two or three new homes in the last two years.

Francestown saw a similar renovation boom, with the town issuing nearly twice the amount of building permits it usually does for renovation work like mechanical and electrical work, and six new houses.

Greenfield also remained stable through the pandemic, with four homes built in 2020, the same as two years prior, and a slight increase from 2019, when only one home was built.

Lyndeborough only had two new homes built in 2019 and three in 2020. But for total permits issued, including renovations and additions, Lyndeborough hit an all time high for the number of approved permits on record, with 132. 




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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