Report highlights Upper Valley housing shortage, calls for solutions

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/1/2021 12:17:11 AM
Modified: 5/1/2021 12:17:09 AM

WEST LEBANON — About 10,000 new housing units are needed by 2030 to meet increased demand for homes in the Upper Valley, according to a new report.

Area planners say creative solutions will be needed to meet that goal, which is about three times more homes than were built in the region between 2010 and 2020, according to the recently released Keys to the Valley report, which is available online at

“We have a housing crisis, and it is getting worse. It is not a small problem,” says the report, which was produced by the region’s three regional planning commissions — the Lebanon-based Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission, the Woodstock-based Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission and the Ascutney-based Mount Ascutney Regional Commission.

The three commissions, sometimes called the “Tri-Commission,” encompass 67 communities on both sides of the Connecticut River. (The Mount Ascutney group was previously known as the Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission.)

With the new report, rather than simply conduct their usual, required housing needs assessment, the commissions sought to outline both housing needs as well as some possible solutions.

“We have existing housing programs,” said Kevin Geiger, a senior planner at Two Rivers, who worked on the study. “The problem is getting worse. (We) need to obviously do something additional than what we’ve just been doing.”

Beyond more housing, the report found that the Upper Valley will need more programs to reduce the cost of housing in the region, especially for the roughly 26,000 Upper Valley households expected to be paying more than 30% of their income for housing by 2030.

The region needs homes of all kinds: emergency housing; homes with supportive services; homes with access to internet; public transit and walkable communities; accessible homes; and homes of different sizes and price points, the study found. As the region’s population ages, the average household size is decreasing and demand for smaller homes is growing.

Solutions are necessary at many different levels to address a wide range of barriers in resolving the Upper Valley’s housing shortage, the report said. It also notes that the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change likely present both challenges and opportunities for housing in the Upper Valley.

Some of the most prominent current barriers to housing include the high costs of land and construction, both in labor and materials; a limited number of housing developers and building trades workers; lack of financing for construction and renovation; lack of homes at different price points; in-migration of higher household incomes; local regulatory barriers and community opposition; and state regulatory barriers.

Ideas range from reducing the number of parking spaces required per unit of housing to allowing for multiunit housing in local zoning ordinances and reducing the states’ reliance on property taxes, Geiger said.

“The first part is deciding you want to fix the problem,” he said.

The website includes a toolbox section with resources relevant to different groups, including financiers, municipal officials, residential contractors and developers, residents, legislators and social service providers.

“I hope people see this as something that matters to them in terms of making sure that their community is strong and healthy and resilient,” said Olivia Uyizeye, an assistant planner and geographic information system analyst for the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee commission.

The planners will host a webinar series on Wednesdays throughout May to discuss key concepts and results from the study (recordings also will be available on the Keys to the Valley YouTube page):

■May 5, 12 – 1 p.m.: “Building Smart for Stronger Communities”

■May 12, 12 – 1:30 p.m.: “Land Use Regulations”

■May 19, 12 – 1 p.m.: “Homes to Get or Stay Out of Crisis and Homelessness”

■May 26, 12 – 1 p.m.: “Employer-Assisted Housing”

The report also is on the agenda for Vital Communities’ annual housing breakfast on June 11. At this year’s virtual meeting, presenters are slated to share examples of projects aimed at addressing different housing needs, including the Thompson Senior Center’s home share program, mixed-use zoning regulations in Hartford and rental rehabilitation projects in Vermont’s Windham and Windsor counties.

More information about the events and links to register are available online at:

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

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