Local Control - June 2021 Brentwood Newsletter Article

The New Hampshire legislature maintains that local government control is best whenever possible because a one size fits all approach rarely works. There are a range of options for certain boards like the budget committee (none, advisory, official), departments (The town of Croydon disbanded their Police Department in 2020), and even if the town wants to have zoning regulations or not and wide latitude for what they might be.

In the US, 22.2% of homes are valued under $100k with New Hampshire only having 8.7% in that range. The result is that starter homes for young people trying to strike out on their own are often out of reach. A significant amount of people in NH are paying over 35% of their income on housing (20+% of people with a mortgage and 36+% of people who rent). The wide latitude to set local zoning rules has been a windfall for nimby policies which try to keep development to a minimum and have hindered the necessary growth which threatens to now push the less well off out of their homes as the local growth in government (taxes) outpace development for which to divide the burden.

Some believe that the local zoning is there to “enhance” the public health and safety while others are more focused on using the calls to protect the general welfare to central plan what they view as “wise use” of the land. The law says that “[t]he state should provide a workable framework for the fair and reasonable treatment of individuals.” While some legislators fight for your ability to develop/build what you choose on your land (provided it isn’t a danger to others), many legislators argue for the towns to not be limited in their ability to control their residents' property. In 2016, the legislature required all towns to allow an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) on single family lots in an effort to stem the tide of our housing issues, but it looks like the legislature is going to do too little too late to allow the housing development needed in NH which is smaller starter homes for <$100k.

If there are no safety concerns, should the size of your lot, the style of the home, the size of the home, the color of the home, and if you have a pool or not be up for a popular vote or do you have property rights? Are the “haves” in NH trying to keep out the “have-nots?” Will NH turn into a large country club for the rich or will the expanding taxes make people loosen their grip on what you can and cannot do on your property so younger/less affluent people could afford to live here?