Annual Statewide Survey of Voter Attitudes on Affordable Housing
What do New Hampshire voters think about the affordable housing crisis? Since 2020, the Center for Ethics in Society has administered an annual statewide poll of voter attitudes on affordable housing. While every year has seen an increase in the percentage of voters who support the development of more affordable homes, the most recent poll in 2023 saw dramatic changes in the pro-housing direction.
Support for pro-housing positions was widespread across subpopulations, but young people and retirees were especially supportive. Non-homeowners supported more affordable housing in their communities at a 95% rate. All gender, age, education, income, homeowner vs. non-homeowner, and region subpopulations supported changing zoning regulations to allow more housing. Not one of these subpopulations showed a majority for keeping multifamily out of suburbs and rural areas or for doing more to prevent development.
For specific results, and year-to-year trends see the results of each question below.
The poll was conducted by the Saint Anselm College Survey Center from July 18-20, 2023. 646 registered New Hampshire voters were surveyed, with a margin of sampling error of +/-3.9% and a confidence interval of 95%.
78% of New Hampshire voters think that their communities need more affordable housing to be built.
In 2023, the biggest change in public opinion came on a question asking for agreement or disagreement with the statement, “My community needs more affordable housing to be built.” Net agreement rose from +40 to +60 (78% agreeing, only 18% disagreeing), a change well outside the margin of error. Young people are especially sensitive to the housing crisis: notably, not a single voter under 35 disagreed with the “more affordable housing in my community” position.
58% of New Hampshire voters now want more affordable homes in their own neighborhoods.
New Hampshire is seeing a decline in NIMBYISM (not-in-my-backyard sentiment). More and more residents are recognizing the need for more affordable homes not just in the state and their communities, but even in their own neighborhoods. Net agreement with the statement, “My neighborhood needs more affordable housing to be built” grew from +7 in 2022 to +21 in 2023 (58% agreeing, 37% disagreeing).
60% of New Hampshirites think that our towns and cities should change land use regulations in order to allow more housing to be built.
A remarkable swing was observed on the question asking for agreement or disagreement with the statement, “New Hampshire towns and cities should change their planning and zoning regulations in order to allow more housing to be built.” Net agreement went from +12 to +26 (60% agreeing, 34% disagreeing), a statistically significant change.
A majority of people in New Hampshire are against doing more to prevent housing development and keeping the state the way it is.
The Center’s annual survey mixes in some anti-housing statements, and each year the numbers agreeing with these statements declines. Net agreement with the statement, “New Hampshire should do more to prevent housing development and keep the state the way it is”: from -11 net agreement to -24 (35% agreeing and 59% disagreeing with this anti-housing statement).
Support for “missing-middle” housing is growing annually, and now significantly outnumbers opposition.
According to many economists, the state’s ongoing housing shortage is caused by excessively strict planning and zoning regulations. The recently released New Hampshire Zoning Atlas by the Center for Ethics in Society showed that only 16% of the state’s buildable land area is zoned for single-family homes on less than an acre of land, and only 11% is available for duplexes on small lots. Many planners now advocate broader planning permission for so-called “missing middle” housing: two-, three-, and four-unit structures that can fit into walkable residential neighborhoods. Accordingly, state legislators have proposed a bill to allow property owners to build duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes on any property served by municipal water and sewer, and where the zoning allows residential development. While many voters are still undecided about this legislation, support now significantly outnumbers opposition.Net support of the “fourplex bill”: from +3 net support to +16 net support (43% agreeing, 27% disagreeing).
A majority of voters want to see affordable rental options in all communities, not just in our largest cities.
On the remaining policy question, net agreement with the anti-housing statement — “Our suburbs and rural towns should have mostly just single-family homes. Apartments, duplexes, and townhouses should be built only in cities” — fell from -24 to -31 (33% agreeing, 64% disagreeing), but the change was not quite statistically significant.
35% of homeowners would like to build an ADU, but simply can’t afford it.
This year’s survey also asked homeowners whether they had ever considered building an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). Ten percent of respondents said they had built one, 34% said they are considering it, and 56% said they have never considered it. Of those who have not built one, the most commonly cited “primary obstacle” was the expense (35%). Local regulations were cited by 9% of respondents as the primary obstacle.