Saint Anselm Center for Ethics Releases Third Annual Housing Poll

June 2, 2022

By Center for Ethics

N.H. Voters Overwhelmingly Support New Affordable Housing Development

MANCHESTER, NH – The Center for Ethics in Society at Saint Anselm College released a new statewide survey of Granite Staters’ attitudes about the local impacts of the housing crisis today.

As the nation experiences a housing shortage, New Hampshire has been hit particularly hard with rising costs for both renters and home buyers, as well as a lack of housing availability. In a survey of more than 500 registered New Hampshire voters conducted between May 19-20, Saint Anselm College sought to understand what changes, if any, Granite Staters supported to alleviate the crisis. 

New Hampshire voters support building more housing, including affordable housing in their own neighborhoods, and changing laws and regulations to allow more homes to be built. This support has grown since last year given an all-time low in rental vacancy rates and a median purchase price for homes over $350,000.

“Economists have found that one of the biggest causes of low inventory of homes and high prices and rents is zoning,” said Jason Sorens, director of research and education at the Center for Ethics and principal investigator on the survey. “New Hampshire has some of the strictest zoning laws in the country, and voters are starting to change their minds about whether all those restrictions are such a good idea.”

“These survey results suggest that as more New Hampshire residents are affected by the housing crisis, we’re seeing a shift in attitudes as local leaders and citizens around the state gain an understanding of how their zoning ordinances impact their communities,” noted Rob Dapice, executive director/CEO of New Hampshire Housing. “This increased awareness of how the lack of affordable homes and rental units is hurting our communities and the state’s economy is encouraging in that it will help support and drive the search for solutions at the local and state level.”

BUILDING AFFORDABLE HOUSING

  • By a 69%-29% margin, New Hampshire voters said “my community needs more affordable housing to be built.” This represents a 9% increase from last year’s survey. 

  • For the first time, we asked a subset of voters about building affordable housing in their “neighborhood” instead of their “community.” While “community” might refer to a whole town or city, “neighborhood” sounds like a much smaller context to most people. Respondents still endorse building more affordable housing in their own neighborhood by a 7-point margin (50-43%).

CHANGING LAWS AND REGULATIONS

  • By a 52-40% margin, New Hampshire voters support changing town and city zoning regulations to allow more housing to be built. 

  • By a 70-21% margin, respondents endorse setting a “hard limit” on how long local planning and zoning boards can take to review permits to build housing. 

  • By a 38-35% margin, Granite State voters endorse the concept of a bill that failed this session, which would have allowed property owners to build up to four homes on any residentially zoned lot served by municipal water and sewer.

REEXAMINING WHERE HOUSING IS BUILT

  • By a 61-37% margin, N.H. voters oppose the idea that multifamily housing should only be built in cities, not in suburbs and rural areas. However, last year that margin was 29 points, and the growth in agreement was outside the margin of error.

  • By a 53-42% margin, voters oppose the state “doing more to prevent housing development and keep the state the way it is.” 

The poll’s data shows young people under 35 and retirees are generally the most supportive of building more homes and changing state and local laws to allow that to happen. As expected, non-homeowners are more likely than homeowners to endorse building affordable and multifamily housing.

It also shows that while conservatives are less likely to endorse the concept of affordable housing, they are more likely than liberals to endorse having the state set a hard limit on municipal permit review timelines.

Methodology: These results are from a Saint Anselm College Survey Center poll conducted on behalf of the Saint Anselm College Center for Ethics in Society based on online surveys of 520 New Hampshire registered voters. Surveys were collected between May 19th and 20th, 2022, from cell phone users randomly drawn from a sample of registered voters reflecting the demographic and partisan characteristics of the voting population. The survey has an overall margin of sampling error of +/- 4.3% with a confidence interval of 95%.