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Keene Housing Offering Incentives To Landlords To Rent To Housing Choice Voucher Holders

Keene Housing property
Keenehousng.org
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One of the units from Keene Housing

“The dearth of units is really remarkable right now," says Joshua Meehan, executive director of Keene Housing.

With the state’s tight rental market, and affordable apartments hard to come by, Keene’s housing authority is offering new incentives for landlords in the area to rent out to tenants with housing vouchers.

Since late August, Keene Housing has offered one-time, $1,000 payments to landlords who are renting for the first time to people with vouchers, and a one-time $500 payment to a landlord who’s leasing to a voucher holder again.

Housing choice vouchers help lower-income people pay their rent in the private market.

“We’re hopeful that this owner incentive might make it a bit easier for voucher holders to compete with people who are able to come up with a first and last, and, ‘Hey, here’s another’s month’s rent,’ just to get in the door,” said Josh Meehan, executive director of Keene Housing.

So far, four landlords have signed up for the new incentive program, and earlier this week, Meehan got another promising call.

“And what's particularly wonderful about those two calls is that it was a studio and a one-bedroom,” he said.

There are about 20 people in Keene who have a voucher, waiting for a one bedroom or studio apartment to open up. Meehan says that the utilization rate of these vouchers is at an all-time low.

“It’s not due to anything other than folks not being able to find a place to live with their voucher,” he said.

According to a recent report from New Hampshire Housing, the median rent for a one bedroom in Cheshire County is a little more than $1,000, and that just about a quarter of two-bedroom apartments in Cheshire County are below affordable rent.

“The dearth of units is really remarkable right now,” said Meehan.

New Hampshire is the only state in New England that doesn’t ban discrimiation on the basis of someone’s source of income, according to the Poverty and Race Research Action Council. That means in some cases, landlords explicitly state that they don’t accept housing vouchers.

Previous reporting by NHPR found that in the last decade, the number of subsidized housing units across all of New Hampshire — including traditional public housing, Housing Choice Vouchers and other programs — has grown by fewer than 600 units, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.