New Hampshire’s median home price hit an unprecedented half-million dollars in March, just two years after passing $400,000 for the first time, underscoring the urgency of making changes to local land-use regulations. 

The change represents “a 16 percent drop in affordability from a year ago,” according to the New Hampshire Association of Realtors (NHAR) report.

For context, the state housing affordability index was 59 in March. In other words, the median household income in New Hampshire ($90,845) is a mere 59% of what one needs to qualify for the median-priced home at current interest rates.

Such poor affordability prospects haven’t always plagued Granite Staters. According to NHAR, the affordability index hit upwards of 150 in March 2017 and even reached a high of 200 in 2013. 

The culprit, as the NHAR concluded (and many Granite Staters know by now), is a “lack of New Hampshire housing inventory….” 

NHAR President Joanie McIntire emphasized the point. 

“The problem remains the shortage of available housing that is continuing to make homeownership more difficult than ever for those workers needed to help an economy thrive,” she said.

There is no doubt that New Hampshire’s supply of homes is nowhere close to meeting residents’ demand for homes. In a functioning market, when prices signal such huge demand builders would be expected to increase supply rapidly.

New Hampshire unfortunately doesn’t have a functioning market thanks to a thick layer of local government regulations. 

Exclusionary zoning—the use of zoning ordinances to exclude certain types of land uses from zoning districts—has run rampant in New Hampshire municipalities for decades, choking the supply of housing throughout the state.

Since our 2021 study identifying zoning as a major cause of the state’s housing shortage, there’s been a growing consensus that the current land-use landscape in the Granite State has to change. 

As if to emphasize our analysis of the New Hampshire market, the Fall/Winter 2023 edition of the Journal of Housing and Community Development last December published this summary of the link between restrictive zoning and housing affordability

Restrictive zoning codes contribute to socioeconomic divisions, worsen the housing affordability crisis, and artificially inflate housing prices. The insufficient housing supply further emphasizes the importance of exploring opportunities for increasing housing stock through land use reform.

The correlation between states’ median home prices and their land-use freedom is particularly damning. Among the 25 states with the lowest median home prices, according to Redfin and Bankrate 2023 data, 20 of them also rank in the top 25 for most land-use freedom, according to the Cato Institute’s Freedom in the 50 States 2023

Conversely, of the 25 states with the highest median home prices, 20 of them are found in the bottom 25 for the least amount of land-use freedom. 

In these rankings, New Hampshire has the 14th-highest median home price and is the 12th-most restrictive state when it comes to land-use freedom.

The relationship, reflected in numerous studies, is clear: Less land-use freedom shrinks the supply of housing, which leads to inflated home prices.

Another way to look at the problem is through building permits. New Hampshire publishes building permit approvals collected by the U.S. Census Bureau. These data show a sharp and sustained reduction in building permit approvals since the early 1980s, showing that the housing supply problem long predates the pandemic or the 2007–08 recession. 

From 1984–1988, more than 10,000 residential building permits (single-family and multifamily) were issued per year in the state, with the peak being 18,015 in 1986. The last time more than 5,000 residential building permits were issued in a single year was 2006—18 years ago.  

The median home price in New Hampshire cracked $200,000 for the first time in 2002. For the next two decades, home construction did not come close to meeting demand. By 2021, the median home price had doubled to $400,000. Now it’s $500,000. Despite astronomical demand for new homes, the number of residential building permits issued in 2023 was just 4,512, a decline of 271 from the year before. 

Builders make money by building and selling homes and apartments. They want to meet this demand. Too many local governments have made it too costly or difficult for them to do so. 

At this point it’s clear that relaxing local restrictions on land-use freedom in New Hampshire is critical to opening the market forces that will allow supply to meet demand. The more urgently policymakers act to lift regulatory obstacles to home construction, the more quickly builders will be able to respond to these flashing-red market signals and provide Granite Staters the housing they so desperately want. 


By Jason Sorens

The New Hampshire House of Representatives recently passed a couple of bills to make certain types of housing easier to build: single-family conversions to duplexes on lots with adequate sewer capacity, and detached accessory dwelling units. A more ambitious Senate bill comes up for a vote of the full chamber this Thursday, but unlike the cleaner, smaller House bills, this one has both pro-housing and anti-housing elements. 

As amended, this bill, dubbed the “HOMEnibus Act,” would do the following:

  1. Extend the existing Community Revitalization Tax Relief Incentive to cover conversions of office, industrial, and commercial uses to residential use. This is an optional program municipalities can choose to adopt. It makes it so that rehabilitation or conversion won’t incur additional property tax as a result of improvements that raise the value of a property. This incentive could result in more residential conversions, but it also reduces the property tax benefit a town receives from such conversions, which may make planning and zoning boards less likely to want to approve such developments in the first place. It’s hard to imagine that the incentive would make the housing shortage worse, but it also might not make it any better.
  2. Allow local governments that currently operate under direct democracy (towns without charters and village districts) plus Coos County to let their governing body–typically, the select board–adopt and amend zoning ordinances without a vote of the people. A vote of the people would be necessary to give the select board this power. The assumption seems to be that the people who show up on town election day are less pro-housing than select boards are. I’m unaware of direct evidence on this point. Based on evidence from Texas, Nolan Gray thinks voters are less pro-zoning than officials are. But my experience in New England suggests that the reverse might be true here, though it probably varies by town. Certainly, in places like Canaan and Dalton, the public vote requirement has stopped zoning from being adopted at all.
  3. Require planning boards to consider “alternative parking solutions” proposed by residential developers to meet on-site minimum parking requirements, and if the developer can demonstrate that these alternative solutions would meet parking demand, planning boards must accept them. Alternative solutions could include nearby off-site parking lots, agreements with ride-share companies, public transportation availability, or walkable infrastructure as designated in a master plan or zoning ordinance. This is a straightforwardly pro-housing, pro-property rights measure. It is also rather tepid, given that other states like Minnesota are proposing to abolish all on-site parking minimums statewide for all uses, but it’s better than nothing.
  4. Authorize mandatory inclusionary zoning (IZ) that would require up to 15 percent of new dwelling units be deed-restricted below-market housing provided the developer is granted a density bonus of at least 25% more units than what the base zoning allows. Unfortunately, this is an anti-housing measure, creating a type of rent control tax on new development, as Yale law professor Robert Ellickson pointed out  more than 40 years ago. Research in the Baltimore-Washington area finds that mandatory inclusionary zoning increases the cost of market-rate housing. Other peer-reviewed studies have consistently found a similar result: adopting mandatory IZ increases housing costs and distorts the market away from single-family development toward multifamily development. (However, one non-peer-reviewed study finds that moving away from mandatory to voluntary IZ does not reduce housing costs.)

The original version of the bill also had a major reform to minimum lot sizes that would have been pro-housing, but that was amended out. There is good reason to believe that the net effect of the current version of this bill would be to make housing less abundant and more costly.

Jason Sorens of Amherst is a senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research.

As legislators consider making more Granite State families eligible for the popular Education Freedom Account (EFA) program, there appears to be some disagreement about what types of families would be able to use the program depending on where the income limits are set.

Currently, only families whose income does not exceed 350% of the federal poverty level can access an Education Freedom Account. The House has already passed a bill to expand eligibility to 500% of the federal poverty level. In the Senate, there’s been some discussion about setting the line at 400%.

Considering whether to expand eligibility for the EFA program to families earning no more than 400% versus 500% of the federal poverty level is not a trivial matter. 

To many New Hampshire families, the difference between 400% and 500% is the difference between finding the educational environment that meets their childrens’ needs or being stuck in a setting that doesn’t work for them.

Last week, we reported on Christine M.’s family of three. Christine and her husband work three jobs but can’t afford private school. They would qualify for an EFA with an income cap set at the 500% level, but not at the 400% threshold. 

Many other Granite State families find themselves in similar situations because 500% of the federal poverty level is hardly “rich.” 

The following chart shows what the eligible income caps would be under both the 400% and 500% expansions compared to the current eligibility standard of 350% of the federal poverty level.


Household/Family Size 350% of 2024 federal poverty level 400% of 2024 federal poverty level 500% of 2024 federal poverty level
2 $71,540 $81,760 $102,200
3 $90,370 $103,280 $129,100
4 $109,200 $124,800 $156,000
5 $128,030 $146,320 $182,900
6 $146,860 $167,840 $209,800
7 $165,690 $189,360 $236,700
8 $184,520 $210,880 $263,600

*For each additional person, add $18,830 at the 350% level, $21,520 at the 400% level, and $26,900 at the 500% level.

At these income thresholds, many families that few would consider affluent would be left out of the program. 

The following families would not be eligible for an EFA at the 400% level but would be eligible at the 500% level (according to the most recent data available of annual mean incomes in New Hampshire from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics):

  • A single registered nurse with one school-age child earning $83,420 per year;
  • A single dental hygienist with one school-age child earning $86,570 per year;
  • A married waiter and secondary school teacher with one school-age child earning a combined $103,820 per year;
  • A married childcare worker and school psychologist with one school-age child earning a combined $104,000 per year;
  • A married real estate agent and housekeeping cleaner with two school-age children earning a combined $127,660 per year;
  • A married mental health/substance abuse social worker and journalist with two school-age children earning a combined $125,720 per year;
  • A married middle school teacher and accountant with three school-age children earning a combined $146,410 per year;
  • A married paramedic and physical therapist with three school-age children earning a combined $149,850 per year.

Each of these far-from-rich families would be excluded from EFA eligibility under a new cap of 400%. 

Under 500%, however, they would all qualify for the program. 

This raises the question, then: What’s the real purpose of an income cap when families like these are left out?

New Hampshire’s health care provider shortage has been a major news story for years. The demand for health care is growing as New Hampshire’s population ages. Yet the supply of providers is not keeping pace with demand, as physicians retire and too few young people enter the field, particularly in the three primary care occupations: physicians, physician assistants (PAs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). 

To illustrate the problem, a nationwide review of health care industry job listings on last fall found that New Hampshire had more than 1,000 listings per 100,000 residents, the highest number of listings per-capita in the United States.

Every New Hampshire county but Rockingham has at least some area experiencing a shortage of primary care providers.

The state’s 2023 annual report on the health care workforce availability found a very low rate of PAs offering outpatient primary care in New Hampshire per 100,000 residents. 

Counting providers offering outpatient primary care, the state found that New Hampshire has 54 physicians and 30.5 APRNs per 100,000 residents. But the rate for PAs is only 9.2 per 100,000. 

That falls even lower in rural areas. The number of physicians and APRNs per resident who offer outpatient primary care actually increases in rural parts of the state (to 56.9 for physicians and 36.3 for APRNs). But the number of PAs per resident offering that care falls from an already low 9.2 to just 6.3.

One likely reason for the shortage of PAs offering outpatient primary care, particularly in rural areas, is that the state essentially treats PAs as apprentices rather than the advanced practice health care professionals—with master’s-level education credentials and national industry certification—that they are.

State law (RSA 328-D:3) mandates that all PAs must have completed a nationally accredited PA education program (these are master’s degree programs) and have passed a national proficiency exam. 

RSA 328-D:3-b VII states that PAs “may provide any legal medical service for which they have been prepared by their education, training, and experience and are competent to perform.”

And yet the law prohibits them from offering the very same medical services they’re trained and qualified to perform unless they first obtain “a written collaboration agreement with a sole practice physician or a physician representing a group or health system….” 

The collaboration agreement is not supervision. The physician signing the agreement does not supervise the PA’s work and is not liable for the quality of the PA’s work product (outside of any direct involvement in a specific case). “Collaboration” is defined in law (RSA 328:D-1) as merely consultation or referral. 

APRNs, who have similar training to PAs, do not have a similar requirement. The law rightly treats them like advanced-degree professionals. PAs, despite having master’s-level medical training and being required by law to practice only within their area of training and expertise, are treated like untrained apprentices.

House Bill 1222 would remove the requirement that PAs enter into a collaboration agreement before being allowed to practice what they’re educated and trained to do.  

HB 1222 does not change the scope of practice for PAs in any way. Every other legal restriction on their work would remain. The bill would simply allow them to offer the services they’re fully qualified to offer without first finding a doctor to sign a contract agreeing to talk to them from time to time.

Despite their title, PAs are not really “assistants.” Under state law, they are authorized to offer services including, but not limited to:

“a) Obtaining and performing comprehensive health histories and physical examinations; 

“(b) Evaluating, diagnosing, managing, and providing medical treatment; 

“(c) Ordering, performing, and interpreting diagnostic studies and therapeutic procedures; 

“(d) Educating patients on health promotion and disease prevention;

“(e) Providing consultation upon request; 

“(f) Writing medical orders….”

PAs function as primary care providers, at a level below physicians but on par with APRNs. The requirement for a collaboration agreement is an unnecessary regulation that reduces the supply of PAs while likely hurting Granite Staters.

Some might consider this requirement a harmless rule that adds an extra layer of protection for patients. But if the requirement reduces the supply of trained, educated and licensed primary care providers in the state, as appears to be the case, then it hurts patients. By reducing the supply of providers and increasing wait times, it could reduce Granite Staters’ access to care, causing worse health outcomes. 

A proposed floor amendment would remove the collaboration agreement requirement after PAs have completed at least 8,000 hours of clinical practice. That’s a high hours requirement, and an unnecessary one. It would still create a needless barrier to entry into a profession that New Hampshire should by trying to expand, not limit. 

But if the choice is between the status quo and lifting the requirement after 8,000 hours, the pro-patient answer is easy. Patients would be better off if the state encouraged more people to become PAs by giving them a path by which to escape the collaboration agreement eventually.  

When licensing denies people services they need in the name of protecting them from fully educated, trained and credentialed professionals, it winds up hurting the very people it’s designed to protect by prohibiting them from accessing the care they need. The collaboration agreement is a perfect example of this unintended consequence.

The second group of bills to saddle the Education Freedom Account program with onerous red tape will be considered this week by the state House and Senate.

State lawmakers took up the first set of regulatory measures last week, voting down both House Bills 1512 and 1594. 

This week, the House will vote on HB 1418, 1610 and 1654, while the Senate considers Senate Bill 525

HB 1418, 1610 and 1654 seek to impose new controls on the EFA program, both its providers and participants. 

HB 1418 prohibits the purchase of school uniforms with EFA funds. 

In some academic settings, school uniforms are an essential part of a student’s education. The only way to receive an education at these institutions is to purchase and wear the required uniform. The point of the uniform typically is to instill a positive culture and reduce distractions. 

Uniforms “create an atmosphere in our schools that promotes discipline and order and learning,” as President Bill Clinton put it in 1996 when endorsing school uniforms during a visit to the Long Beach, Calif., school district (which still requires uniforms). Uniforms have long been viewed as a valuable tool for creating a disciplined, structured learning environment, so it’s unclear why they wouldn’t be an allowed educational expense.

The two other House bills, HB 1610 and 1654, target providers. Both bills would impose a set of costly requirements on EFA providers that would fundamentally discourage their participation in the program.

HB 1610 would require all educational settings in the state to administer standardized statewide tests in English language arts, reading and math. 

One characteristic of the growing education marketplace is a shift away from using standardized assessments as a primary measurement of student learning progress. In choosing an unconventional educational environment that accepts EFA funds, a parent might specifically seek a learning model that doesn’t assess student progress with standardized testing at all. 

The diversity of curricula and instructional methods among EFA vendors makes it impossible for a single standardized test to measure student learning accurately. Many (possibly most) curricula would not be aligned to the test. HB 1610 would lead to artificially low scores simply because of misalignment, creating the false impression that rich, quality programs are inadequate. 

By requiring all EFA education providers to administer standardized statewide assessments to the program’s participants, HB 1610 would force a one-size-fits-all learning measure on a decentralized and diverse program with a variety of learning models to choose from. Forcing this uniformity on families who strive to escape such constrictions might be the whole point. 

HB 1654, meanwhile, would subject all EFA providers to an annual state review to check their adherence to state and federal anti-discrimination laws. 

The legislation is duplicative, as all education service providers in the EFA program are required by state law to comply with state and federal anti-discrimination laws. Adding an additional layer of compliance costs on these vendors only serves to increase costs and further discourage provider participation in the program.

Over to the Senate, SB 525 takes proposed oversight of the EFA program to a new level. Similar to HB 1594 last week, the Senate’s bill would require EFA participants’ household incomes to be at or below the income cap for eligibility (currently 350% of the federal poverty level) each year during the student’s participation in the program. Currently, income is verified upon application.

Were annual income testing to become law, some students would lose their EFA even when parents receive small raises. This would create needless and potentially damaging disruptions to these students’ educations. You can read our analysis of the House’s similar measure here

Beyond that, SB 525 would also set reporting requirements and annual income verification audits for the program. Under SB 525, the state would verify continued income eligibility compliance among participants by subjecting a random one-third of EFA families to an audit every year. 

The Legislative Budget Assistant’s office wrote that it does not have authority to review families’ private records, so the state would have to obtain participating families’ financial records before reviews could be conducted. The large percentage of reviews required in the bill runs against the LBA’s standards and practices for audits, as it bases sample sizes on a program’s risk assessment. The LBA wrote in a fiscal note on the bill that conducting the hundreds of reviews required by SB 525 could add costs to the LBA’s budget and affect its ability to conduct its other required audits in a timely fashion.

Such an intrusive income verification regime would not only burden a state agency with hundreds of additional audits annually but would suppress participation in a program that, as we’ve noted before, saves taxpayers money. 

Any benefits to the state from these bills would be minimal, while the costs to participating families would be significant and the impact on taxpayers would be negative. These regulations seem to serve no other purpose beyond crippling EFAs and restricting their use. 


Despite being the main metropolitan area in the state, the City of Manchester’s zoning ordinances are surprisingly hostile to the construction of new multifamily housing. As a review of the city’s zoning ordinances championed by former Mayor Joyce Craig continues, aldermen are considering three relatively small changes unanimously approved by the Planning Board and brought forward by new Mayor Jay Ruais. 

These proposed amendments to the city’s zoning ordinances would represent a small but important step in the long-term effort to make the city’s zoning rules more friendly to new housing development. 

“Specifically, these amendments would help to make the construction of a few types of housing easier in the city by reducing regulatory barriers and by speeding up the permitting process,” Jeff Belanger, director of Planning and Community Development, told aldermen at a recent public hearing. 

The first change would allow four-unit housing to be built on lots currently permitting three-unit housing.

“The ordinance today establishes minimum lot sizes for developing multifamily or townhouse buildings with three dwelling units and then requires additional lot area for each additional dwelling unit,” Belanger explained. “The proposed amendments would change the minimum number of units that could be built on a lot from three to four, meaning that there could be an additional dwelling unit built on the minimum size lot.”

But for these changes to have any meaningful effect, the amendments also address parking requirements, reducing the required number of parking spaces for multifamily housing from 1.5 spaces per unit to one space per unit. 

“The proposed amendments for housing units would not be at all effective really if we didn’t also make adjustments to parking requirements,” Belanger said. “Parking requirements can really limit housing construction because parking takes up land area and adds costs. That’s especially true when it comes to three-family and four-family dwelling units because of the current parking requirements in the zoning ordinance.” 

In zoning districts that require 1.5 parking spaces per unit, the result is that three-family buildings need to set aside five parking spaces and four-family buildings need six parking spaces. And having that fifth parking space triggers an additional regulatory burden. According to Belanger, lots with at least five parking spaces must have a landscaped buffer around them, which costs time, money, and land area. 

Dropping the required number of parking spaces to one per unit would allow four-unit housing to be built on what is now the minimum lot size for three-unit housing, as three-unit and four-unit buildings would only need three and four parking spaces, respectively, keeping them below the five-space threshold. 

The third change would eliminate the need for property owners to receive a conditional use permit from the city’s Planning Board before building accessory dwelling units (ADUs) on their property, bolstering a property owner’s right to build an ADU.

“The benefit of exempting ADUs from Planning Board review is that it makes them faster and cheaper to permit,” Belanger told the aldermen. “Planning Board review usually takes about a month for an ADU application and there are fees associated with it. Both the delay and the fees would be eliminated with this proposal.”

Removing this red tape would help accelerate the construction of ADUs in Manchester, increasing the supply of units in the city and putting more people in homes. 

Interestingly, the Manchester Planning Board unanimously supports all three amendments, though they would take power away from the Planning Board itself. That is a sure sign of how pressing the need is for these types of reforms in the city. 

According to the New Hampshire Zoning Atlas, Manchester permits two-family housing on 23% of its buildable land and three-family, four-family, and five+-family housing on 21% of its buildable land as of 2023. 

That puts Manchester behind seven other cities in the state with respect to duplexes and six other cities with respect to larger multifamilies. (See our breakdown from last year of Manchester’s hostility to duplexes and other multifamilies here.)

“Manchester’s proposed zoning amendment is a modest but meaningful change that will probably result in a few dozen more apartments being built in scattered locations,” said Jason Sorens, senior research fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research and the principal investigator of the zoning atlas. “The city could go even further, especially since some of the changes merely bring the zoning in line with existing densities, but this change would start to chip away at the housing shortage in the city without causing noticeable changes in density at the neighborhood scale.”

There’s more the city can do to free up the supply of housing, such as further rolling back parking minimums, addressing minimum lot sizes, streamlining the permitting process for all types of construction, and opening up more buildable land for duplexes, just to name a few. But these proposed changes before the city now would start the much-needed process of reducing development costs and protecting residents’ property rights. 

“The proposed zoning amendments are not going to fix every housing problem in the city, but they are intended to at least help get at the cause of the housing crisis, which is a lack of supply,” Belanger explained. “They are intended to reduce regulatory barriers to housing production, while respecting the character of neighborhoods.”

State lawmakers are considering a slate of housing bills that would effectively override many municipalities’ zoning codes. And while some view such actions as constituting threats to local control—which New Hampshire rightfully cherishes—inaction on the part of local governments to loosen their own regulations may leave the state with no other choice. 

That is, unless cities like Manchester act first on these kinds of zoning amendments. 


This week, two bills that would take Education Freedom Accounts (EFAs) away from children enrolled in the program will be considered in the state House of Representatives. 

We previously summarized a group of bills that would heavily regulate the EFA program to the point that its functionality and growth would be severely curtailed. The House will vote on two of those bills on Thursday. They are House Bills 1512 and 1594. 

HB 1512 would limit funding for the EFA program from the Education Trust Fund to so-called budgeted amounts. Specifically, the bill states that Education Trust Fund payments for EFAs “shall not exceed $19,800,000 for fiscal year 2024, and in subsequent fiscal years shall not exceed the amounts appropriated for such purpose in the biennial state operating budget.”

In other words, regardless of actual enrollment, the bill would limit EFA appropriations to the sums that legislators estimate would be needed to cover EFA enrollment. Critically, the bill misrepresents the program as one whose funding is intended to be fixed annually by a set annual appropriation. It is not. Just like public schools, the EFA program’s funding is based on enrollment. 

The “appropriated” amount to which HB 1512 refers is an estimate. Existing law directs the governor to draw a warrant to cover any costs that exceed the estimate, should program enrollment prove larger than budget writers guessed. The bill would simply forbid that warrant article from exceeding the estimate, effectively capping EFA enrollment.

While presented as a measure to protect the Education Trust Fund from unanticipated withdrawals, HB 1512 is in fact an effort to prohibit the organic growth of EFAs. The bill does not address anything other than EFAs that might result in a larger-than-budgeted state education expenditure. Public schools experience fluctuating enrollment every year, and thus also pose a risk of draining more from the trust fund than was previously estimated. The number of students who have special needs or come from disadvantaged backgrounds also fluctuates annually, and increases in those numbers cause larger withdrawals from the Education Trust Fund.

The truth is that enrollment in all educational options fluctuates from year to year, and budgeted amounts are merely projections (educated guesses). Assuming that actual spending on any form of public education should align with previous budgeted guesses would be a little like assuming that election results should align precisely with pre-election polling. The budgeted amount is the guess. The actual enrollment numbers are reality. It’s not the other way around.

Lawmakers accounted for those annual enrollment fluctuations when they designed the EFA program. That’s why the EFA statute lets its funding shrink or grow depending on actual program participation. 

As written, HB 1512 would change the EFA program to a set line item in the state’s biennial budget, though that’s not what it was intended to be. Funding for the EFA program is based on enrollment, just like public school spending is. This is the appropriate way to fund both.

The main argument for this legislation is the claim that the EFA program is “way over budget.” That’s not accurate, in that the statute funds the program based on enrollment, not a set line item in the budget. HB 1512, however, would bind the program to a set budget line while failing to hold the state’s spending formula for public education to the same standard. 

Taking EFAs away from kids while costing taxpayers more

This fundamental change in EFA funding would forcibly revoke EFAs from some children who currently have them because the program has already grown beyond the bill’s proposed spending limit. 

In the current fiscal year, appropriations for the EFA program are upwards of $22 million. Those appropriations are to meet the needs of the 4,933 enrolled students, a number that’s increased by 201.7% since the program’s inception and is expected to only keep growing, as the program is popular among families who seek an alternative to their children’s assigned public school. 

The bill also would increase, not cut, total education spending. The EFA program provides a publicly funded education at a fraction of the average per-pupil expenditure for New Hampshire public schools, which is currently $20,323 from all sources, state, local, and federal. The average per-pupil adequate education grant for an EFA is $5,255. Every student who moves from an EFA back to their assigned public school costs taxpayers more money, not less. 

Finally, HB 1512 seeks to solve a problem that doesn’t even exist. The Education Trust Fund is growing, not shrinking. Despite funding both public schools and EFAs, the Education Trust Fund ended the 2023 fiscal year with a surplus of $161 million and is projected to finish this fiscal year with a surplus of $232 million. 

Moreover, since public school enrollment has been falling for the last two decades and is expected to continue declining, the resulting extra money in the trust fund (even with the budgeted limit) would simply sit there unused as more and more students leave their government-assigned district public schools and enroll elsewhere. EFAs change that, allowing those students to take their per-pupil grants with them.

Another way to take EFAs away from kids

As HB 1512 attempts to cap the finances behind the EFA program, HB 1594 would further limit those who can participate in the program.

HB 1594 would establish “an annual review and qualification to determine eligibility to participate in the education freedom accounts program.” If a participant’s household income goes over the income cap (currently 350% of the federal poverty level) in any year, then that participant would cease to be eligible for the program and would lose the EFA.

Existing law requires that the income limit be met only when applying. That was done to provide continuity for families and prevent children from being sent back to an educational environment that didn’t work for them just because their family’s income grew during their time in school. 

But HB 1594 would effectively remove an EFA student from the program if, for example, his or her single parent making the average teacher’s salary in the state earned a raise of just $5,000. 

Cloaked under the guise of reigning in a “fiscally reckless” program, these regulations are specifically designed to force children back into their assigned public schools, even though their families have decided that those schools are not the best educational environments for them. 

These bills would remove students currently using EFAs from the program, which could be a jarring or even traumatic experience for some. 

They also would reduce competition in a growing educational marketplace by hamstringing the state’s largest school-choice program—one that saves taxpayers money. (See “Bartlett report shows that Education Freedom Accounts will save taxpayer money, improve student outcomes” and  “As NH public school district enrollment fell by 30,000 students in 19 years, spending rose by nearly $1 billion.”

Ultimately, each of these bills would not just restrict the growth of the EFA program but kick children out of it who are currently enrolled. They would do this in the name of protecting the Education Trust Fund, which enjoys a healthy surplus that is projected to exceed $200 million.   

The rest of the proposed measures to restrict EFAs—HB 1418, 1592, 1610, 1654, and SB 525—are due out of committee next week.


Imagine you own a small entertainment venue in New Hampshire. What’s the value of an aisle seat in Row 37 on a Wednesday night in April?

Let’s say you printed the date, the time and a price of $100 on the ticket. Would that make the ticket worth $100? How about $200?

No idea, right?

You don’t have enough information to answer that question. You first have to know: 1.) Who’s playing that night, and 2.) How much are people willing to pay to sit in that seat in that venue at that time for that artist?

The number of people interested in renting that seat for two hours on a Wednesday night would vary along with the popularity of the artist. That number would be lower for a Dead Kennedy’s show than for a Dua Lipa show. (Yes, we know who Dua Lipa is. Kind of.)

Everybody understands that the value of sitting in that particular seat for any given two-hour period is not fixed. It depends on who is on the stage, when, where, for how long, etc. In other words, the value depends entirely on demand. It doesn’t matter what price you print on the ticket if that price doesn’t reflect the actual demand for that seat at that time. 

So why do so many lawmakers (and consumers) assume that ticket prices set by venue operators reflect actual market value?

Venues have a lot of information that helps them set ticket prices. But ticket prices are not the same as ticket values. And extensive research into ticket prices has shown that venues and artists routinely underprice tickets relative to their market value for many reasons, including the desire to encourage sellouts (which maximizes concessions revenue) and avoid annoying fans.

“To maximize profits a promoter wants a sell-out as this maximizes complementary revenues and introduce the ‘crowd effect,’ meaning that consumers who believe a concert will be a sell-out are more attracted to the event and demand for tickets will intensify,” Hofstra University music industry professor Terrance Tompkins wrote in the International Journal of Music Business Research in 2019.

Industry professionals confirm what researchers have found.

“Average secondary ticket prices remain close to double that of a primary ticket, continuing to show the extent to which concerts and other live events remain priced below market value,” Music Business World, an industry publication, quoted Joe Berchtold, Live Nation’s President and Chief Financial Officer, as saying in a recent earnings call.

That huge gap between the retail price of event tickets and their market value drives the growth in the secondary market. People and policymakers like to hate on “scalpers.” But there wouldn’t be much of a secondary market if retail prices better reflected market value.

Concert ticket prices have risen dramatically in recent decades, reflecting a rise in demand and a rise in disposable income among the concert-going public. But generally speaking, retail prices often remain below market value, particularly for the most popular shows.

Senate Bill 328 would try to address this gap between price and value by imposing a price cap on the secondary market. Deceptively presented as a bill to ban deceptive resale practices, its last section forbids the resell of event tickets above face value.   

That’s a price cap, and price controls are bad. Banning the resale of tickets for more than face value won’t change the actual market value of tickets for popular events. It will create shortages in legitimate secondary ticket markets and stimulate a separate black market for event tickets. 

The Federal Trade Commission looked into ticket reselling in 2019 and organized a presentation by University of Chicago economist Eric Budish, who concluded, as so many other researchers have, that this market was driven by low retail ticket prices. 

“The structural economic issue is artists/teams sometimes want to ‘underprice’ their tickets relative to what the market will bear,” Budish concluded. “This creates an incentive for rent-seeking behavior.” (That means it creates an incentive for people to buy tickets at their obviously low prices and make a profit by selling them at the market price.)

The FTC suggested that only three ticket-selling options exist:

1. Set a market-clearing price in the primary market.

2. Set a below-market price in the primary market. Much of the “real” allocation will happen in the secondary market.

3. Set a below-market price in the primary market + ban resale.

Option 2 describes the current market, which is obviously not ideal. 

Option 3 describes the market as imagined in SB 328. This is also not ideal, as it would not solve the underlying problem but would expand the unregulated black market for tickets. It also likely would do little to curtail high markups in the secondary market, as law enforcement agencies rarely waste valuable officer time pursuing ticket resellers, which resellers know. 

The best option is Option 1: setting a market-clearing price in the primary market. There’s research to show that this has highly positive effects.

Budish, the Chicago economist who presented to the FTC in 2019, later worked with Bank of America economist Aditya Bhave to study Ticketmaster’s short-lived experiment in auctioning a portion of tickets for concerts in the early 2000s. In a study published last year, they compared set prices and auction prices in the primary market to the prices for comparable tickets to the same shows in the secondary market. 

Not surprisingly, they found that auctioning tickets instead of selling them for a set, below-market price all but eliminated the gap between retail and secondary market prices. And instead of scalpers collecting the difference between the set price and the market price, the artists did. 

When fans paid the market price directly to the venue, rather than to a reseller, “artist revenues roughly doubled,” they found.

The auctions allowed fans to find the market-clearing price before resellers could, which “eliminated or at least substantially reduced potential resale profits for speculators.”

Unfortunately, Ticketmaster discontinued its auctions. Fans, unaccustomed to paying market prices at the retail level, didn’t like it. And so the secondary market continued to grow, and resellers, rather than artists, enjoyed the benefits of selling tickets for their true market value.

Auctions would be the most efficient way to find the true market value of an event ticket, but venues could get close to that value in other ways. They could raise prices for the most valuable seats at the most popular shows, charge significantly higher prices when tickets first go on sale to discourage mass reseller purchases, or delay sales until closer to the show date. 

Venues also could choose to ban resales and require purchasers to show a photo ID at the door. But this doesn’t go over well with fans. It’s much easier to demand that lawmakers prevent resellers from making a profit. 

Lawmakers certainly can pass laws making it illegal to sell tickets at market prices. But they can’t ban the laws of economics. People will find ways to sell tickets at market value. It’s better that venues do this in the primary market. If they choose not to do this, ticket purchasers will–even if legislators tell them not to. Moving market-priced tickets from the legal market to the black market isn’t good for anyone and would be the worst of all options.

As pressure builds for local and state policymakers to address New Hampshire’s severe housing shortage, some activists and lawmakers are again blaming developers rather than regulators for the state’s high rents. 

Developers are building “too many” apartments for higher-income renters, some claim. This raises rents, hurting the poor, so government must intervene to make builders reserve a certain percentage of new construction for lower-income households, the argument goes. Some also want the state to give subsidies to low-income renters. 

The idea that building more apartments raises rents has achieved the status of conventional wisdom in some activist circles. It’s done so despite it being untrue, and confirmed untrue by growing stacks of economic evidence. 

Even academics repeat the claim. A California political science professor, in a February opinion column for New Hampshire Bulletin, wrote that “construction in the high-end ‘luxury’ rental market, which drives up rents for everyone else, remains in an upward trend.”

In fact, building more market-rate apartments reduces rents for middle-and lower-income households. This has been well established in academic research for years. And recent studies have provided more detailed confirmation of the effect.

A review of recent research on the subject finds:

  • Researchers at the Upjohn Institute and Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia found in 2019 that new market-rate apartment buildings “decrease nearby rents by 5 to 7 percent relative to locations slightly farther away or developed later.” They made a point of stating that the evidence ran against common complaints about market-rate apartment construction. “Contrary to common concerns, new buildings slow local rent increases rather than initiate or accelerate them,” they wrote.
  • A 2020 study by the National Multifamily Housing Council Research Foundation found that a “substantial flow of new construction apartments, largely targeted to middle- and higher-income groups, has enabled the ‘filtering’ process to create affordable housing opportunities for low-income households,” as a summary of the report put it. 
  • NYU researchers in a 2018 paper sought to answer claims that building market-rate apartments raised rents. “We ultimately conclude, from both theory and empirical evidence, that adding new homes moderates price increases and therefore makes housing more affordable to low- and moderate-income families.” They also noted that housing shortages are caused by regulations, not new construction. “Despite the arguments raised by supply skeptics, there is a considerable body of empirical research showing that less restrictive land use regulation is associated with lower prices. The evidence takes many forms. A large number of cross-sectional studies show that stricter (less strict) local land use regulations are associated with less (more) new construction and higher (lower) prices.
  • A 2021 UCLA review of recent studies on the effects of building market-rate apartments found overwhelming evidence that new construction of market-rate units lowers rents. Referencing the NYU paper cited above, the authors wrote: “Since that article came out two years ago, at least six working papers have been released that examine the connections between market-rate housing production and affordability at the neighborhood level. Four of the papers conclude that market-rate development makes nearby housing more, not less, affordable. The fifth paper looks at rents across entire cities rather than at the  neighborhood level, but finds that new development causes rents to fall for units across the income distribution. Findings in the sixth paper are mixed, and offer some reason to think new development makes nearby housing more expensive. Although the papers await peer review, and readers should bear that in mind, the importance and near-unanimity of their findings makes discussing them worthwhile.”

Building luxury or higher-end apartments draws higher-income renters out of yesterday’s luxury apartments and into the new luxury apartments. Increased vacancies in yesterday’s luxury apartments attract higher-income residents who’ve been living in mid-level apartments. As new construction creates more vacancies, rents come down. That effect filters throughout the housing supply, lowering rents all the way down. Economists call this “filtering,” and it’s an effect thoroughly established in academic and industry studies of rental housing markets. 

There’s no doubt that filtering occurs when enough new apartments are built. It can’t occur, though, if government prevents developers from creating those new high-end apartments. The problem in recent years has not been the creation of too many high-end apartments, but too few.

Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies pointed this out in 2020: 

“What is different about the recent dynamic is that new construction is accommodating a growing number of high-income households, but just barely. Indeed, despite the relatively high rents, the number of new apartment units being added each month is scarcely keeping up with growth in units rented out, or ‘absorbed’ by new renters. When new construction is only just meeting demand from new high-income renters, it means that, in effect, new high-end units are being rented out by new, high-income renters, rather than by current high-income renters trading up to a newer unit, and therefore fewer old units are left to ‘filter down’ to a lower-income renters.”

In other words, when developers are allowed to build more market-rate apartments, rents come down for everyone. When they aren’t, rents stay high. 

Enticing people to buy electric vehicles does not fit comfortably into the core duties of state government. And yet it’s among the list of pet causes legislators will consider subsidizing with other people’s money. 

The latest effort comes in House Bill 1472. The bill, as amended, would confiscate $1.5 million that belongs to electric utility ratepayers in New Hampshire and give it to people who buy or lease electric vehicles. The money would come from Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) funds currently rebated to ratepayers. 

The bill would facilitate this wealth transfer by creating a program through which EV buyers could claim rebates of $2,000 per fully electric vehicle and $1,000 per plug-in hybrid vehicle. Eligible vehicle sticker prices would be capped at $50,000 for cars and $80,000 for trucks, SUVs or commercial vans. 

Rebates would be available to individuals making no more than $75,000 a year, heads of household making no more than $112,500, and married couples making no more than $150,00 a year. The median household income in New Hampshire, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is $90,845. So HB 1472 would create a program through which moderate-and lower-income Granite Staters subsidize pricier-than-average car purchases for higher-income households. 

The idea behind this subsidy plan, as with most subsidies, is to use some people’s money to manipulate other people’s behavior. The beneficiary group in this case is middle-income car buyers. The victim group is everyone who uses electricity. To give middle-income car buyers up to $2,000 toward the purchase of a car that runs on electricity (mostly generated by nuclear fission or natural gas in New Hampshire), the scheme takes about $2 per year from the average residential electricity user. 

If timing is everything, then this bill is a party guest who arrives not three hours—but three years— late. The wealth transfer scheme comes amid a rapid decline in EV prices. 

Cox Automotive and Kelly Blue Book reported this month that EV prices fell 10.3% between January of 2023 and January of 2024. Prices for the Tesla Model Y, the best-selling EV in America, fell by 21% last year, from $63,000 to less than $50,000. 

EV prices are rapidly approaching price parity with conventional gas-powered vehicles. The price gap between EVs and conventional vehicles fell from 15% in 2022 to 8% in 2023 to just 4% at the start of 2024, according to industry news site CarEdge. At this rate, average EV prices could reach parity with conventional vehicle prices this year, which undermines any argument in favor of a subsidy. 

Federal subsidies and policies so distorted the EV market that automakers have built far more electric cars than consumers wanted. Though demand for EVs is rising, supply has risen far faster, leading manufacturers to slash prices to move excess inventory. Pushed to generate more EVs than consumers want at the moment, auto makers are losing billions of dollars on these government-favored vehicles. 

“Buyers looking to get a bargain on a new car might want to consider an electric vehicle,” The Wall Street Journal wrote in a news story on EV prices last November.

As a JD Power auto analyst explained to Newsweek in December: “Eventually manufacturers will achieve scale and profitability, but they are being pressured to accelerate the production of EVs at an unnatural rate due to various government initiatives.”

This is a cautionary tale about the unintended consequences of market manipulation. As lawmakers consider proposals to add a state subsidy for EVs, and subsidize other favored products or activities, it’s one worth heeding.