Though a housing shortage amid rising demand continues to push prices up in most of the country, some cities in Florida and Texas are seeing housing prices fall. How? They’ve built a lot more housing, The Wall Street Journal reports.

In most of the U.S., the limited number of homes for sale is pushing prices back toward record highs. Sale prices for single-family existing homes rose in 93% of U.S. metro areas during the first quarter, according to the National Association of Realtors. The median single-family existing-home price grew 5% from a year ago to $389,400.

Yet the market is cooling and prices have started falling in some cities in Florida and Texas, where robust home-building activity in recent years has helped boost the number of homes for sale. The two states accounted for more than a quarter of all single-family residential building permits every year from 2019 to 2023, according to Census Bureau data.

In 10 Texas and Florida metro areas, the inventory of homes for sale in April exceeded typical prepandemic levels for this time of year, according to Realtor.com. In eight of those markets, pending sales in April fell from a year earlier.

In Florida and Texas, “we’re starting to get into a buyer’s market,” said Rick Palacios Jr., director of research at John Burns Research & Consulting.

Only five of the 50 biggest markets posted year-over-year price declines in March, according to data provider Intercontinental Exchange, and four of them were in Texas or Florida: Austin, Texas; North Port, Fla.; Cape Coral, Fla.; and San Antonio.

In Portsmouth and Manchester, where new rental construction has accelerated in recent years, bringing thousands of new units onto the market, prices remain stubbornly high. Some policymakers and observers have suggested that this disproves the idea that adding more supply will lower prices. It does not. New Hampshire’s supply remains tens of thousands of units short of demand. For prices to stabilize, supply will have to approach demand, which will take decades at the current pace of construction.

Stabilizing home prices by letting the market bring supply in line with demand cannot be done overnight. It’s a years-long process. But Florida and Texas show that it can be done.

As part of their doctorate-level education, optometrists learn how to perform minor surgeries, including some laser eye surgeries. Yet New Hampshire law prohibits optometrists from doing any surgeries, even ones they’re trained to do.

Only ophthalmologists (physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care) are permitted by law to perform laser procedures in New Hampshire. This restriction reduces the availability of certain eye care procedures and forces patients to go to specialists when they don’t really need one. 

Optometrists are trying to lift this outdated regulation and make some other changes to their state oversight so they can offer Granite Staters additional services they’re qualified to perform. 

Senate Bill 440 would, in a word, modernize the regulation of optometry in New Hampshire. This includes changing what constitutes the practice of optometry and moving scope of practice decisions and rulemaking authority to the state Board of Optometry (as opposed to relying on state statutes), all to treat optometry like other doctorate-level independently practicing professions in New Hampshire.

Currently, optometrists in 12 states can perform laser surgeries, according to the American Optometric Association: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. 

These procedures include YAG (yttrium aluminum garnet) laser capsulotomy to remove clouded tissue on the back of the lens implant after cataract surgery; LPI (laser peripheral iridotomy) and SLT (selective laser trabeculoplasty) for treating some forms of glaucoma; and excision, removal, drainage, or injection of a variety of “lumps and bumps.”

The New Hampshire Medical Society opposes SB 440, saying it would jeopardize the health and safety of patients. Evidence from other states suggests otherwise.

Russell Laverty, OD, executive director of the Oklahoma Board of Examiners in Optometry, wrote to the Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee that Oklahoma allowed optometrists to do laser eye surgeries starting in 1998. 

“Since 1998 there have been an additional estimated over 50,000 laser surgery procedures in which there were no complaints registered,” he wrote.

Since 2011, optometrists have performed more than 60,000 laser procedures in Kentucky, according to Joe E. Ellis, OD, president of the Kentucky Board of Optometric Examiners. The board hasn’t received any complaints or been notified of any adverse effects related to the surgeries, according to Dr. Ellis.

Dr. Nate Lighthizer, optometrist and associate dean at the Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry, testified in writing that more than 30,000 laser procedures in total have been performed by optometrists in Louisiana since 2014, Alaska since 2017, and Arkansas from 2021–22 combined. How many negative outcomes have been reported across all three states? Zero.

The reason for the shortage of complaints is simple. Optometrists are trained to perform minor laser and traditional surgeries. According to Laverty and Lighthizer, laser procedure is taught to every optometry student in every college of optometry in the United States, where students earn Doctor of Optometry (OD) degrees after roughly four years of graduate study. 

By keeping professionally licensed optometrists from doing what they were specially trained to do, Granite Staters’ access to necessary eye care has been severely limited, especially in rural New Hampshire. 

According to data from the American Optometric Association, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the American Medical Association, there are optometrists currently practicing in all 10 New Hampshire counties. In Coos and Sullivan counties, however, optometrists are the only local eye care providers for the 26,163 urban residents and 48,682 rural residents between these two jurisdictions. 

That means that residents of Coos and Sullivan counties have to travel to neighboring counties to find the nearest ophthalmologist to perform some surgeries that could be performed by a resident optometrist.

In Carroll County, which is 90% rural, there are 1.7 optometrists per 10,000 people but only 0.2 ophthalmologists per 10,000. 

Moreover, each of the four New Hampshire counties with more than 100,000 residents (Hillsborough, Merrimack, Rockingham, and Strafford) has at least one optometrist per 10,000 people, but not one has at least one ophthalmologist per 10,000. 

With few ophthalmologists statewide, wait times for these laser procedures, that only they can legally perform, are very long in New Hampshire. 

The average total wait time for YAG, LPI, SLT, and “lumps and bumps” operations, both for the consultation and the actual procedure combined, are 3.8 months, 3.6 months, 4.6 months, and 4.2 months, respectively, per the New Hampshire Optometric Association (NHOA). 

Anecdotes gathered by an NHOA survey of member-owned practices across the state lend credence to these statistics:

“Recently what was a 1–3 month wait for SLT (selective laser trabeculoplasty) has turned into a 10-month wait, a disturbing access problem for my patients.” – Conway Eye Care, North Conway

As of January 1st this year Mt. Ascutney has 1 cataract surgeon who stopped taking new patients over 1.5 years ago. The one and only cataract surgeon in Montpelier booking 6 months out for the consult. ANY referral to DHMC ophthalmology (which is less than 10 minutes from our office) is a minimum of 4 months but usually longer. But DHMC stopped accepting new patients for ANY glaucoma related issues 2 months ago. The oculoplastics MD left DHMC, hasn’t been replaced yet so patients have to go to Concord or Burlington, VT. DHMC has not been accepting new patients in the retina clinic for ~ 2 years, they now have 1 retina specialist (intravitreal injections).” – Dr. Sheila Hastie, Lebanon

“Patients are frustrated when they cannot see properly to drive, waiting for a YAG procedure that takes 2–4 months to get into the surgeon’s office. I recently had a patient who waited over three months for evaluation and then an additional two months for both eyes to be treated.” – Dr. Chris Daldine and Dr. Pattie Samuel Daldine, Nashua

“We have referred to Dartmouth-Hitchcock for many different types of visits and they are not accepting referrals of any kind and asking us to send patients elsewhere. We have also sent referrals to Concord Eye Center, Medical Eye, and NH Eye and they will run redundant diagnostic tests/visits confirming that the patient needs the referral even though they have received all visit notes and testing data in the referral. This adds unnecessary financial burden on patients and insurance companies.” – Capital Vision Center, Concord 

These problems will only worsen as the supply of ophthalmologists continues to shrink, as it’s projected to do. As Edward Timmons, director of the Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation at West Virginia University, cites, 450 ophthalmologists became eligible to start working in 2022, but 550 ophthalmologists retired that year—a net loss of 100 providers nationwide in 2022 alone.  

Research published in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, estimates “a sizeable shortage of ophthalmology supply relative to demand by the year 2035, with substantial geographic disparities.”

The monopoly that ophthalmologists in New Hampshire have over eye surgeries, including minor ones optometrists are trained to do, has led to limited access to eye care, longer wait times and delayed procedures for Granite Staters. 

When supply of a service is artificially limited, but demand remains constant or increases, costs for that service inevitably increase. 

In the face of these facts, the opposition to SB 440 looks less like concern for patient health, safety and well-being and more like ophthalmologists protecting their turf by limiting competition. 

Simply permitting optometrists to do what they were trained to do would be an obvious way to address many of these problems.



Everybody loves wineries and craft breweries. Everyone except New Hampshire state statutes, that is. New Hampshire statutes show about as much affection for wineries and craft breweries as the English have for the French, or snooty wine drinkers have for rowdy beer drinkers. 

For example, say you own a winery or craft brewery in New Hampshire, but your location is not exactly on the beaten path. You’re not drawing a lot of tourists down your windy rural road. However, lawmakers have graciously allowed you to have a separate retail outlet, and you created one in a busy tourist area. 

Great for business! Unless people want to taste your product before buying it. 

State law says that breweries and wineries can have a single license for on-premises alcohol sales—at the manufacturing location. Want to sell open drinks at your retail location—where potential customers actually are? Sorry. 

You can sell closed-container drinks at your retail outlet, but not open-container drinks. Because,., safety. Or something. 

This has been a problem for Apollo Vineyards in Derry. Restricted to serving wine only at their vineyard, they’re losing potential sales that could come from being able to serve at a retail outlet in a more prominent location.

House Bill 1076 would sort-of fix that problem by allowing wineries and breweries to choose whether to use their one on-premises license at the manufacturing facility or at the retail outlet.

Shouldn’t they be able to sell at both places, you might ask. 

What do you think this is, the 21st century?

So what about brew pubs, which are a separate category in state law? Let’s say you own several restaurants in New Hampshire but have decided to also open a single brew pub because, well, brew pubs are cool and hip and trendy and you have a great idea for one. 

Trivia question: Is it legal for you to do that?

Don’t be ridiculous. This is New Hampshire. Of course it isn’t legal.

State law prevents a beer manufacturer from also owning multiple on-premises alcohol licenses (such as for a restaurant or bar).

It turns out that this particular law has caused a huge problem for the owners of Lost Cowboy Brewing Co., which is under construction in Nashua. It’s being opened by Michael Timothy’s Group, which owns Buckley’s Great Steaks in Merrimack and Surf in Nashua and Portsmouth, among other restaurants. 

Technically, their new venture is not a restaurant, but a beer manufacturer. So, technically, they can’t own it and be licensed to sell alcohol at their other restaurants. 

House Bill 1380 would fix that by allowing a company that owns a beer manufacturing license to also hold licenses that allow the sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on-or off-site. And, as amended, it would allow the owner to sell the beer from his brewery at one of his restaurants. Just one. 

Now, you might be wondering what possible public health or safety justification there could be for prohibiting a company from distributing beer it makes at a local brew pub to more than one restaurant it owns elsewhere in the state. 

Well, welcome to New Hampshire alcohol laws. The ghosts of Prohibition haunt these statutes. Each tiny step into modernity, such as the bills listed above, exorcises one of those pesky Prohibition ghosts, even though others usually work their way into the bills to pull them back a bit toward the 1930s. It’s a seemingly never-ending struggle between the future and the past.

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.



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 Indeed.com 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.

Child care in New Hampshire is often hard to find and, when you do, expensive. A bipartisan group of legislators has offered families some relief in a surprising way: zoning reform.

Child care offered to small groups of children in a caregiver’s home was once a popular option for many families. But professionalization and regulation of the industry produced a shift toward large (and expensive) commercial day care centers. A lot of families looking for cheaper alternatives today wonder where the old-fashioned, home-based child care providers went.

Many municipalities, it turns out, have passed zoning regulations prohibiting or restricting them.

“Many state and local governments have considered home daycares a ‘problem use’ and have therefore used zoning restrictions to ban them. Such restrictions reduce the availability of childcare in the affected neighborhoods and further increase the price of childcare services,” the Cato Institute’s Ryan Bourne has found.

House Bill 1567 would fix that in New Hampshire by requiring local zoning regulations to allow family child care programs as an accessory use (by right) to any primary residential use. 

Such home-base child care programs would be allowed “as long as all requirements for such programs adopted in rules of the department of health and human services (He-C 4002) are met,” the bill states.

Child care is expensive for many reasons, some of them regulatory. It is particularly expensive in New Hampshire. 

According to Child Care Aware, child care in New Hampshire costs an average of $10,140 per year for an infant in family child care and $10,400 for a toddler in family child care. For an infant and toddler in center-based child care, New Hampshire families are spending an average of $15,340 and $14,235 per year, respectively. 

On the “low end,” then, family child care for an infant accounts for 21% of per capita income in New Hampshire and 11.2% of medium household income in the state, while center-based child care for a toddler represents 29.5% of per capita income and 15.7% of medium household income in New Hampshire.

For context, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services considers its benchmark for affordable child care to be 7% of income. 

HB 1567 would not solve this problem, but it would help lower costs by largely doing away with “problem use” restrictions in residential zoning districts. This change would open more of the state to home-based family child care, free up the supply of those services, and, in turn, help reduce prices. 

This is a smart and efficient way to help lower child care costs by removing an unnecessary regulatory barrier that prohibits the entry of low-cost competitors into the marketplace. 

Legislators could achieve similar results by applying this same approach to a similar service: education.

Since the COVID-19 school closures, interest in small-scale education alternatives has exploded. Many families would love to send their children to home-based education providers in their own neighborhoods. But as teachers and former teachers have begun offering these services, they’ve sometimes run into the same zoning problems troubling many would-be day care providers. 

Kerry McDonald, senior education fellow with the Foundation for Economic Education, wrote two years ago for the Josiah Bartlett Center about a New Hampshire educator who encountered this problem: 

For Becky Owens in Chester, trying to offer sporadic homeschool programs on her farm property turned into a regulatory headache that likely would have deterred many other aspiring education entrepreneurs from moving forward. Owens had been homeschooling her own five children for several years, after pulling her oldest son from the local public elementary school because it wasn’t a good fit for her shy, sensitive boy. She wanted a more personalized educational environment for him and her other children that would be responsive to their individual learning needs and styles.

A college professor for 15 years with a Ph.D. in education, Owens decided to create that personalized learning environment, and eventually expand her offerings to other children in her community. In 2020, she decided to host occasional nature hikes on her property for small groups of local homeschoolers. She had a handful of students register for one of her hikes, and she placed a chalkboard sign in front of her house with the words “Farm Rich Nature Hike” so families could find her.

This simple gesture set off a cascade of events involving the local building inspector, who issued her a “cease and desist” letter for her farm walks. Over the subsequent weeks, Owens had to prepare numerous documents for local officials, including an aerial view of her property, and appear before the planning board to ask for permission to operate as a home-based business. She also had a property inspection from the local fire chief, even though her program was held entirely outside. All of this was required just so Owens could welcome a few children to her property for a nature walk. Her walks never exceeded 10 kids.

And although these local regulatory roadblocks didn’t stop Owens (eventually she got approved to operate as a home-based business), she’s the exception that proves the rule. Who knows how many other aspiring education entrepreneurs seeking to offer alternative learning environments have either given up when faced with such prospects or haven’t even tried. 

As with child care, some municipalities don’t allow “education” services to be offered in residential zones even if all other regulations are followed and there’s no impact on the neighbors. The provision of the service itself is forbidden.

HB 1567 offers a blueprint for how the state can easily expand the marketplace for needed services simply by allowing home-based providers to offer them on a small scale, provided the service doesn’t violate other rules that offer legitimate protections for consumers and neighbors.

 

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. 

 

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.