NHARPC CORNER: Regional Planning and Coordination are Critical to Addressing New Hampshire’s Housing Crisis

New Hampshire faces a housing shortage that is affecting urban and rural areas alike. There is growing recognition that a lack of housing options is stifling our economy, harming businesses’ ability to recruit employees, placing financial hardship on many working and middle-class families, and, in some cases, leading to housing insecurity and homelessness. This recognition is backed up by the data. Over the past couple of years, rental vacancies have hovered in the range of 1-2%, well below the 5% that’s recognized as an indicator of a balanced market.

Survival Through Regionalization: Effective Models for Intergovernmental Cooperation and Group Purchasing

All local governments want to save time and money in the procurement of goods and the provision of public services. How this is achieved varies from one municipality, county and school district to another. Regionalization, whereby two or more units of government work together to solve problems and seek common solutions, is clearly gaining in importance across New Hampshire as a successful approach for governmental efficiency. The term “regionalization” is also commonly referred to as inter-municipal, inter-local, or inter-governmental sharing arrangements or agreements.

Regional Planning Commissions: Supporting New Hampshire Communities

In 1969 the State of New Hampshire demonstrated support for local control by enabling municipalities to create regional planning commissions. Prior to then, a number of nonprofit organizations such as the Upper Valley Development Council, Inc. (1963) and Nashua Commission (1959) began forming around the state to meet the growing need to plan for development across municipal borders.

Inter-Municipal Sharing Agreements: What’s New?

The July/August 2010 issue of New Hampshire Town and City magazine ran a series of articles under the banner, “Beyond the Sandbox: Sharing Services through Inter-Municipal Cooperation, Collaboration and Innovation.” The centerpiece of that series was a research summary of the New Hampshire Municipal Association’s (NHMA) first statewide survey of inter-municipal agreements.

Sharing Agreements Require a Collaborative Approach

Successful partnerships often begin with a conversation that starts with a “what if … ?” scenario. Shared boundaries or established cooperatives, such as a school district, create an obvious connection and serve as a starting point from which to explore opportunities and build consensus. Municipalities responding to LGC’s recent survey of cooperative agreements reported a variety of collaborative arrangements. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to sharing agreements, but the following established models may offer ideas to adapt to your community.

Establishing a Purchasing Cooperative in the Southern New Hampshire Region

In the summer of 2008, New Hampshire municipalities got word that the New Hampshire Departments of Administrative Services (DAS) and Transportation (DOT) were revising the way the state requests bids for purchasing winter road salt. In the past, both departments had guaranteed that cities and towns would pay the same price the state pays for salt.

Laws Governing Inter-Municipal Regional Cooperation

Regional cooperation among New Hampshire towns does not come naturally. On the contrary, from earliest times, towns have cherished their self-sufficiency. In fact, historically, new towns were formed by partition of established towns, because settlers in one part of town wanted independence from those on the other side of town. Over time, each community developed its own ways of doing things, including local government. The opportunities for cooperation with adjoining municipalities were few, and hard to take advantage of.

LGC’s 2010 Regionalization Survey: Summary Report

Across New Hampshire, how many regional, cooperative, sharing agreements exist between two or more towns and cities? What types of inter-municipal arrangements have been created, whereby municipalities may share personnel, services, programs, equipment, or may pool their resources to leverage purchasing power? These questions were addressed this spring by an LGC survey of key local officials and employees.

Municipal/School Cooperative Agreements Offer Valuable Savings Opportunities

A recent regionalization survey by LGC asked: “Are there any cooperative agreements between your municipality and school district(s)?” And, even though nearly all districts in New Hampshire are independent of their respective communities, 40 percent of the respondents said that they do have interlocal agreements and have forged partnership as a way to save money, maximize use of facilities and tap into an area of expertise to avoid duplication.

Local Governments Respond to Fiscal Challenges

This article was originally published in Municipal Advocate, a publication of the Massachusetts Municipal Association. Reprinted with permission.

The economic struggles of local governments mirror those of the nation, according to a survey conducted by International City/County Management Association in September. Decreasing revenue from property taxes, sales taxes and new construction permits, along with sluggish sales of new and older homes, are all contributing to local government anxiety.