Despite the well-documented need for affordable housing, we are encountering stiff opposition to our proposed project at 17 Bay Street in Laconia. The project would clean up a burned-out building and create 12 efficiency apartments for individuals with less than $20,000 in income who are experiencing homelessness or at-risk of homelessness.
Lakes Region Mental Health Center (LRMHC) would provide supportive services to the tenants, including benefits counseling, financial management, independent living skills training, healthcare management, employment services, and crisis intervention.
LRMHC serves thousands of Lakes Region residents every year. Among their existing clients, approximately 100 people lack stable housing. These are the people to whom the Bay Street apartments would be marketed.
This type of housing is called supportive housing because it combines affordable housing with supportive services to help ensure tenants are successful at maintaining their housing. Evidence-based practices to address homelessness include the creation of supportive housing. If you are interested to learn more, please check out the Corporation for Supportive Housing.
The crisis of unsheltered homelessness will not subside on its own. We must create more housing opportunities for people of very low income. The Bay Street proposal is a reasonable way to do this.
We go back to the Planning Board on October 3rd. This project is being considered under the City’s Performance Zoning ordinance, which gives the Planning Board the authority to approve a project that doesn’t comply with the regular zoning rules if the project is well-planned, compatible with adjacent parcels, enhances the overall community, and mitigates negative impacts on municipal services. We argue that the Bay Street project meets these criteria.
The project will clean up a public nuisance, help address an issue that puts a strain on municipal services, increase tax revenue to the City, and improve surrounding property values. The neighborhood is made up mostly of rental properties and other commercial buildings.
The decision seems to be coming down to parking. We are proposing 12 efficiency units with maximum occupancy of one person per apartment. The site plan includes six parking spaces, and we are confident this is sufficient. LRMHC already works with the people most likely to live in the building – only 10% of this population has a vehicle. Most simply do not have enough income to own a car. And if parking ever becomes an issue, LRMHC has the resources to provide off-site parking and transportation.
If you are a Laconia resident, I encourage you to review the materials about our project on the City’s website and attend the October 3rd Planning Board meeting to share your thoughts.
Lakes Region Community Developers