"Not Very Many Options for the People Who Are Working Here:" Rural Housing Challenges Through the Lens of Two New England Communities

Publisher: Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation
Jan 30, 2018
Jessica A. Carson and Marybeth J. Mattingly

Key Findings:

  • Many rural places are challenged by unaffordable and inadequate housing.
  • In rural communities with scenic amenities, the draw of second-home owners and retirees restricts housing options for local working families. Land use regulations to preserve the scenery in these places limits options for developing affordable housing.
  • The federal safety net provides good options for many rural residents struggling with housing costs, but the programs are often insufficiently funded to reach all residents in need.
  • Policy makers and practitioners should consider innovative ways to improve and leverage existing housing stock in order to expand affordable, high-quality options for local working families.
This brief uses interview and focus group data to describe some of the ways that restricted rural housing stock affects working families in two rural New England counties, and explores solutions proposed by rural residents and experts to make housing affordable. Rural amenities and scenery make residence in certain New England regions desirable for second-home owners, vacationers, and retirees. However, the use of housing for these purposes, combined with efforts to conserve acreage and preserve scenery, serves to diminish the supply of housing, making it unaffordable for many low- and moderate-income residents. Moreover, the housing that is available varies in quality, and regional nonprofit and federal housing assistance programs lack the capacity to meet all residents’ needs.