scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Record rent prices in New Hampshire spurred by ‘critically low’ vacancy rate

Some households get stuck renting because there aren’t enough affordable options for first-time homebuyers, according to New Hampshire Housing

This file photo shows a "For Rent" sign outside a building in Philadelphia in 2022. The cost of renting an apartment is easing after skyrocketing in recent years, though it remain painfully high for many Americans.Matt Rourke/Associated Press

This story first appeared in Globe NH | Morning Report, our free newsletter focused on the news you need to know about New Hampshire, including great coverage from the Boston Globe and links to interesting articles from other places. If you’d like to receive it via e-mail Monday through Friday, you can sign up here.

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — As policymakers warn about the economic downsides of New Hampshire’s way-too-tight housing market, renters are paying significantly more to live here this year than they did last year.

The statewide median cost to rent a market-rate two-bedroom apartment and pay for utilities has reached $1,764 per month, an increase of 11.4 percent year over year, according to survey results released this week by New Hampshire Housing.


While the increase is attributable partly to higher energy prices, it also reflects a long-term upward cost trend that’s rooted in the state’s “critically low vacancy rate,” according to New Hampshire Housing deputy executive director Ben Frost.

“The housing market remains exceedingly tight,” he said.

A vacancy rate of about 5 percent is considered a “balanced rental market” in which supply generally meets demand, but New Hampshire’s rental vacancy rate has been below 1 percent for each of the past three years, according to the survey report.

Some households get stuck renting because there aren’t enough affordable options for first-time homebuyers in New Hampshire, especially now that mortgage interest rates are hovering at 6 percent to 7 percent or higher, according to the report. That contributes to the low rental vacancy rate and rising rents.

The current housing shortage means New Hampshire needs more than 23,500 residential units, and that need is projected to reach 60,000 units by 2030 and 90,000 by 2040, according to a statewide assessment released earlier this year.


The solution? Build more housing. That means cities and towns need to change their regulations to accommodate more residential development, Frost said.

State lawmakers have taken helpful steps, Frost said, like appropriating money for the Affordable Housing Fund and creating a new “housing champions” program to recognize communities that are showing leadership on these issues. Now local officials need to take a careful look at their zoning ordinances and approval processes for residential developments.

“That’s the number one thing,” he said.

To help policymakers and the general public make sense of the complex rules that differ from one town to the next, researchers affiliated with Saint Anselm College published the New Hampshire Zoning Atlas earlier this year.

Data compiled by the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows that renting a two-bedroom apartment is less affordable in New Hampshire than it is in either Maine or Vermont. But the rental market in New Hampshire is still more affordable than Massachusetts.

The Big Picture

Portsmouth, N.H. police detective Erik Widerstrom and New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Rachel Harrington present a 1983 booking photo of Ronney James Lee during a press conference Thursday, July 20, 2023. Investigators concluded that Lee, who died in 2005, is the man who killed 23-year-old Laura Kempton in her apartment in 1981. Steven Porter/Globe Staff

Steven Porter can be reached at Follow him @reporterporter.