Metro

In N.H., Christie pledges to focus on affordable housing

MANCHESTER, N.H. – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie acknowledged Friday that housing affordability is “not the sexiest issue.” But he said that if elected president, he would reach out to governors in the most needy states to get an idea of what needs to be done by the federal government.

“I came here today because I’ve seen the effect that housing has had in my state, or that lack of housing has had in my state, and I think we need to fix it,” said Christie, one of seven presidential candidates who spoke at the New Hampshire Housing Summit, held at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.

Affordable housing is rarely at the top of candidates’ agenda or a topic in presidential debates, despite the fact that 75 percent of New Hampshire voters believe it’s an issue political leaders need to focus on, according to a UNH Survey Center poll.

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New Hampshire — like many other states — has seen a housing squeeze in recent years. Since 2000, median rents have increased by nearly 50 percent, according to the state housing authority. In 2013, nearly 36 percent of New Hampshire households paid more than 30 percent of their gross incomes on housing, according to a recent Harvard study.

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Megan Sandel, a pediatrician from the Boston University School of Medicine, asked Christie why housing isn’t being discussed, when income inequality is.

“No one asks,” he responded. “It’s not what they want for entertainment because no one is going to argue on it.”

Christie’s answer resonated with Sandel. “I think if we don’t talk about it, we’re never going to address it,” she said. “This is an issue that when you get it right, it really is the foundation for the future of America.”

In a panel at the summit, millennials were asked if and how housing affordability impedes their plans and goals.

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Shaun Kern of the American Bankers Association, a 2011 Georgetown University Law Center graduate, noted that students like him usually have an average of $125,000 in debt, which can disrupt their long-term plans.

“Am I going to open houses thinking about where I’m going to settle down?” he asked. “Not yet.”

Christie said people don’t usually make the correlation between housing and health or education, but they should.

“We don’t make that correlation because it’s also one of the really ugly undersides of the American economy.”

Christie has been campaigning heavily in New Hampshire but remains an underdog. A Gravis poll taken earlier this month showed him with 3 percent support among likely Republican primary voters.

Amelia Fabiano can be reached at amelia_fabiano@emerson.edu.