Portsmouth is a city of 21,000 people about 50 miles north of Boston, on the New Hampshire seacoast. First settled in 1623, Portsmouth's location at the mouth of the Piscataqua River made it an important seaport and a regional transportation and commercial center. Two federal military installations, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard which was established in 1880 and Pease Air Force Base which was established in the 1950s, contributed to the local economy. In the early 1990s, Pease Air Force Base was closed and converted into the Pease International Tradeport. The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard continues to be an integral player in the local economy. Portsmouth is now known for its diverse economy as well as its historic character.
In its Consolidated Plan, the city of Portsmouth describes its housing and community development needs and a 5-year strategy for addressing these needs. For the first year of the plan, Portsmouth is requesting $882,000 in Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) entitlement funds. This money will be used to finance 36 housing, community development, and service activities planned for Fiscal Year 1995-1996.
Citizen input was an integral part of the development of the Consolidated Plan and was obtained from a variety of sources, including individuals, public service agencies, and neighborhood and business groups. A Citizen's Advisory Committee, first convened in 1975, oversees the expenditure of CDBG funds and facilitates the involvement of the citizens of Portsmouth in the process.
Two meetings were held with public service provider organizations early in the planning process. To gather opinions on the Consolidated Plan from city residents, a public hearing was convened on February 13, 1995. Community needs identified at this time were incorporated into the plan. A second public hearing on April 10, 1995, gathered comments on priorities, goals, and activities described in the Consolidated Plan. The plan was made available for a 30-day public review period in the Public Library and the city Planning Department and mailed to anyone requesting a copy. At the end of this period, another public hearing was held before the city council adopted the plan.
MAP 1 depicts points of interest in the jurisdiction.
Portsmouth is easily accessible from five major highways, is served by several interstate bus lines and has daily commercial flights from Pease International Tradeport. Portsmouth's core contains the central business district, older housing, historic areas and small scale commercial developments. The surrounding area is the location for most newer commercial/industrial facilities.
According to the 1990 census, Portsmouth's population was 25,264 prior to the closure of Pease Air Force Base. The closing of this base caused a loss of about 5,069 residents, almost one-fifth of the census count. Now the city's population is approximately 21,000.
In 1990 there were 10,173 households in the city. About half (5,129) were family households and 95 percent of these, or 4,870 households, had children in residence. The remaining households were nonfamily, 58 percent of which (2,929) were single-person households.
Individuals aged 25 to 44 represent the largest segment, 37 percent, of the city's population. The next largest, 15 percent, were those aged 65 or older. Children and youth from ages 5 to 17 were the third largest group, with 12 percent of the population. With the closing of Pease AFB, the proportion of those 65 or older increased, partly because the base population was primarily composed of younger people.
Portsmouth's 1990 minority population represented 5.5 percent of the total population, about 1,141 persons. Of the minorities, 66.6 percent were black; 9.6 percent were Native American; 19.7 percent were Asian and Pacific Islander; and 4.0 percent were other minorities. There were no areas of racial/ethnic minority concentration.
Fifty-eight percent of households in 1990 were renters. Households with 80 percent or less of median income are defined as extremely low- to moderate-income. Of Portsmouth's 5,953 renter households, 3,254 (55 percent) met this definition. The 1990 census reflects the following composition of Portsmouth renter households:
Owner-occupants made up 4,358 of Portsmouth's households. The composition of owner households was:
MAP 2 depicts points of interest and low-moderate income areas.
MAP 3 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, and minority concentration levels.
MAP 4 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, and unemployment levels.
With the closing of Pease Air Force Base, Portsmouth lost a large Federal payroll which was important to the local economy. Increased housing costs combined with a lack of well-paying jobs have caused many households to move to more affordable areas. Between 1990 and 1993, there was an estimated net population loss of 1.8 percent.
There is a need for affordable assisted housing for lower income households. In addition, large low- to medium-income families need more three- and four-bedroom apartment units. Prospective homeowners among low- to medium-income families need assistance to purchase housing in Portsmouth because of the price of housing relative to their incomes. Further, there is a continuing need for rehabilitation of substandard housing units, both rental and owner-occupied units.
The city's Tax Assessor's Office indicates that there were a total of 10,144 dwelling units in Portsmouth as of October 1993. The housing mix is as follows:
Housing units in multifamily structures of two or more units make up almost 60 percent of the city's housing stock.
Of the approximately 6,539 rental housing units in Portsmouth in 1990, 6,003 were occupied, giving a rental vacancy rate of 8.2 percent. This was considerably higher than during the mid- to late-1980s when vacancy rates of 2 to 3 percent were typical. The higher percentage of rental vacancies is attributed to the shutdown of Pease AFB, and appears to have been a short-term anomaly.
The current (March 1995) vacancy rate is between 2 and 4 percent. Housing managers describe an increasingly tight housing market in the New Hampshire Seacoast region. This is partially the result of seasonal occupancy. Seacoast towns are a tourist destination in the summer; occupancy increases in the spring and remains high through the fall.
Median contract rent at the time of the 1990 census was $497 per month. This seemingly low median rent is influenced by the large number of small rental units and by the number of units receiving some kind of subsidy. Most rental units in the city are now priced at $500 to $700 a month, with informal surveys suggesting that rents are creeping upward.
Portsmouth's housing stock is in various states of repair. The city's CDBG-sponsored housing rehabilitation program has been very successful in upgrading housing in older city neighborhoods. Since 1973, more than 400 housing units -- both renter and owner-occupied -- have been rehabilitated at a cost of more than $1.6 million.
An important need is to assist "cost-burdened" and "severely cost-burdened" households, both renters and owner-occupants. A household with a housing cost burden is one with occupancy costs (including utility expenses) in excess of 30 percent of its income. A severely cost-burdened household is one where occupancy costs exceed 50 percent of income.
Nearly one-third (30 percent) of Portsmouth's 5,953 renter households are housing cost-burdened, with 10 percent suffering severe cost burdens. One contributing factor is higher than average utility bills. Many homes in older neighborhoods need modernization and weatherization to improve energy efficiency, but property owners have little incentive to undertake rehabilitation when energy costs are borne by the renter.
More than 25 percent of the city's 4,358 owner households also experience cost burden problems. This is due in large part to mortgage lending practices which allow a household to commit as much as 33 percent of its gross income to mortgage principal, interest, taxes, and real estate insurance. Energy inefficiency in older homes only exacerbates the cost burden.
The number of homeless persons in Portsmouth, based on a count by shelter personnel on January 31, 1995, was 85. Of these, 54 were members of families with children and 31 were adult individuals. All but 10 were living in emergency shelters or transitional housing.
Over a full year, the total number of homeless persons requiring assistance is estimated at 179. This includes 77 persons in 28 families with children, and 16 youth (17 years of age or younger) and 86 adults (18 or older) not in families. Of these, 14 families with 42 members remained unsheltered, as did 3 youths and 45 individual adults. The rest were served by emergency shelters or transitional housing.
Subpopulations of the homeless with special needs as determined during the year, are as follows:
Homeless youth are an unserved population in Portsmouth and the New Hampshire seacoast region. There is no emergency shelter to assist homeless adolescents who often wander from one friend's home to another.
Those threatened with homelessness include single-parent households that are unable to afford housing in the current market. Young families in which both parents earn minimum wages are also at risk of homelessness.
There is a significant need for more emergency shelter space, especially units for families, as well as a need for additional transitional housing with support services. A need is evident for support services for persons with severe mental illness, alcohol/drug abusers, victims of domestic violence, and persons with HIV/AIDS.
Coordination among the many nonprofit and public agencies facilitates the delivery of services to both prevent homelessness and assist the homeless in the Portsmouth area. A "continuum of care" offers housing and services including emergency shelters, and both transitional and permanent housing for those moving toward self-sufficiency and independent living arrangements. In addition, there are prevention/intervention services, transportation, substance abuse counseling, and many other services (including legal, child care, counseling, and health care) to provide support as necessary.
The Portsmouth Housing Authority (PHA) owns and manages a total of 421 public housing units and administers a Section 8 rental assistance program with 256 certificates.
One of the authority's public housing projects contains 124 units of family housing; another six developments are intended for the elderly and have 297 units. Dispersed among the family and elderly housing are 28 handicapped-accessible units. The waiting list for PHA public housing units or Section 8 certificates includes 52 elderly households and 84 family households.
The authority's public housing units are in good condition but need maintenance and upgrading. This is being funded under a 5-year action plan approved by the HUD Comprehensive Grant Program for public housing agencies. (HUD programs for public housing are separate from CDBG funding, though some CDBG-funded public service programs will also benefit public housing residents.)
PHA Housing Corporation, a nonprofit subsidiary of the Portsmouth Housing Authority, owns and manages 100 units of subsidized housing. The housing authority also provides management services to another 106 subsidized units of elderly housing in two projects created by private developers under Federal programs.
Previous reviews of Portsmouth's zoning ordinance, subdivision regulations, and building code have determined that the city regulations are not an impediment to development of affordable housing. The zoning ordinance permits all types of housing in different zones throughout the city, and residential construction at low to high densities. The building code is the national model, with no local amendments that affect residential construction.
The main obstacle hindering the production of housing for lower income households is the limited availability and high price of vacant land in the city. Another barrier is the high cost of extending utilities to these sites, which are primarily in outlying areas.
Portsmouth plans to complete an analysis of the impediments to fair housing choice within 1 year of the consolidated plan rule (February 6, 1996).
Lead-based paint is present in approximately 99 percent of all housing units built before 1940. There are 4,140 units of pre-1940 housing in Portsmouth. Of these, 610 are affordable to extremely low-income households, and 1,388 are affordable to low-income households. It is assumed that nearly all of these units contain lead-based paint.
There is a need to continue a proactive approach to preventing lead poisoning through public education, an abatement loan/grant program, and staff training. The city also needs to develop the administrative capacity and experience needed for success in obtaining additional abatement funding.
Support services to enable the frail elderly, persons with physical disabilities, severe mental illness, and developmental disabilities to remain at home are a high-priority need. Some in these categories need housing with support services.
Persons with HIV/AIDS are increasingly in need of housing assistance. There are an estimated 150 Portsmouth residents who are HIV-positive. The unfortunate course of the disease means that as their illness progresses, the individuals become less able to work and care for themselves. Subsequently, there is a need for home-based care and for financial assistance. The need will increase, but at this time the need is assigned a medium priority.
A need for expanded public transportation services is often cited by public service agencies. Currently, many lower income residents without cars have difficulty reaching child care and medical care services, and are often unable to pursue employment or educational opportunities. Transportation for those with disabilities is also lacking. The local taxi company, which provided such transportation, recently discontinued its contract. COAST, the Cooperative Alliance for Seacoast Transportation, of which Portsmouth is a member, needs additional funding to expand its services to meet such needs.
To meet current demand, there is a need to expand a number of public services. These include affordable child care, job training services, and crime awareness programs. Also necessary are tenant/landlord and fair housing counseling, health promotion and substance abuse counseling services, health services, and programs to encourage older youth to complete their education.
Sidewalk construction is needed. For example, sidewalks along Borthwick Avenue and adjacent side streets leading to the Portsmouth Regional Hospital would enable individuals without cars to walk safely to the hospital.
Economic development activities are needed to help existing businesses and to promote the growth of well-paying jobs.
The housing and community objectives and priorities included in the Consolidated Plan are those that can be implemented in the next 5 years and for which funding is available. Portsmouth has community development needs not acknowledged in the plan because of a lack of funding.
There are four housing priorities listed below with their matching implementing strategies:
For the homeless, the priorities are to:
Long-term community development objectives include:
The city's antipoverty strategy is to provide services directed at the factors that lead to impoverishment. These services are delivered through the city's Welfare Department and through local nonprofit public service organizations, which Portsmouth assists with CDBG funds.
Two programs are administered by the Welfare Department. A General Assistance/Direct Relief Program provides temporary emergency assistance, primarily food and shelter costs. The department also provides referrals to public service groups and other sources of assistance.
A number of local CDBG-funded programs strive indirectly to reduce the number of households with incomes below the poverty line. Services that the programs provide allow the assisted households to redirect their limited income to other needs. Program activities include child care, visiting nurses and homemakers for the elderly, prenatal care and family planning, and assistance with rental security deposits. Emergency shelter and transitional housing eliminate housing costs while families or individuals restructure their lives and resolve factors leading to their impoverishment.
The city's housing efforts do not directly decrease the poverty rate but they do assist low-income individuals with one of the most basic needs -- shelter.
Resources available to fund the 1995 Fiscal Year strategy are $1,032,000, including CDBG entitlement funds of $882,000 and an estimated program income of $150,000.
The lead agency for the implementation of this plan will be the Portsmouth's Department of Planning and Community Development. A high degree of coordination of public (Federal, State, and local) and private funding resources has been achieved by both housing providers and support service providers. This level of coordination will be continued and expanded to the extent possible.
Each year Portsmouth's community development staff monitors public service organizations receiving CDBG funds to ensure the services comply with HUD requirements. At the same time, discussions are opened about the type of services and the demand for services. The goal is to maintain a dialogue between the city and service providers for the more efficient coordination of efforts.
Housing construction and rehabilitation is monitored by the City Inspections Department to ensure compliance with all applicable building codes. Community development activities are reviewed by the Community Development staff. Compliance with financial regulations is overseen by the Community Development staff, the city's Finance Department, and HUD.
MAP 5 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded projects.
MAP 6 is a map, sectioned by neighborhood, which depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded projects.
MAP 7 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded projects within one of the four neighborhoods indicated in MAP 6.
MAP 8 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded projects within another of the four neighborhoods indicated in MAP 6.
MAP 9 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded project(s) from a street level vantage point; as well as, provides a table with information about the project(s).
Portsmouth plans to allocate $153,500 for 17 public service projects. These grants of $4,800 or more go to nonprofit community service organizations providing city residents with needed services not available from the municipal government. The five largest grants are:
Housing activities include:
This year's action plan allots $364,000 for nine community development projects. These include:
For economic development efforts, $103,000 is allocated.
Two planning efforts are funded:
Of the funded activities, eight will be conducted or produce benefits citywide. These include accessibility improvement programs, economic development loans, and housing rehabilitation. Other projects, such as playground or street improvements, will benefit particular low-income neighborhoods. Social service programs are conducted from various locations in the city, but serve a citywide clientele of lower income families and individuals.
Portsmouth's 1995 housing and community development activities included in this plan are expected to directly benefit 339 housing units, 3,896 households, and 4,650 persons, including 800 elderly persons and 350 youths.