For more than 60 years, the Portsmouth Housing Authority (PHA) has been providing quality affordable housing to thousands of Portsmouth families, seniors, and people with disabilities. The PHA is the largest landlord in the City of Portsmouth, owning and managing over 600 units of housing where nearly 1,000 Portsmouth residents call home. Our Housing Choice Voucher program provides rental supports for another 150 families in the city, so in total the PHA provides affordable housing to 7% of the households in Portsmouth.
While housing diversity and affordability has long been a part of our civic dialogue, the public demand for more workforce housing has never been as pronounced as it is now. Over the past decade the City has been struggling with ways to incentivize the development of workforce housing while for profit developers have almost exclusively been building to meet market demands for rental housing and condominiums that serve the most affluent members of our community.
The result is that far too many members of our vital workforce have been priced out of the market. This decrease has been pronounced for workers in some of our most important industries including service and hospitality. Further, we run the real risk of losing the social and economic vitality that we treasure - a vitality that derives in part from those who are employed in our world-class creative economy where artists, craftspeople, musicians, performers, historic preservationists and others can no longer call Portsmouth home. Unfortunately, the same holds true our valued public service employees including first responders, teachers, coaches, health care professionals and employees of the variety of nonprofit organizations located here.
Clearly, there has been more than sufficient discussion of this challenge. The local housing dialogue has been consistently cited in our Master Planning process, 2008 and 2016 Mayor's Blue Ribbon Advisory Councils on Housing, the 2017 Portsmouth Listens Study Circle, efforts by the Workforce Housing Coalition, The Chamber Collaborative of Greater Portsmouth and smart growth advocacy organization PS21. Arguably, the shortage of workforce housing is the #1 challenge faced by the City of Portsmouth.
This demand is one reason why the Portsmouth Housing Authority included in its 2017-2020 Strategic Plan a primary goal to both grow and preserve the number of affordable rental units in the city. We hope to unveil the first byproduct of that commitment in the next several weeks… a state of the art workforce housing development in the heart of our community.
And as developer of workforce housing, the PHA is everything city residents have been asking for: local, not for profit, experienced in bringing tax credits and other public financing tools to the table, and an owner of land that we already own free and clear.
The City's 2025 Master Plan is focused on five major themes: Vibrant, Authentic, Diverse, Connected and Resilient. The PHA aspires to develop additional workforce housing that is consistent with each one of these goals. Please join us in a civic discussion we hope will result in a clear and direct response to the goals we all share for an inclusive, socially and economically diverse community.