Eric Chinburg is the owner and operator of Chinburg Properties.
This spring, REDC sat down with Eric Chinburg, owner and operator of Chinburg Properties since 1987. We talked with him about the issues surrounding housing and economic development in Southern NH.
REDC: What are some of the biggest challenges for people who are trying to buy a home?
Eric: I think people trying to buy a home right now have a lot of headwinds. One is the general economy now. With interest rates having doubled in the last year, it is a real impediment for people, especially in the starter home market.
Another issue that has been there for a long time is that the increase in the cost of creating housing has increased at a far more rapid incline than people's wages have increased. That difference between the steep curve of the cost increase and the shallower curve of wages is the challenging part. I believe that cost increases is a very difficult, multifaceted problem to solve, but it can get improved, and it requires people really changing the way they look at housing, the way they look at zoning, the way they look at the whole regulatory process.
REDC: Is there something you'd like to see changed in order to develop more workforce housing or lower the cost of homes?
Eric: I believe that the easiest change that can be made has to do with density. I believe that if municipalities recognize that you don't need two acres to build a house and recognize that communities that have water and sewer and already established infrastructure, can allow many more units per acre than they have in the past. And it also requires allowing developers and builders to go vertical.
I see a lot of communities trying to start creating more flexible, form-based zoning. I think communities are starting to move in a direction that's positive and there's a lot of work to do, but there is progress.
REDC: Why is housing an important issue for you personally?
Eric: Housing is a person's shelter. It's their place of refuge. It's their everything, essentially. It's also their biggest investment. It's the most important component of someone's stability in their life. And for me, I love this state. I've got four grown kids, and I'd love them to want to come back. There isn't sufficient housing for them, or a lot of young people to stay. And, we need a workforce. If you don’t have affordable housing, you can't grow your workforce.
REDC: Is there one misconception about housing that you'd like to talk about?
Eric: I'm not sure if there's only one misconception about housing, but certainly one of them is the fear that if you build homes, that will bring children, and children burden schools. I think that's a sad misconception, especially in New Hampshire now, where I believe in general, the school age population is in decline and some schools are consolidating and closing.
REDC: What inspired you to create housing within vacant or underutilized buildings?
Eric: I love the old mill towns in New Hampshire. I love how they were such a vibrant part of our history. I love that it's the ultimate form of recycling when you can take a fallow, vacant building and turn it into something that's really useful, primarily housing. We do a lot of commercial spaces, as well restaurants, manufacturing, and offices.
The housing that we create in these vacant properties are generally reasonably affordable because we are creating apartments that are right-sized, not too big, with amenities around that our tenants can enjoy.
REDC's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS)
This interview took place in March 2023 for the purpose of documenting first-hand perspectives on issues that present the largest obstacles to continued economic growth in our region. REDC's 2023 CEDS Update will be available for free electronically on our CEDS page in late June, 2023.
Part of this interview will be available to watch in a video on REDC's YouTube channel in late June, 2023.