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New report shows NH's housing market still tight in first few months of 2021

New Hampshire’s single family home market is still tight. A new report from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority focusing on this spring’s housing market shows that the state’s housing inventory is extremely low and houses are often sold at or above asking price.

In April, about 1,500 homes were sold in New Hampshire, and the median price hit a record high of $362,250.

Dean Christon, the executive director of New Hampshire Housing, said he hasn’t seen a housing market like this one in a long time.

“It’s nothing I think that anyone has experienced certainly in the last 20 or more years, maybe even longer than that,” he said.

Christon said at the current pace homes are selling — if there were no new listings added — it would take less than half a month to sell everything on the market in the state.

But, he hopes to have a clearer sense in the next month or two, whether some people were less willing to put their house on the market during the pandemic.

“If that’s the case, maybe we’ll start seeing more inventory,” he said. “But I don’t think anyone is predicting a significant change in these general trends anytime soon.”

The Housing Authority report shows there has been a slight uptick in building permits for new single-family homes, but Christon said it’s not enough to change the dynamics of the market.

For the past year, a lot of focus has been on out-of-state buyers from surrounding New England states.

The report also shows that there has been a 5 percent increase in buyers from Massachusetts in the past year.

“What we don’t really have good information on is if they’re using them as primary residences or secondary residences of some sort.”

Christon says that he wants to gather more data on whether those purchases are happening in certain markets, like the Lakes Region, Seacoast or certain parts of the North Country.

All of this has ripple effects for prospective buyers and for people who aren’t looking to buy a house right now.

With a median home price of more than $362,000, Christon said that’s tough for first-time home buyers, and that means they’re staying in their rental units.

“And the result of that is there’s more pressure on the rental market,” he said.

New Hampshire Housing reported last year that the vacancy rate was less than 2 percent for 2-bedroom units in the state.

“Individuals who might be even lower income, who might not be ready to buy a home, are stressed more,” he said, “because they’re competing in that market with people that have a little more money who would normally be in the for-sale market but can’t get there because of cost and availability.”

Christon says this market makes it tough on businesses trying to recruit new workers to the state, especially with an unemployment rate of less than 3 percent.

“Those workers aren’t going to come, and those jobs aren’t going to get filled,” he said. “And that becomes a burden, if you will, on our economy and its ability to continue to grow.”

Bill barring release of mug shots approved by Judiciary Committee

Senators on the Judiciary Committee approved a measure Tuesday that would bar police from releasing most mug shots after arrests, in a 3-2 committee vote that defied party lines.

House Bill 125 would still allow police departments to take post-arrest photographs of accused perpetrators. But the bill would prohibit the release of the mug shots under the state’s open records law until the person was actually accused.

The legislation carves out some exceptions. Police departments could release the photo if the accused person failed to appear in court after being granted bail or if the person was suspected of committing further crimes while out on bail.

The police could also release the photos if the person were thought to pose a danger to the public. Both situations could allow law enforcement to ask the public for help in tracking down the subject, supporters say.

The bill, proposed by Rep. Nicole Klein-Knight, a Manchester Democrat, passed the committee Tuesday with the support of the two Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Jay Kahn of Keene and Becky Whitley of Hopkinton, as well as a Republican member, Harold French of Franklin.

Committee Chairwoman Sharon Carson, a Londonderry Republican, and Sen. Bill Gannon, a Sandown Republican, voted against the bill.

In recommending the bill, senators on both sides of the issue acknowledged the tricky balance between informing the public of a public safety matter and respecting the privacy of the accused.

Supporters of the bill argued that, for most arrests, public photos of the person accused do far more harm to that person down the line than good.

“This bill is important because people are innocent until proven guilty, but the public release of post-arrest pictures can really become a barrier for folks to getting housing, employment, and personal relationships, regardless of whether that person ends up being convicted of that crime,” Whitley said during a short debate ahead of the vote.

Mug shots of accused people — whether appearing in newspaper articles or Facebook posts from police departments — can live on for years, long after the penalty was served or even after the case is dismissed, supporters argued.

But Carson said that the decision over whether to release the photos should be at the discretion of the police departments, and that many departments choose not to release photos of people accused of low-level offenses.

And she said that the bill would interfere with the public’s right to know about who in their community was being charged for what.

“In my opinion, this is about police transparency,” Carson said. “The public has the right to know who the police are arresting.”

Whitley and other supporters countered that the bill would still allow police departments to release the name of the person arrested and the crime for which they were arrested.

But Carson said the visual nature of a photo provides other benefits.

“It also, in my opinion, allows the public to see the condition of the individual, when they were arrested,” Carson said. “We all know that police officers are charged with abusing people within their custody.”

The bill, which passed the House by a voice vote, will head to the Senate floor June 3.

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Signs point to a strong season for ticks
  • Updated

Jill Lewis has never had a tick problem. In her 12 years on Gunn Road in Keene, she can recall finding three ticks in the house. But this year, Lewis — like others in the Monadnock Region — might spot several a day.

“We use Wondercide on us and the dog, get the lawn treated with wintergreen and the dog takes an oral tick [medicine],” Lewis said in an email. “I feel like I need to quarantine now from the ticks not the virus!!”

Though tick exposure can occur year-round, the insects — which are known for carrying Lyme and other diseases — are most active during warmer months, usually starting in New Hampshire in the spring.

Kaitlyn Morse, founder of BeBop Labs in Salisbury, said the state has seen an increase in dog ticks so far this year, but not in blacklegged ticks.

BeBop Labs, founded in 2018, is a citizen-driven project focused on tracking ticks and tick-borne illnesses. The lab has several tick collection spots set up across New Hampshire, its website says, and people are also able to send ticks they find to the lab.

While the reason for the rise in dog ticks is not yet known, Morse said an increase in ticks is mostly tied to the season’s weather, as a tick’s metabolism is dependent on external temperatures. Acorn production can also play a role in the tick season, she added.

The blacklegged tick, for example, feeds on animals like chipmunk and deer, which eat acorns. The more acorns there are in a given year, the likelier it’ll be to see an increased tick population, according to Morse.

In 2019 — the most recent year for which data are available on BeBop Labs’ website — 5,820 ticks were collected statewide, 1,272 of which were tested for disease.

In Cheshire County, the data show that of the 99 ticks tested, 36 percent contained Lyme disease. Others were carrying other tick-borne parasites and bacteria: 36 percent had Borrelia, 2 percent had Babesia, and 5 percent had the bacteria that causes anaplasmosis.

Meanwhile, this year, anecdotal accounts from area residents point to a strong season.

Alisha Beam of Acworth said she’s had to pull more ticks off her dogs than in previous years. One of her dogs, she said, was rolling around outside for a few minutes Saturday, and she found six ticks on one leg.

Then at night, she spotted more.

“Throughout the night, we found 5 ticks walking across our dining room and living room floors,” Beam said in a Facebook message.

John Thomas has also noticed an uptick, saying he recently found eight ticks on himself and about 20 on his dog’s legs after they went for a walk.

“By the time we arrived back to my Jeep, I had removed more than 50 between the two of us,” the Keene resident said in an email. “Once home, we pulled off another 30+ from the [dog’s] fur.”

Blacklegged ticks have four life stages: egg, larva, nymph and adult. The nymphs are most active in the late spring through summer months — usually from May to August — and are the most likely to infect humans with disease, according to a news release from the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services.

These ticks spike again around October when they molt into adults, but are less of a threat then, as they prefer deer or dogs as hosts at this stage, the BeBop Labs’ website says.

Dog ticks — which have the same life stages as blacklegged ticks — have only one season, from spring to summer. It’s fairly rare for dog ticks in New England to transmit disease, but it’s common in the South, the lab’s website notes.

New Hampshire continues to have one of the highest rates of Lyme disease in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease, like any other tick-borne illness, can produce flu-like symptoms of fever, chills, sweats and headaches.

To avoid contracting these diseases, State Entomologist Piera Siegert said taking precautions when spending time outdoors is necessary, regardless of the season’s tick population.

Siegert said this includes staying on trails and avoiding areas with tall grasses and overgrown brush, wearing light-colored clothing to make ticks more visible, using effective repellents and covering your skin as much as possible.

Tick checks, on yourself, your children and your pets, should also be done regularly, she added. If bitten, Siegert said the tick should be removed as soon as possible using tweezers.

“People need to be aware that there are ticks in New Hampshire,” Siegert said in an email, “and that people can protect their health and the health of their families and pets by taking the preventative measures.”

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Cause of Keene High flooding still unknown, students learning remotely today
  • Updated

Keene High School students stayed home for classes today, after a main electrical room in the school’s basement was flooded Tuesday, according to N.H. School Administrative Unit 29 Superintendent Robert Malay.

Students and teachers were evacuated Tuesday morning and accessed virtual classrooms that afternoon. Remote learning will continue today, Malay said, with hopes to return to in-person classes Thursday.

“We expect to be powered up sometime before midday today,” he said Wednesday morning.

Keene Fire Chief Mark Howard said in a text message that all water and most of the power supply to the building had to be shut off for safety reasons and to allow for further investigation, adding that people were evacuated as a precaution.

Malay said someone saw steam rising in the main electrical room — which has been damaged from the flood — and that person alerted the school’s maintenance department, which determined the school needed to be evacuated.

Firefighters were called to the high school on Arch Street just after 9 a.m. Tuesday, according to Southwestern N.H. District Fire Mutual Aid. Keene Public Works and Keene School District officials were also called to the campus to assess the situation.

Students and staff were not in any immediate danger, according to Malay, but with no water and little power at the school, students were sent home. About 1,300 students attend Keene High, he said.

The cause of the incident is still unknown, Malay said, noting that no evidence was found of any of the school’s pipes leaking or bursting.

“We’re trying to investigate, in a coordinated effort with the city of Keene, if there might be a waterline underground that might have burst that caused it to seep in,” he said.

The cost of the damage and timeline to repair it was also not known as of Wednesday morning, Malay said.

The air quality in the building was measured before students and staff were allowed to re-enter and retrieve their belongings Tuesday as an extra level of precaution, according to Malay.

Students had a shortened lunch period before being released at 12:20 p.m., according to a news release from the district Tuesday.

Keene High Principal Cindy Gallagher praised students and staff for their swift response. Keene High will continue to provide updates, she said in the release.

“While this is yet another disruption to the school year, I am confident that we will continue to march forward and will be communicating what things will look like as soon as we have those details.”

This article has been updated to include additional information from N.H. School Administrative Unit 29.