“I believe that by making the process of building housing less expensive, we can provide more housing that is less expensive, ultimately, to the average renter or buyer.”
As part of an ongoing Portsmouth City Council Candidate Q&A in my weekly PortsmouthLOVE Letter, I’ve reached out to all candidates in the 2015 City Council race with some questions. I’m including the answers of all who participated here on my website, in addition to featuring them in my weekly newsletter throughout the month of October, leading up to Election Day, November 3rd. For information on voting, visit the City of Portsmouth, NH’s website.
Rebecca Perkins, City Council Candidate
Neighborhood: Islington Creek
Occupation: Associate General Counsel at Enel Green Power
Education: B.A., Dartmouth College 2004; J.D. / LL.M. (Master’s), Cornell University, 2010
Relevant Experience: Founding Member and Board Member, 603 Initiative; former Board Member, Workforce Housing Coalition; Housing Commissioner, Portsmouth Housing Authority; Member, State Workforce Housing Advisory Council; Editor, Workforce Housing Advisory Council Guidance for Towns & Cities; Peace Corps Volunteer, Senegal, West Africa (2004-2006); Intern, Counsel to Speaker of the House, New Hampshire Legislature, 2007; Commercial Real Estate Attorney, 2010 – Present
How do you think our city currently measures on the issue of workforce housing availability?
I think Portsmouth has done a great job on a lot of things. Unfortunately, workforce housing is something we are starting to fall behind on. Workforce housing is housing that is affordable to those making 60-100% of the median income. Affordable means that you spend less than 30% of your take-home income on your housing. In Portsmouth, the median family income is approximately $65,000. This means the average take-home income, figuring even a (low) 25% total tax rate, is approximately $48,500. To be affordable on this income, the monthly housing budget, including utilities, should not exceed $1200 or less per month. I don’t think there are many households in Portsmouth that get to live within this definition of affordable.
This is the main issue I am running on – as a former Board member at the Workforce Housing Coalition, and a Housing Commissioner here in Portsmouth, I have experience working with towns and cities to bring the cost of building housing down by deregulating zoning. I believe that by making the process of building housing less expensive, we can provide more housing that is less expensive, ultimately, to the average renter or buyer. There are things we can’t change – land is expensive in Portsmouth, and demand is huge. But there are things we can affect, and I hope to do that as a City Councillor.
How do you view the balance of arts & culture with business & economic growth in our city?
I think they work well together. Arts & culture are a huge economic driver, and we have an impressive cultural scene for the size of our City. I do think that business and arts & culture can be symbiotic, and a lot of the retail businesses and restaurants in town benefit from having the arts & culture that we do! We should remember how important the arts & cultural amenities we have are, and how they contribute to making our City unique.
What’s your favorite thing about the city of Portsmouth?
Its natural beauty. We live in an incredible place in this City, and all of the waterfront and geography around us is awesome. I like to run, and I love running through the City early in the morning, especially mornings where the fog is lifting. An integral part of this beauty is the thriving civic community we have here, which we are so lucky to have.
Does the city motto “The City of the Open Door” resonate with you — and if so, how?
It does resonate with me! But I think we need to do more to honor it. We need to do everything we can to open our doors – to a variety of residents, including the young, the older on fixed income, the artists, the servers, young families, and first-time home buyers; to business, and developers who want to build affordable housing and microapartments; to innovation such as Uber and Airbnb.
If you had your way, how would our city look in 10 years? In what ways would it differ from present-day Portsmouth?
I can’t wait to see Portsmouth in 10 years – and I hope it has grown and changed with the times! There are awesome things happening in downtowns all over the country, and I hope we can see the architectural variety and mixed use development that will keep our City thriving for years to come.
Learn more at Rebecca Perkins’ website.