Question & Answer: Ben Stebbins AHIP Landlord
Ben Stebbins shares his personal journey as one of Granite United Way's Affordable Housing Incentive Program Landlords and the impact that this program is having on housing instability in the Greater Seacoast Region.
Why did you decide to become an AHIP Landlord?
I got involved with AHIP because I was looking for a way to provide low-income housing along the Seacoast. I had a few low-income tenants, but I was having a really hard time meeting my quota of giving 20% of my portfolio back to low-income. I met with Martha Stone at Crossroads House because I wanted to give a financial donation in support of some of their tenants and she mentioned to me that what they really needed most was housing units.
What are the benefits of being an AHIP landlord?
One of the biggest benefits of being an AHIP landlord is the case management that the program provides. A lot of the tenants are coming from shelters or from nonprofits where they haven't had stable housing. Case management has given me a way to connect with the tenant. I don't know our tenants like the case managers do, and they've made it easy when we do have hiccups along the way to support tenants and give them what they need to be successful.
What do you value most about AHIP?
A lot of my tenants face housing situations that they haven't had to deal with in the past and AHIP sets them up for success. I'm thankful for all of the community agencies involved with AHIP that screen the tenants to make sure that they're going to work in our situation. It's been so helpful to make sure that each tenant is successful when they do get a roof over their head.
How does AHIP make the Seacoast and your community a better place?
AHIP makes the Seacoast a better place by allowing tenants and landlords to meet each other. I was having trouble finding tenants for my affordable housing units, and AHIP provided a marketplace for me to reach out to a single organization, to connect me with those in need.
Why should other landlords enroll in affordable housing units with AHIP?
I think it’s always up to the landlord’s choice if they want to provide affordable housing along the Seacoast. But with a market that's as tight as it is, it's important that we give back to the community. Rents are going up so fast and we need to set aside some affordable units for people that need it the most. It's a much better way to give back to the community than giving a financial donation.
What do you wish everyone knew about homelessness and affordable housing on the Seacoast?
I think it's important that everyone realizes how big of an issue homelessness is along the Seacoast. Everyone thinks that the Rockingham Strafford areas are very affluent, but there are a lot of people in our community who are facing financial hardships. As I have become more involved with AHIP I now see how much of an issue homelessness is, whether it's a young child experiencing it to just how full the shelters are along the seacoast.
Why should people give to Granite United Way in support of AHIP?
It's important to give to Granite United Way because it's a direct way to help the housing problem in New Hampshire. They're able to direct your donations to the people who need it the most and get them into houses with roofs over their heads.
How do AHIP’s grant repair funds help Landlords?
One of the most helpful AHIP incentives is the grant repair funds. It allows you to renovate your unit as if you were to go to market and it offsets some of those costs. So, if you need to put $10,000 into a unit, typically you're not going to be able to charge affordable housing and make your money back. By offsetting some of that, you can give the same product as you would at market rents but charge affordable housing rents.
What do you like most about being an AHIP Landlord?
When you give someone keys to their first home and they start crying, it's such a good feeling to see them excited to have a roof over their head. If it weren't for AHIP, I wouldn't be able to provide the amount of affordable housing I am. Unfortunately, construction costs and market rents are so high, and just buying a building is so expensive, that if you're not able to offset that cost, you're not going to be able to make it financially work. Providing affordable housing is not easy, there are a lot of inspections you must go through. Being able to have an agency like AHIP walk you through the entire process and get you to the finish line has been amazing.
Watch Ben's Video Interview