Business Editor's Notebook: Housing affordability remains top focus for Stay Work Play

Feb. 6—State Sen. Rebecca Perkins Kwoka knows who ultimately is going to make it easier for New Hampshire to attract and retain young people.

Young people.

As a two-term Portsmouth city councilor, the Stratham native advocated for affordable housing. That issue and others designed to curb the Granite State's aging demographic continue to be among her primary concerns as a state legislator.

"We can make a difference as young people, and we should make a difference as young people," Kwoka said during a virtual forum Friday organized by Stay Work Play.

"We're the ones that have the energy and enthusiasm. We have the new ideas. And we need to bring that to the process," she said.

Kwoka, D-Portsmouth, was a featured speaker during a forum to announce Stay Work Play's legislative priorities for this session. The nonprofit, whose mission is to attract and retain young people in New Hampshire, has identified 18 bills that could have an impact on housing, child care, outdoor recreation, and diversity, equity and inclusion.

"A full half of them — nine — are aimed at making New Hampshire a more affordable place to live," Stay Work Play Executive Director Will Stewart said.

Stewart noted that Stay Work Play hosted two statewide tours in recent years to ask young people what they loved about their region of New Hampshire — and what might lead them to leave one day.

"Housing affordability is Stay Work Play's biggest focus area again this year as it has been in recent years," Stewart said.

Among the measures Stay Work Play supports is a Senate bill that would establish a commission to study barriers to housing development in New Hampshire, including workforce and middle-income housing.

It opposes three House bills that would repeal or weaken the newly created state housing appeals board, which was designed to remove some of those barriers.

"Low vacancy rates and rising rent are forcing people to find new homes, be that in new communities or across state lines," Kwoka said. "That can wreak havoc on their social community or in their commute or in their day care."

Kwoka is among state legislators under age 40. They also include state Rep. Brodie Deshaies, R-Wolfeboro, and Rep. Joe Alexander, R-Goffstown, Stewart noted. Neither could attend the forum, but both have lent their support to Stay Work Play's advocacy work.

Younger legislators need to educate the generation that came before them about the challenges young people face in New Hampshire, Kwoka said.

She alluded to child care shortages that make it difficult for young mothers to return to work, especially during the pandemic, and the work/life balance that young parents seek.

"To make it happen, we need to share our experience. We need to bring our lived experience and our personal testimonial to these policymakers and help them understand what our life is like," she said. "Help them see that as a nursing mom I need to take a break every three hours because there are things I need to do."

Stay Work Play's legislative priorities for 2022 are posted at

Mike Cote is senior editor for news and business. Contact him at or (603) 206-7724.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not represent the views and opinions of the sponsor, its members and affiliates.