In response to a deepening housing shortage and housing affordability crisis in Portsmouth, Mayor Jack Blalock announced yesterday that the city would allow private citizens to move into an entire section of Strawbery Banke, with a few restrictions.
“Without a doubt, the most important part of this decision was to keep Strawbery Banke historic. Much, much lower on that list was to provide affordable housing.” Mayor Blalock said during a press conference. “We’ve rented out some apartments in the space in the past and had a lot of luck so we feel comfortable expanding this effort to entire houses in Strawbery Banke for the first time. We’ll get at least three new spaces for people to live out of this.”
The preservation of Strawbery Banke was at the forefront of the press conference, and not affordable housing, multiple city officials repeated on numerous occasions.
“We just really, really want to stress that this in no way will affect the quality of this neighborhood or any neighborhood,” said Assistant City Manager David Moore. “It’s like, three units. Maybe eight more people will be able to live here. There is no need to worry.”
To preserve the historic character of Strawbery Banke, new tenants will be able to rent out entire homes but will be very restricted on many items and appliances. For example, no electronics or modern machinery will be allowed in the homes with exception of a cotton gin. Strawbery Banke Trustee Chair Zachary Slater said that wouldn’t be much of an issue for prospective tenants as “very few of the homes have outlets”.
New home dwellers are encouraged to burn wood for heat, however, as residents of the South End historically have found the smell calming.
“As long as they’re burning wood I feel like we can craft a sort of uneasy tolerance,” said South End resident and lawyer Jerry Zelin. “Typically we don’t like renters on the South End, but as long as they’re not the wrong kind of people and they give us that hardwood smoke, we can abide it.”
Other restrictions to help preserve the past include banning things like clothing made before the 19th Century, automobiles, or “the wrong kind of people”. However, tenants will be able to convert the houses to work/live spaces and create items for sale as long as they restrict those items to candles, wooden hoop toys, and wooden barrels.
“We think the perks balance out the restrictions. The right family could make this work. You can just about reach Mombo’s wifi in the right corner of the house,” said Blalock.
Many seemed overjoyed at the news. Newmarket’s Doug Flynn has had a difficult time finding an apartment in Portsmouth. “So I’ll pretend I’m Michael Landon on ‘Little House on the Prairie’. I know a few people doing far worse things just to live in this city. Hell, I would do far worse things.” Flynn said referencing the popular 1970’s television series.
“I would do some really terrible things,” he added.
However, not everyone was excited about the news. Steve Henderson, an African-American who lives in Dover walked back to his car frowning. “I’m pretty disappointed. I filled out all the necessary paperwork but they told me they couldn’t rent one of the houses to me because it would have been out of character.”
“I just want a place to live,” he added.