Legislative Update April 2, 2024

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Victories For Property Rights

Last week, the House of Representatives passed two bills designed to ease the state’s housing inventory crisis. While many thought one or both bills might have a chance to squeak through the House, what took many by surprise was the large bipartisan margin by which both bills passed.

House Bill 1291 grants a property owner greater ability to construct an accessory dwelling unit (ADU), including one which is detached from the primary structure.

Current law allows a municipality to require that the property owner seek a conditional use permit or special exception from the town in order to gain approval for an ADU. HB 1291 would allow an attached unit “by right” while still allowing a town to require a permit or special exception for a detached ADU. This change should reduce costs for the property owner.

Existing law also currently allows towns to limit the size of the ADU to 750 square feet. HB 1291 expands that to 1,000 square feet for the first unit and 850 square feet for the second unit. Under HB 1291, towns retain existing authority over septic, water, parking, building codes, and all setback requirements.

Similarly, House Bill 1399 allows property owners two residential units allowed by right, without special application, discretionary review, or a hearing, if the proposed development meets certain requirements.

Opponents of both bills argued that preserving local control should take precedence over protecting private property rights. In just 15 minutes of debate, opponents claimed ADUs would increase crime, burden hospitals, deplete water sources, destroy property values, overwhelm sewers, create traffic jams, flood schools with kids, prevent people from showering (I swear this is true), and generally be unattractive and a nuisance. 

One Representative even questioned why the state legislature should support “individuals being allowed to do what they want” with their own property. 

Despite opponents’ best efforts, both bills passed overwhelmingly with broad bi-partisan support. HB 1291 passed, 220-143 while HB 1399 passed, 220-140Brookline reaches settlement agreement with developer in 2021 lawsuit

Both bills now head to the Senate.

Proxy voting for condominium

House Bill 1129 defines in RSA 356-B (the Condominium Act) what a “Proxy” vote means. A proxy means “a document created by the association to allow unit-owners to vote in absentia by providing a proxy to another person who is the proxy holder of the unit-owner’s choice.” 

The bill allows for either a “directed proxy,” allowing the unit-owner to direct how the holder’s votes will be cast or the unit owner can create an “undirected proxy” which means its holder will have full power to decide how to vote on each issue before the meeting of unit owners.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the bill. The Senate will take up HB 1129 later this spring.

Short-term rental bills killed

House Bill 1498 and House Bill 1635 were both designed to expand both local and state authority to regulate short-term rentals. NHAR opposed both bills.  Last week, the House of Representatives voted to kill both pieces of legislation without debate. Legislators agreed that both bills were poorly drafted, and no one was interested in spending time and effort to resolve the inherent problems with the bills.

Quote of the Week

The goal is really to just spur that kind of gentle density, allowing single-family homes to become two- or three-family homes without really looking and feeling that way so that we have extra space.”

–Ryan Pope, housing navigator for Dover, on that city’s efforts to encourage accessory dwelling units. (WMUR-TV “City of Dover tries to encourage homeowners to build more accessory dwellings,” March 13, 2024)  

Bonus Quote of the Week 

Opponents suggested that allowing affordable housing to be built would increase crime, lower property values and increase taxes, and allow lower-income children to overcrowd Brookline’s schools.”

–Complaint filed by Tamposi Development, claiming Brookline, NH’s “unlawful and discriminatory actions” prevented it from building a proposed 80-unit affordable workforce housing development due to that town’s violation of the Fair Housing Act. Last week, Brookline settled the case, paying over $600,000 in damages. (Union Leader, “Brookline reaches settlement agreement with developer in 2021 lawsuit,”March 28, 2024)

For more information, contact New Hampshire Realtors CEO Bob Quinn: bob@nhar.com.

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