Legislative Update Feb. 7, 2023

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Bills incentivize affordable housing

Two Senate bills would appropriate millions for much needed assistance to encourage the development of affordable housing. 

Senate Bill 231 seeks to appropriate $25 million for the state’s affordable housing fund in order to provide financing or matching funds for housing projects. Additionally, the legislation provides an additional $30 million to the Dept. of Business and Economic Affairs to accelerate the approval of workforce housing projects. Finally, it would send $10 million to the Dept. of Health and Human Services for its homelessness programs and housing stabilization.

The second bill, Senate Bill 145, would create a “Housing Champion” designation and grant program for municipalities. If SB 145 becomes law, state grants would be eligible to communities that adopt land use regulations which promote the development of workforce housing; provide training for land use board members; or implement water, sewer and transportation infrastructure improvements designed to aid workforce housing projects. The bill seeks to appropriate $29 million for the next biennium to support these grant and loan programs.

NHAR supports both bills. Hearings will be held later this month.

House overwhelmingly rejects rent control legislation

House Bill 95 would have enabled municipalities to adopt local bylaws to mandate the period of notice required prior to a rent increase, as well as the permissible amount of rent increases. Municipalities would have been granted authority to create rent control measures intended to limit a property owners’ ability to generate additional revenue. NHAR testified in opposition.

Last week, the full House of Representatives voted 301-63 to kill the bill. Opponents cited concerns raised by NHAR at the hearing that rent control would have the opposite impact than those claimed by the sponsors of the bill. Specifically, they argued that a patchwork of ever-changing local ordinances would not create a fairer housing market but rather reduce the quantity and quality of available housing, discourage new construction, increase rents for unprotected tenants, and create other challenges for both landlords and tenants.

NHAR testified that more housing supply is needed, including apartments, to ensure safe, affordable housing is available to everyone.

Notification requirements for PFAS in private wells

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of chemicals that are increasingly found in New Hampshire, mostly in central parts of Hillsborough County. These​ chemicals do not break down easily and are being detected at high concentrations in some private wells.

House Bill 398 and House Bill 205 would require new notification language on the risk of PFAS prior to the execution of a Purchase and Sale agreement. Lead, Arsenic and Radon are already notification mandates imposed by the state (Section 12 of NHAR’s P&S). 

While both bills have PFAS notification requirements, each has additional, unique mandates. HB 205 would also require a pump installer to test for specific contaminants (20 in total) and provide the lab report to the property owner. 

NH Dept. of Environmental Services (NHDES) and the Well Water Association testified in favor of testing on newly drilled wells but cautioned about including PFAS in the mandated standard test. PFAS testing alone can be anywhere from $400 to $700 and might not be as prevalent in certain parts of the state.  

Meanwhile, HB 398 requires that property owners be held liable if they fail to provide any prospective buyer with a letter of groundwater contamination from the Department of Environmental Services for an area within 500 feet of the subject real estate. 

NHAR testified in opposition, stating that while such letters are mailed by DES, they are sent by regular mail and it might be years between a property owner receiving such a letter and the sale of the property. The expectation that owners must have knowledge of hazards adjacent to their property is unreasonable. 

NHDES agreed that such liability on the property owner is unwarranted and might end up misleading a buyer to believe that no other contaminants are on or near the property.

NHAR’s legislative chart can be found here.

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

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