Legislative Update March 10, 2020

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Legislative Update March 10, 2020

Streamlined housing approvals

Vice President of Government Affairs

Here are a few items being explored in the New Hampshire legislature that are of potential interest to the real estate community and being watched closely by your New Hampshire REALTORS government affairs team:

For the most recent NHAR legislative chart, click here.

Scaled down housing bills move forward 

Last week, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to pass House Bill 1629, which is designed to streamline local approvals for housing. Some of the provision in the bill include:

  • If a municipality allows an increased density, reduced lot size, expedited approval, or other dimensional or procedural incentive housing for older persons, it has to allow the same incentive for the development of workforce housing as defined in RSA 674:58.
  • Alters the definition of “workforce housing” from suitable for a household with 100 percent of median income to 120 percent of median income.
  • Makes changes to a planning board procedure for approving applications.
  • Sets a 90-day deadline for local ZBA’s to act on applications.
  • Allows a court to require that the appealing party purchase a bond to cover damages and legal costs which the other party may sustain if the decision is affirmed.
  • Requires Superior Court to prioritize land use appeals.
  • Requires all applicant fees to be posted by town; otherwise they must be waived.
  • Alters the definition of “inclusionary zoning.”

The House removed a requirement that local land use board members must undertake mandated education before participating in land use decisions. That requirement is now voluntary under the approved House version of the bill.

While HB 1629 will now head to the Senate, a companion bill, House Bill 1632, which provides financial incentives to municipalities, developers and buyers has run into opposition in the House Ways and Means Committee, specifically on a first-time homebuyer reduction of the Real Estate Transfer Tax (RETT). That Committee has consistently opposed similar reductions to the RETT in the past due to potential revenue loss to the state.

A business profits tax deduction for income derived from qualifying housing development also seems to be a stumbling block but might move forward in a scaled-back version. The Ways and Means Committee will need to resolve all issues with the bill in the next week.

Legislative tide ebbs on Shoreland Act changes

Senate Bill 491 sought to make various changes to the Shoreland Protection Act. One change would have created a three-tiered system for how much land property owners would need to maintain in an unaltered state within the woodland buffer. One standard would apply to property developed prior to 2008, a second standard to properties developed between 2009 and 2020, and a third standard to those developed after 2020.

The bill would have also eliminated certain rights a property owner currently possesses to alter a nonconforming structure within the protected shoreland.

Last week, the Senate agreed with NHAR that the issues were too complex to resolve quickly, and voted to table the bill – effectively killing it for this session.

Bill mandates homeowners associations allow solar panels

House Bill 1535, as amended, would nullify in any homeowner association a covenant or restriction contained in any deed, contract, mortgage, security instrument, or other instrument pertaining to a conveyance, sale, or transfer of real property prohibiting or unreasonably limiting the installation a solar photovoltaic system on property if it is entirely controlled by that owner. It would not apply to condominium associations.

Last week, the House Commerce Committee narrowly voted to send the bill to the full House with an Ought to Pass recommendation. The final House vote should come later this week.

If you have questions regarding these or any other pieces of legislation from the 2020 New Hampshire legislative session, please contact New Hampshire REALTORS Vice President of Government Affairs Bob Quinn at bob@nhar.com or 603-225-5549.


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