Legislative Update March 12, 2021

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Legislative Update March 12, 2021

House bill would repeal Housing Appeals Board

Chief Executive Officer, NHAR

House Bill 288 would repeal the newly established Housing Appeals Board, which provides a less expensive and faster appeal process from local land use decisions than the current process of appealing to the Superior Court. The Board is preparing to hold its first hearings next month.

The proponents of the repeal argue that the Board is unnecessary, because the Superior Court already provides an appeal process and that the Board undermines local control – although those proponents did not explain how exactly it would impact local control. All members of the public who testified on the bill, including NHAR, opposed its repeal.

Earlier this week, the House Judiciary Committee voted 15-6 to kill the bill and therefore allow the Housing Appeal Board to continue to operate. However, we are not at all confident the full House of Representatives will follow the recommendation of the committee. NHAR may send out a Call For Action regarding the issue in next several weeks.

Planning and Zoning legislation takes odd but familiar turn before passing Senate

Senate Bill 86 was essentially three separate pieces of legislation rolled into one larger omnibus bill dealing with planning and zoning. NHAR supports the bill, which ultimately passed the Senate and is now headed to the House of Representatives.

Two of the measures – Sections I and III – passed easily. Section I provides more flexibility for a developer when a planning board mandates hiring a third-party inspector during construction. Section III prevents a town from restricting a property owner from installing a safe and commercially available heating system of their own choice. The concern is that some municipalities, although none in NH, have banned gas heating systems in new construction.

The surprising debate evolved around Section II, which creates a Housing and Conservation Fund in order to provide municipalities, who must voluntarily request the aid, technical assistance in the development and implementation of a growth and development strategy. NHAR testified in favor of the bill, and the Senate committee which heard the bill voted unanimously in support. Even the NH Municipal Association supported the new funding source.

The trouble arrived on the Senate floor. A few Senators claimed the bill removed local control, though they never pointed to specific language in the bill that impacted a community’s authority. Proponents, meanwhile, argued the fund is a voluntary program which grants towns help in planning but leaves all decisions to the town. After a lengthy and confused debate, the section passed, 14-10.

The highlighted once again the challenges of passing legislation to resolve the state’s housing inventory shortage.

If you have questions regarding these or any other pieces of legislation regarding the 2021 New Hampshire legislative session, please contact New Hampshire REALTORS Chief Executive Officer Bob Quinn by email (bob@nhar.com) or 603-225-5549.

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