Legislative Update May 10, 2022

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Legislative Update: May 10, 2022
House Tables Housing Bill, But There’s One More Fight

By a vote of 170-159, the House of Representatives once again refused to take any action to alleviate the housing inventory crisis, voting to table Senate Bill 400.

The bill is a unique New Hampshire solution to the persistent and growing housing crisis in our state, supported by the Governor and a bipartisan group of legislators. It would be a small step in the direction of allowing the private market to finally meet the demand for housing.

Echoing a now familiar refrain, opponents argued on the House floor that the bill would effectively destroy local zoning – an argument that even the NH Municipal Association rejected.

However, the State Senate is not going to allow the bill to go down without one more fight. Just before midnight last Thursday, the Senate voted unanimously to attach much of SB 400’s language to House Bill 1661, which funds a new legislative parking garage for the House of Representatives.

The amended version of HB 1661 includes provisions to either incentivize or require towns to speed up permitting processes for new developments. Those changes included requiring a city or town to offer the same incentives for workforce housing that it does for housing for older residents, requires a land-use board to give detailed written “findings of fact” explaining why it rejected a development proposal, sets requirements for expedited review of land use appeals to the Superior Court, and requiring zoning boards to approve or disapprove of an application within 90 days in most cases.

The House of Representatives will vote this week on HB 1661, which they can accept, reject or ask the Senate for a committee of conference, which allows differences between the House and Senate versions to be hammered out.

Housing Appeals Board emerges from the session unscathed

The three-member Housing Appeals Board, established by the New Hampshire legislature during the 2020 session, is a statewide appeals board authorized to hear appeals of decisions made by local land use boards. It is designed to make such appeals faster, and therefore less expensive, than appeals to Superior Court.

A variety of bills were introduced this session that ranged from eliminating the board completely to removing some of its authority. The last of these bills left standing, House Bill 1307, was summarily rejected this past week by the Senate. That bill would have limited the type of appeals which could be brought to the board. It had passed the House of Representatives earlier this spring. NHAR was in opposition.

Why some legislators want land use appeals to be more expensive by forcing them into the Superior Court is certainly curious. However, we expect more legislative efforts to undermine the Housing Appeals Board in the future.

Real estate “license recognition” signed into law

Last week, the Governor signed into law House Bill 1354, designed to simplify the process for an out-of-state licensee to earn the equivalent license in New Hampshire. The new law states that if an applicant holds an active real estate license in good standing in another state, that applicant may apply for a New Hampshire license with the same equivalent status as currently licensed in the other jurisdiction by passing the New Hampshire portion of the licensing examination, and forgoing the national test requirement, provided that other requirements of the commission have been met.

This new law applies to salesperson and broker applicants only when they apply for a New Hampshire license with same equivalent status as currently licensed in the other state.

The law will go into effect on August 1.

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

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