Legislative Update May 28, 2024

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Senate rejects ADU bill

Last week, the Senate rejected an amended version of House Bill 1291, which would have protected a property owner’s ability to add a detached accessory dwelling unit (ADU). 

Sen. Donna Soucy (D-Manchester) introduced the amendment at the request of NHAR, the Business and Industry Association (BIA), AARP, and other housing advocates, and over 675 NH REALTORS responded to NHAR’s call for action in support of the amended version of the bill.

Opponents used familiar arguments in opposition to ADUs, such as septic, parking and lack and potable water. These arguments, while successful, made little sense, as the legislation mandated that property owners had to have adequate septic, parking and water.  Ultimately, a majority of Senators rejected the expansion of private property rights in favor of continued government authority.

In a joint statement, NHAR, BIA, AARP and Housing Action NH stated, “By voting down the ADU bill today, the Senate has closed the door on a simple solution to allow Granite Staters to use their own private property to help with the housing crisis. Our organizations will continue to mobilize our thousands of members to educate state lawmakers so they can start providing solutions instead of voting down important housing legislation.”

Parking mandate: one space or two?

Too often, overly stringent municipal parking requirements prevent multifamily housing from being built or results in unnecessarily paving over acres of open space. House Bill 1400, which passed the House of Representatives, states that a municipal zoning and planning regulation cannot require more than one residential parking space per dwelling unit. 

Last week, the Senate amended the bill, replacing the one-space requirement with a “no more than” two spaces mandate. So, for instance, under the House proposal, a 20-unit multifamily could not be required to create more than 20 parking spaces, while the Senate version would allow a town to mandate 40 spaces. The Senate version would likely have little impact, since New Hampshire municipal ordinances requiring more than two parking spaces per unit are rare.

The House and Senate can either work out their differences (seems like 1.5 units per dwelling unit would be a compromise) or they can choose to reject the legislation entirely. 

Final action is required no later than June 13.

Back from the ashes: tax relief for residential conversions

Senate Bill 538 would have allowed municipalities the option to establish tax relief for the owners of a building currently used for commercial purposes, in whole or in part, if it is converted to residential use. 

The tax relief is designed to spur housing growth on already developed land. The program, known as “The Community Revitalization Tax Relief Incentive” (RSA 79-E), has existed for nearly two decades and has proven successful in many communities but is currently limited to four-unit or fewer residential conversions. 

The choice to utilize the tax relief is entirely in the hands of each municipality. Unfortunately, earlier this month the House of Representatives rejected the bill.

The Senate, which had passed the bill earlier this year, has reattached the same tax relief language to House Bill 1400, a legislative maneuver not uncommon in the last weeks of a legislative session. HB 1400 now includes a number of unrelated housing measures (sometimes these are referred to as “Christmas Tree bills,” as legislators attach often-unrelated floor amendments at the end of a legislative session). 

Expect final action on the bill in the next two weeks.

Quotes of the Week

“I don’t think there’s a hospital in New Hampshire that isn’t looking at ways to deal with housing.

–Steve Ahern, President of the NH Hospital Association, discussing how housing is impacting retention of health care workers as well as the health of community members. (“NH to address lack of affordable housing as a health issue,” Seacoastonline, May 24, 2024)

This basic lack of housing is undermining our well-being at a community level and at a social level. We need more housing to help us flourish.” 

–Max Latona, Director of the Center for Ethics and Society at Saint Anselm, on how the lack of affordable housing is holding people and communities back from achieving their potential (“NH to address lack of affordable housing as a health issue,” Seacoastonline, May 24, 20024)

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

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