Legislative Update May 31, 2022

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Legislative Update: May 31, 2022
Housing Bill Language Survives

They say cats have nine lives, and Senate Bill 400, an omnibus bipartisan housing bill, may have had more Lazarus-like power than even the toughest feline.

After a three-year debate and two down votes in the House, the legislation, which is designed to encourage additional housing development, was considered dead on the last day of the session. However, through some legislative maneuvering orchestrated by the State Senate, much of the language was finally adopted in House Bill 1661.

The ups and downs of the bill only goes to show how controversial the topic of housing has become at the State House. Many in the House of Representatives are clearly opposed to alleviating New Hampshire’s housing woes by making housing development easier and less expensive.

Skipping over most of the legislative sausage-making details, here is what the final bill does:

  • Beginning July 1, 2023, any municipality which provides for incentives for housing for older persons, such as increased density, reduced lot size, expedited approval, or other dimensional or procedural incentives, must also provide the same incentives to any workforce housing development.
  • When a local land use board issues a final decision to approve or disapprove a permit application, that decision will now have to include specific written findings of fact that support the decision. Failure of the board to do so will be grounds for automatic reversal.
  • Upon receipt of any application, a zoning board of adjustment must begin formal consideration and will need to approve or disapprove the application within 90 days of the date of receipt, although the applicant can waive this requirement. If a zoning board of adjustment determines that it lacks sufficient information to make a final decision on an application and the applicant does not agree to an extension, the board may, by its discretion, deny the application, in which case the applicant may submit a new application for the same or substantially similar request for relief.
  • If there is an appeal to the superior court on a zoning issue, the court can, but is not mandated to, require the person making the appeal to file a bond for a sum fixed by the court to indemnify the person in whose favor the decision was rendered from damages and costs which they may sustain in case the decision being appealed is affirmed. The court can also grant attorney fees to the prevailing party.
  • Marginally expands opportunities for municipalities to utilize Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts to construct workforce housing.
  • Requires the NH Office of Planning to develop training covering the processes, procedures, regulations, and statutes related to the land use board on which the member serves. The training is optional for land use board members.

The legislation is going to Governor’s desk for his signature. Most of the legislation will go into effect later this summer.

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

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