Legislative Update: February 28, 2023

Legislative Update: February 28, 2023

How does legislature view new construction?

Chief Executive Officer

Last week, the House of Representatives rejected House Bill 44, which would have allowed a property owner with a conforming lot connected to town water and sewage to create up to four housing units, provided it could meet all town construction requirements such as parking and setbacks. 

A similar bill was passed in Maine in 2022 and will go into effect later this year. The Maine bill slightly differed in that it has more robust requirements that the property owner needs to provide the town with “proof of adequate service to support any additional flow created by the structure.” 

Perhaps it was not surprising the House rejected the measure, but it was concerning that most of the debate had nothing to do with the language of House Bill 44. Instead, Representatives used the opportunity to criticize any and all potential new housing construction in the state.

The arguments are familiar to anyone who has attended a planning board meeting: housing creates parking issues, drains water and sewage supply, ruins rural character, destroys “every piece of green area,” reduces values of existing properties, enriches developers, and increases school costs (watch this video to dispel the kids and taxes myth). 

One Representative even apologized for her selfishness while revealing that her opposition to rental housing was because it would reduce her own home’s value. After watching the debate last week, it is not hard to understand why New Hampshire is suffering from its worst housing shortage in history.

At almost the same time that Representatives were presenting that litany of reasons as to why new housing is a bad idea, the Commissioner of NH Business and Economic Affairs was testifying to a Senate panel that “without question” the number one economic challenge facing the state “was the lack of adequate housing.” 

It is still to be determined if the House of Representatives will seek to address the housing issue this session or not. 

Energy efficiency loans: a priority issue?

RSA 53-F, which was created about a decade ago, grants municipalities the ability to encourage private financing for energy efficiency improvements to certain properties by allowing the financing of such projects to be paid back through their property taxes. 

Unlike other project financing, that borrowed capital is repaid over time via the property tax and runs with the property. These loans are commonly referred to as Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loans. Keep in mind, at this point very few New Hampshire municipalities have adopted a PACE loan program into their ordinances.

The priority of liens establishes who gets paid first following a foreclosure and often determines whether or not a lienholder will get paid at all. A first lien has a higher priority than other liens and gets first crack at the sale proceeds.  

Currently, New Hampshire statute stipulates that PACE liens are a lower priority than other liens, such as a bank mortgage. Because of this requirement, lenders view these PACE loans as riskier and therefore are more expensive and less likely to occur. 

House Bill 576 would change this by mandating that PACE loans take a priority position. The NH Bankers Association indicated that they are opposed to the current bill’s language unless it is amended to require that existing priority lien holders must first sign off before a PACE loan can be issued.

The bill has passed out of the House of Representatives but is now with the House Finance Committee to determine if default on the loans could impact state resources.  

Seasonal dock bill put out to pasture

House Bill 472 would prohibit any seasonal dock from being placed in an area where it might impact a threatened or endangered species. NHAR testified that, although well-intentioned, the legislation does not explain how a property owner would be able to verify if a seasonal dock is, in fact, threatening a species.

The House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee agreed there were problems with the language and voted to retain the bill. That means the bill could come back next year.

Quote of the week

Without exception, whenever I sit down with CEO’s, their main concern is workforce that they lose due to the lack of housing.” 

– Wendy Hunt, President and CEO of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, testifying in front the Senate Municipal Committee on behalf of  Senate Bill 145, the Housing Champions Bill

NHAR’s legislative chart can be found here.

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

"Amidst the sea of change to which the New Hampshire Association of REALTORS has played witness in its 85 years, one thing that has remained constant is the Realtor 'R' and the value we bring to every real estate transaction in which we take part. We are part of a unique community where our familial cooperation transcends our business competition. These are not mere platitudes, but our living ideals, and they are, in fact, the foundation on which we conduct ourselves in our day-to-day affairs."

Joanie McIntire, 2024 President, New Hampshire REALTORS