Legislative Update: March 22, 2022

Legislative Update: March 22, 2022

Challenging week for housing advocates

Chief Executive Officer

Last week, the legislature took up several bills designed to create more housing opportunities in the state. The results were mixed at best. 

Senate Bill 400, which was designed to expedite and expand housing opportunities throughout the state, had broad bipartisan support, including from the Governor and both the Senate Majority and Minority leaders, and two weeks ago the Senate Municipal and County Committee had voted 5-0 to recommend to the full Senate that the bill “ought to pass.” 

Even the NH Municipal Association had dropped its opposition to the bill, while NHAR joined other advocates – such as the Business and Industry Association and the NH Homebuilders – in support of the legislation.

So it came as a surprise to many that the bill just barely squeaked through the Senate, 13-11 (You can see how your Senator voted here). Three of the Senators who had voted for the bill in Committee the previous week flipped and voted against it. Stranger still was that no one in opposition spoke on the Senate floor to explain their concerns or to suggest changes to the legislation. A major bill having no floor debate is highly unusual.

Here is a quick summary of the bill:

  • If a municipality allows incentives for over 55 housing and similar developments, then it must grant the same incentives for workforce housing projects.
  • All fees an applicant must pay to the town have to be published.
  • Ensures inclusionary zoning ordinances do not include standards that reduce the economic viability of the project.
  • Land use boards will need to include written findings of fact to support its decision.
  • Creates new timelines for Zoning Board of Adjustment and Planning Boards to comply with.
  • Removes ability of towns to claim age restricted housing counts towards workforce housing under 674:59.
  • Requires appeals of land use decisions to Superior Court and Supreme Court to issue decisions in an expedited timeframe.
  • When an appeal is made to superior court, the court may require the person appealing to post a bond to indemnify the person whose favor the decision was rendered and award legal fees.
  • Allows a town to extend tax relief for a project with residential or workforce housing units.
  • Creates a voluntary training program for land use board members.

Finally, SB 400 creates a voluntary New Hampshire Housing Champion Certification program, which would grant preferential access to state resources for communities earning the certification. An advisory board will review and approve rules to administer the program. 

NHAR is one of 13 organizations with a seat on the advisory board. NHAR strongly supports SB 400, which now moves to the House of Representatives.

House narrowly rejects efforts to provide 
private property owners more development options

REALTORS sent over 1,800 emails to legislators in support of House Bill 1177, which would have granted owners of private property the ability to create up to four residential dwelling units on any single-family lot in a residential zoning district served by water and sewer.

All lot and yard standards, setbacks, parking requirements, and lot coverage would still be enforceable but could be no more restrictive than those required for a single-family dwelling.

The bill was tabled by just 10 votes, 167-157, which is essentially a more polite way to kill a bill without having to debate the bills merits. (You can see how your Representative voted here. A “yea” vote was to table the bill. A “nay” vote was to protect private property rights and reflected NHAR’s position.)

A similar bill, House Bill 1087, which states that no ordinance can require more than a 10,000-square-foot lot size for single family housing lots when the lot is serviced by a municipal water and sewer, was also tabled, but that bill lost by just three votes and was also tabled.

Next week will mark the midway point of the 2022 legislative session.

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