Diluted ‘community toolbox’ affordable housing bill signed into law by governor

Omnibus HB 1661 also includes Burgess BioPower subsidy, local broadband grants

The “community toolbox” workplace housing bill, with many of its original tools missing, limped into law last week with Gov. Chris Sununu’s signature, tucked into an omnibus bill that will also fund a new garage for lawmakers.

House Bill 1661 was one of 38 bills signed by the governor last week, including bills that will subsidize the Burgess BioPower facility in Berlin, encourage the use of renewable natural gas and grants to match local expenditures for broadband.

The governor also announced that he was vetoing HB 1454, which would have kept new landfills away from rivers, lakes and the ocean, as well as another bill that would have permitted the dispensing of Ivermectin, a drug not approved by the Federal Drug Administration that some claim can cure Covid-19.

But at the top of the agenda for housing advocates and many business groups was the remains of what was once Senate Bill 400, which had been hailed by supporters as a major avenue to attack the state’s shortage of affordable housing.

After the House tabled SB 400, which earned the name the “community toolbox” bill, the Senate stuck it into HB 1661, minus one of the big tools, a Housing Champion provision for municipalities that do a better job in advancing development of affordable housing.

The final 36-page, 80- section bill also includes money to begin construction of a new parking garage for lawmakers, one nearer to the State House than the one it being leased. It also has provisions for regional career technical education schools, lead paint testing, special education grants for schools, funding for opioid treatment, licensing criteria for recreation camps and rules for the release of defendants pending trial.

But negotiations between the House and Senate stripped many aspects of the affordable housing measure, including one that would automatically extend local tax breaks usually provided for commercial development to housing and extend the duration of those tax breaks as well. Also watered-down were requirements to put workforce housing on a par with senior housing.

What was left were some transparency measures, such as requiring land use boards to provide a written reason for rejecting a developer’s plans and disclose municipal fees, as well as some deadlines, to help speed up the approval process.

Sununu also signed HB 1495 last week. It is an act prohibiting the state from requiring businesses to require vaccine or documentation related to vaccination or immunity status, and he signed SB 229, a bill that permits certified pharmacy technicians to administer vaccines.


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