NH House, Senate ready to vote on a raft of real estate, construction bills

SB 400, ‘Community Toolbox’ bill, under the gun as House looks to gut original version

As lawmakers approach the finish line when they meet on Wednesday and Thursday – this is the last week for either chamber to vote on bills before the two sides try to reconcile differences with the other’s version before they are sent to Governor Sununu – a number of key bills dealing with real estate and construction may or may not cross it.

At the top of the list is House Bill 400, the so-called “Community Toolbox” bill, is in danger of not making it. The Senate passed a version that was more carrot than stick, rewarding housing “champions,” providing training for volunteer planning and zoning boards and requiring that workforce housing be afforded the same incentives as housing for the elderly and streamlining the application process.

The House version limits or deletes some of these provisions and also rolls back previous legislation that required municipalities to include workforce housing in their zoning ordinances by adding a clause that exempts areas without sewer and water. This, say opponents, means that towns could deny a workforce housing application even if the developer wants to extend those services. It also added some unrelated provisions that the Senate is unlikely to agree to, such as making it harder to allow municipal tax caps. If the amendment passes, Democrats and enough Republicans will probably vote against the bill, which could kill it.

But the House won’t kill SB 249, although it will likely send it to study. The intent of the legislation was to ban local ordinances against short-term rentals, like Airbnb. The bill would allow municipalities to step up regulations, but it wasn’t enough for those who viewed it as inhibiting local control over the growing industry.

The House also will probably also pass SB 210, which should remove some barriers for manufactured housing park tenants to vote over buying the park that they live should the residents try to buy it. The final version of the bill didn’t include a provision to require that a majority of all residents, even those not voting, support a deal.

Expect a close party-line vote on SB 217, which would double the amount of time landlords have to give an eviction notice to tenants from 30 days to 60 days, if they are doing so to sell, renovate or repair the units. Supporters argue that tenants, who have to leave through no fault of their own, need more time in the current housing market to find another place to live. Opponents argue that more regulation means fewer rental properties, which would make the housing shortage even more acute.

But the vote on SB 371 probably won’t be close. That bill would replenish the $3 million Lead Paint Hazard Remediation Fund, which provides interest-free loans to landlords to remove lead on their property. That fund, which has financed lead removal at some 800 rental units in the past, is now depleted.

The House is also expected to pass SB 443, which gives the state Building Review Board the ability to veto building codes that are less stringent than state codes and would create centralized place for contractors to look up local codes.

When it comes to infrastructure, if the House passes SB 401, some $70 million in state surplus money would flow to contractors to work on municipal bridges ($36 million) and roads ($30 million), with additional $4.1 million for the road needed to renovate The Balsams Resort.

It also looks like the House is going to pass SB 438, requiring that state construction projects of over $1 million have to use U.S. steel. Supporters argue that this will help the U.S. steel industry, but opponents argue it will at a cost, since contractors are buying foreign steel because it’s cheaper.

But the House will probably kill SB 274, which would prohibit federal requirements for labor agreements and community benefits in state contracts. Supporters argued that most New Hampshire contractors are non-union and wouldn’t go for such agreements, but opponents say that the state could lose some out on some big federal contracts, crucial to the state’s infrastructure and development.

Over at the Senate, HB 1307 is likely to be killed. The measure tries to limit the scope of the Housing Appeals Board, which was created in 2020 to give a more timely alternative to the judicial process for developers to contest decisions by local planning and zoning boards, which they say can limit the construction of affordable housing.

Categories: Government, News, Real Estate & Construction