Last Friday, the Monadnock Housing Roundtable met virtually to focus on the topic of state legislative activity. State legislation is a topic that Roundtable participants have expressed interest in during previous discussions, so the meeting was intended to serve as an opportunity to dig into the issue a bit more deeply. The agenda touched on how local and regional housing advocates might participate in the state legislative process as well as some key bills to watch during this legislative session. A goal of the meeting was to build understanding among Roundtable participants about how state legislation can affect local housing issues and to explore whether this was an area worth focusing on through future efforts of the Roundtable.
Making the Connection Between Local Advocacy and State Policymaking
George Reagan, Community Engagement Manager at NH Housing, provided some insight into how regional housing coalitions and local advocates in other parts of the state have participated in and influenced housing-related state legislative activity. Discussion focused on:
How regional coalitions have provided an important conduit for educating stakeholders on how state legislation can affect housing issues at the local level.
How regional and local advocates can provide testimony on important housing-related bills. The current system for testifying virtually makes it easier than ever to communicate with legislators and indicate opposition or support for particular pieces of legislation. (See the Monadnock Housing Roundtable website for a quick rundown on how to testify virtually.)
How some regional coalitions have organized legislative breakfasts/listening sessions, which can provide an important forum for legislators to hear directly from their constituents.
Key Bills to Watch During the 2020-2021 Legislative Session
Elissa Margolin, Executive Director of Housing Action NH, and Jack Ruderman, Manager of Public Affairs at NH Housing, joined the Roundtable to share with us some bills that each of their organizations have their eye on this legislative session. Elissa spoke to bills in the Senate while Jack did so for bills in the House. Discussed bills included:
SB 86. Establishes a Housing and Conservation Planning Program administered by the NH Office of Strategic Initiatives. The Program would provide technical assistance matching grants to municipalities “to plan for growth and development in a manner that permits a balanced housing stock.” Vermont’s Housing and Conservation Board provides an example of a similar program in a neighboring state.
SB 127. This omnibus bill includes a provision to appropriate $5 million annually during the next two fiscal years for deposit in the state’s affordable housing trust fund. This additional appropriation would bring NH closer to parity with what neighboring states allocate to affordable housing.
SB 140. Appropriates a sum of $18 million for the next two fiscal years to support homeless shelter case management services. Currently, it’s estimated that housing an individual in a shelter costs approximately $47/night, but shelters are reimbursed by Department of Health and Humans Services at a rate of about $8/night. This appropriation could support an increase in the reimbursement rate to about $20/night.
HB 154.Extends the Community Revitalization Tax Relief Incentive to housing development in municipalities that have adopted the provisions under RSA 79-E.
HB 288.Repeals the state’s housing appeals board, which provides an alternative process to the Superior Court for settling disputes between developers and municipalities. The board was created through legislation passed during the 2019-2020 session and began accepting appeals in January of 2020.
HB 586. Dubbed informally as the “community toolkit bill,” HB 586 includes a wide range of provisions to support local policymaking and action on housing issues. The bill:
Charges the NH Office of Strategic initiatives with developing training materials for planning and zoning board members (participation in training is optional);
Mandates that local zoning incentives for senior housing must also be extended to workforce housing; requires that inclusionary zoning ordinance do not impact the “economic viability” of housing developments in comparison with developments that do not mandate housing affordability;
Extends the period of tax relief available to housing developments under RSA 79-E;
Makes various modifications to planning board procedures;
Grants authority to communities who have adopted a Municipal Economic Development and Revitalization District (RSA 162-K) to acquire real property through eminent domain for purposes of residential development;
Establishes a voluntary Housing Champion Certification Program for towns and cities.
After the meeting, Representative Ivy Vann shared information about HB 341, a bill she’s sponsoring which would permit by right the construction of four dwelling units on any residentially zoned property with access to public water and sewer service. You can read more about the bill here.
Join the Discussion
If you’re interested in participating in future meeting of the Monadnock Housing Roundtable or interested in how you can get invovled, contact Todd Horner at (603) 357-0557 or email@example.com.
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