Senate affordable housing bills go in two directions, including short-term rentals

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By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org

CONCORD — House committees heard two bills on Thursday with potential impacts on affordable housing, which is a scarce commodity in the state.

One Senate Bill 249 would prohibit local community zoning and planning ordinances from prohibiting short-term rentals, while the other – Senate Bill 210 – would clarify how prefab housing stock could become resident-owned cooperatives.

SB 249 was opposed by most people who testified at the public hearing before the House County and Municipal Government Committee, while a modified SB 210 was widely supported before the House Commerce Committee.

Originally, SB 210 would have required that a majority of the residents of a manufactured housing stock approve the formation of a co-op or resident-owned community (ROC) before approving a mortgage from the Trust Fund. community loan.

The high threshold brought out advocates for resident-owned parks, affordable housing and others when the bill was before the Senate, which amended it to remove the threshold and make it clearer and more inclusive for residents of the park to determine if they want to buy a park.

Some Bear View Crossing residents in Allenstown had pushed for a higher threshold after less than 25% of residents voted to buy the 300-unit park for what ended up being $21 million.

The residential co-op that purchased the park instituted a $300 membership fee and a $200 rent differential for non-members.

When a landlord puts a park up for sale, it must first be offered to park residents who have the option of purchasing the land they live on with a mortgage from the Community Loan Fund.

Currently, there are 142 resident-owned communities in New Hampshire, and all of them are successful, said Tara Reardon of the Community Loan Fund.

With the initial threshold of at least 50% of residents having to approve the creation of a resident-owned community, only outside investors and businesses could buy the parks when they come to market, opponents said.

Sen. Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, who worked with the bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, to amend the bill, said the voting threshold was removed, but the bill encourages greater resident involvement and caps the cost of voting memberships at $5 instead of some co-ops that charge much higher fees.

The bill requires all residents to be informed of the terms and costs of a wholly-owned park’s mortgage, through a letter that can be hand-delivered and proven by a cell phone photo , said Soucy.

The bill also allows residents to vote by mail so there can be greater turnout, she said.

“It’s another form of affordable housing,” Soucy said, “so there should be some restriction on what you can charge (non-members), but that’s a decision made by residents. .”

She said the amended bill provides good safeguards for the process and encourages greater participation in determining whether they want to become a resident-owned community with self-governance.

“It’s a better way to start,” Soucy said, “and provide affordable housing in the state.”

Bear View Crossing Park Member Louise Rideout said few people were informed or knew what the change would cost. “They neglected to tell us how the loan amount was determined,” she said. “All residents should have access to the terms of the mortgage before purchasing the park.”
She said the bill’s provisions are a great way for more people to be informed, know what they’re getting into, and provide greater transparency for the Community Loan Fund.

Tara Reardon said her organization discourages the kind of differential that exists at Bear View Crossing. “Going forward, we will flag things where neighbors don’t have their neighbors’ best interests in mind,” she said.

The committee did not make an immediate recommendation on the bill.

Short term rental

The mayors of most cities in the state signed a letter opposing SB 249 saying that local decisions on zoning and planning should stay with the communities and not be overruled by the state.

“I believe that zoning and planning boards and city councils can make those decisions,” Portsmouth Mayor Deaglan McEachern said, “without the state of New Hampshire making them for us.”
He said the bill is anti-affordable housing, noting that short-term rentals are much more lucrative than long-term rentals, and that this increases property values ​​and rents.

McEachern said including an owner-occupancy requirement could help because the problem is that out-of-state investors and businesses are buying property and converting it to short-term rentals.

He noted that there are two Portsmouths, one people see on WMUR and the other people and families who have lived in the city all their lives come into his office and say their building has been sold and the new owner increased the rent by $200 per month. and they have 60 days to get out.

“It’s going to tear the community apart,” McEachern said. “It won’t make it better or benefit New Hampshire residents, but rather favor outside investors and developers who want to turn our community into giant hotels.”

The bill’s lead sponsor, Sen. Harold French, R-Franklin, said that historically, short-term rentals have existed in this state for many years, but recently municipalities have begun to restrict them.

He said that as a landlord he has the right to have whoever he wants in his home for any period of time.

“It’s only when I get paid for it, you have a problem with that,” French said. “You say I can’t do for compensation what I have the legal right to do anywhere in the state.”

He said he didn’t believe short-term rentals were an extension of non-conforming use, and when asked if the state should get involved in what was still locally controlled, he said. replied that he did so when property rights were at issue.

“There is a time when no section of government should be infringing on certain property rights,” French said.

However, other witnesses urged the committee to either kill the bill or send it to interim study.

Rep. Karen Umberger, R-Kearsarge, who opposed the bill, said her place of residence was part of both Conway and Bartlett and had its own zoning since 1957 by act of the legislature.

His community and Conway recently voted against allowing short-term rentals.

Her community passed an ordinance in 1982 that a landlord had to live in the property to have short-term rentals, which withstood a legal challenge, she said.

Umberger proposed an amendment that would exempt his community from the provisions of SB 249, and said there are other issues with the bill, such as it does not address homeowner or condo corporation declarations or covenants. prohibiting short-term rentals and other issues.

She suggested that the committee recommend an interim study to resolve a number of issues, as others have done.

The committee did not make an immediate recommendation on the bill.

Garry Rayno can be reached at garry.rayno@yahoo.com.

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