Key Priorities Pass The House, Clear Senate Committees As Crossover Deadline Approaches
The legislative “crossover deadline” of May 9th is rapidly approaching. Any bill (except those with an appropriation or finance provision) must pass its body of origin and be read into the other body by that date to remain eligible for the remainder of the long session and next year’s short session. All of NCHBA’s top pro-active priorities are subject to this deadline. Your legislative team worked overtime last week in an effort to ensure that our key pro-housing agenda items remain alive and well (as well as working to keep undesirable legislation from proceeding).
One of those key bills, SB 355 (Land-Use Regulatory Changes), cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee last Wednesday. This was the third time the bill was discussed in this committee and, after some debate, the bill was approved and sent to the final committee stop, the Senate Rules Committee, which passed it yesterday. The bill helps level the playing field between landowners and local governments by, among other things:
- Integrating permit choice and vesting laws to ensure that the rules are not changed in the middle of a development project.
- Protecting landowners against 3rd party rezoning efforts.
- Allowing certain claims to bypass the Board of Adjustment and proceed to Superior Court.
- Placing limits on conditional zoning abuse, while preserving flexibility for developers.
While local governments and other parties have objected to portions of this legislation, NCHBA has strongly maintained that it is needed to ensure more certainty and fairness in the land development process. With our approval, the bill was amended to include the provisions of SB 422 (Planning/Development Changes) which combine and modernize existing city and county planning and zoning chapters. This bill has been introduced in the past several sessions at the behest of the NC Bar Association. Once the bill “crosses over” to the House, it is anticipated that a stakeholder group will be convened among interested parties both to explore language alternatives and to ensure internal consistency between the two parts of this bill.
The bill is calendared for a full Senate vote today, Monday, May 6th, and passage is expected. NCHBA would like to thank the bill’s primary sponsors Senators Dan Bishop (R-Mecklenburg), Paul Newton (R-Cabarrus) and Sam Searcy (D-Wake) for their hard work and perseverance in getting us to this point.
Another of NCHBA’s key pro-active agenda items is HB 675 (Building Code Regulatory Reform) which passed the House last Monday night. The bill was sponsored by Representatives Mark Brody (R-Union), Dennis Riddell (R-Alamance), Jon Hardister (R-Guilford), and Billy Richardson (D-Cumberland). This is the 5th in a series of similarly titled bills where we have worked with Rep. Brody and to ease the regulatory burden and improve efficiency in the process. Among the important provisions in this year’s bill are: prohibiting developers from having to bury power lines outside of a subdivision, eliminating minimum square footage requirements for homes and expediting the local plan review process.
The bill passed the House chamber overwhelmingly by a margin of 102-11. The bill will now head to the Senate. Click here for a comprehensive summary of this legislation.
A bill that would make it easier for builders to save money on their lots and homes held in inventory for sale passed the House last Thursday evening. In 2015, NCHBA worked hard to pass legislation which allows a builder to seek an exclusion for improvements made to land or houses from additional local property taxation which would otherwise occur. This exclusion is available for lots or houses for up to three years or until those lots or houses are sold. However, the builder has to file an annual application by the end of January in order to claim this exclusion for the next tax year.
HB 492 (Simplify Builder Inventory Exclusion), whose primary sponsors are Representatives Mark Brody (R-Union), Julia Howard (R-Davie) and Brian Turner (D-Buncombe) would allow a builder to file for the property tax exclusion once, instead of having to file annually in the county tax office. This bill would make the process less burdensome. Once the exemption is initially filed, it is good for up to three years on residential projects and five years on commercial projects (or until the property is sold). This will reduce the administrative burden on both the builder and the county tax department. This bill will now head to the Senate, where several Senators have already expressed their support for this legislation.
Crucial to this effort was Representative Julia Howard, who is the Senior Chair of the House Finance Committee. Julia is the longest-serving member of the General Assembly and has always been one of NCHBA’s best and most loyal friends and supporters. We are delighted to name Julia as our Legislator of the Week.
Yet another of our pro-active bills, SB 313 (Performance Guarantee to Streamline Affordable Housing), passed the Senate Commerce Committee last Wednesday and the Senate Rules Committee last Thursday. It is also calendared for Senate floor action on this Monday evening. The bill makes several refinements in our successful 2015 effort to reform the performance guarantee process. We were able to work out these changes in pre-session negotiations with the NC League of Municipalities so it is a consensus bill. Senators Andy Wells (R-Catawba), Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth) and Mike Woodard (D-Durham) are the bill’s primary sponsors and we thank them for their efforts.
Senator Andy Wells is also sponsoring legislation that would require some municipalities to report to the General Assembly what efforts, if any, they are undertaking to assure the availability of affordable housing in their communities. Among other requirements, SB 316 (Affordable Housing), directs cities with a population over 90,000 to report the amount of money that they are spending on subsidies as well as the activities and steps they are taking to produce affordable homes. The report would include regulatory burdens builders are currently facing and creative ways zoning can be used to produce cost-effective housing.
Housing affordability has become a front burner issue for legislators in North Carolina, particularly in urban, high-growth areas. Senator Wells is joined by Senator Krawiec and Senator Chuck Edwards (R-Henderson) in sponsoring this legislation.
A similar bill in the House, HB 708 (LRC Study Affordable Housing), was amended last Friday at the request of NCHBA to include an examination of “any costs that may be associated with government rules, regulations, and ordinances.” If approved, this would be a legislative study between now and next year’s short session.
HB 873 (System Development Fee/Clarify Time of Charge) passed the House last Thursday evening. The bill would clarify the time of collection of the fee after the local government has followed the proper steps to calculate their development fee. For new development, the time of collection will be when the plat is recorded. Projects in jurisdictions where water and sewer lines were installed prior to October 1, 2017 and did not previously have authorization to enact a capacity fee are exempt from the fee. This bill will now head to the Senate.
The House passed its budget on Friday and sent it to the Senate. The Senate will craft its spending priorities before both chambers come together in an effort to formulate a conference report designed to successfully pass both the House and Senate. However, the dynamic in the General Assembly is different for this budget-writing session than years past. Republicans no longer hold supermajorities in either chamber able to override the Governor’s veto. Therefore, any spending plan will have to meet the Governor’s approval unless Republicans can persuade enough Democrats to join them in overriding a veto.
Legislator of the Week
Representative Julia Howard (R-Davie)
Representative Julia Howard has been a longtime supporter of North Carolina’s home building industry. This session she is a primary sponsor of HB 492 (Simplify Builder Inventory Exclusion), which streamlines the builder inventory tax exemption application process so that a builder only needs to apply for the exemption once instead of annually. The bill passed the House unanimously this week. We thank Representative Howard for her outstanding leadership on this issue and for her steadfast support of our industry.