2017 Specific Issues -HBRA of Connecticut

Crumbling concrete: Promote a two-pronged approach. 1. Issue bonds to create a revolving loan fund at zero or below market rate interest for credit worthy homeowners, or grants to those who cannot afford to borrow funds. Include in such fund any municipal authorized local bonds or any funds obtained from insurance carriers. Oppose any new fee or tax on home construction or real estate transfers for this purpose. 2. Require concrete companies or their aggregate suppliers to test aggregate used in mixing concrete for the mineral pyrrhotite. Ensure that aggregate tests are done on a reasonable schedule and pursuant to an appropriate ASTM standard or limited portion of such standard (i.e., not ASTM C94), so that testing costs are kept to a minimum and the cost of residential concrete is not adversely affected.

Fire Sprinklers in New Home Construction: Oppose legislation that would mandate either statewide or at local option the installation of fire sprinkler systems in new homes. Far too costly and does not address the vast majority of residential fire deaths, which occur in homes built prior to 1985, i.e., built to much older and long-outdated building codes.

Affordable Housing: Oppose legislation that either weakens the Affordable Housing Appeals Act (8-30g), or that mandates inclusionary zoning in our municipalities (i.e., a possible DOH proposal). Strengthen the Incentive Housing Zone (HOME CT) legislation by allowing less density minimums in smaller communities, and remove the ties to transit oriented development sites. HOME CT housing is needed in all our communities, not just those that can accommodate the density minimums or on transit lines.

Land Use: Consider creating a limited exception for site plan approvals that allows a zoning commission to vary its own regulatory requirements on a project specific basis to address the McKenzie and Verillo decisions. Any such authority must be strictly limited and safeguards must be put into statute to guard against municipal abuse of this new authority. Without such new authority, current law does not allow any measure of flexibility where a development applicant could design buildings and surrounding land plans that would better serve the community and the specific neighborhood but for the strict application of zoning and site plan regulations.

Land Use: Look for opportunities to change land use law to repeal or prohibit municipal exclusionary zoning practices.

Wetlands: Adopt a new exception to the definition of wetlands and watercourses that prohibits detention basins built by real estate developers as part of their required stormwater control plans from being classified as wetlands or watercourses. When this occurs, suddenly, given a town’s upland review area restrictions, huge areas in a subdivision become off limits when prior to the developer’s construction of the stormwater measure there was no such restriction. A 120’ detention pond in a town with a 50’ upland review area creates a 2 acre review area.

Land Use: Allow the repair of a nonconforming structure to include demolition first, then reconstruction without losing the right to continue a legal nonconforming structure, provided of course that the nonconforming structure is not expanded. Sometimes the best repairs, or even the only possible repair, is done through demolition first and reconstruction. The  problem is that some towns take the position that once demolition occurs, the owner has lost its right to continue the prior nonconformity and any reconstruction must comply with current zoning law.

Property Tax: Support exempting homes under construction from increased property tax assessments until the earliest of any of these triggers: 1. The newly constructed home is transferred to the first buyer, 2. A certificate of occupancy is issued for the new home, or 3. The home is actually lived in or used for its intended purpose as a residence. Current law is a huge disincentive to start new home construction and the increased assessments amount to a municipal windfall because, by definition, there is nobody in the home to serve.

Labor Issues: Oppose labor initiatives that will add costs or further control how businesses work with their employees or make it more difficult to hire employees. Support labor initiatives that adopt more reasonable workers compensation benefits, reduce businesses’ labor costs, and create more realistic and workable definitions for the construction industry when classifying workers as employees or independent contractors.

R-PACE: Consider supporting legislation that creates a viable and robust residential property assessed clean energy program that allows innovative ways to finance energy efficiency improvements to homes while protecting consumers and positioning any new liens on homes that secure such financing in its proper place relative to mortgage and other lienholders. Many additional issues will arise during the course of the legislative session, as they always do.

The HBRA of CT routinely tracks 200-300 bills that will have some impact on our industry. We testify on 20-30 or more bills in any given session.  Please check the HBRA of CT website for up to date information.

Our Annual Home Building Industry Day at the Capitol will occur on April 26, 2017, where we will present our positions on a number of key legislative bills that come out of the committee process.

For any questions about the HBRA of CT’s advocacy work, contact Bill Ethier, HBRACT’s CEO, at
860-216-5858 (office), 860-978-3252 (cell), or bethier@hbact.org.

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