Several pieces of legislation designed to address rural housing concerns over a 2012 State mandate to have sprinkler systems in single family dwellings failed to clear the General Assembly before Sine Die. As previously reported on Conduit Street, several rural counties have raised concerns about the mandate’s effect on affordable housing costs within their jurisdictions.
HB 19 (sponsored by Delegate Christopher Adams) would have allowed local jurisdictions to amend the Maryland Building Performance Standards and weaken the State sprinkler requirements for townhouses and one- and two-family homes. However, if a local jurisdiction adopts amendments weakening the sprinkler requirement, the amendments must require for newly constructed dwelling that the builder provide the buyer with: (1) a copy of written material prepared by the State Fire Marshall on the benefits of sprinkler systems; and (2) written documentation of the costs associated with the installation and maintenance of sprinkler systems. The amendments must also require that a builder install a sprinkler system or other fire suppression system at the buyer’s expense. The House Environment and Transportation Committee gave HB 19 an unfavorable report.
Taking an alternative approach, HB 1143 / SB 728 (sponsored by Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes and Senator Jim Mathias) would have created a tax credit for certain single-family dwellings that have sprinkler systems. The Senate passed SB 728 with amendments that provided a tax credit for single-family dwellings that: (1) are constructed on or after January 1, 2016; (2) have no more than 2,000 square feet of living space; (3) are located in Allegany, Caroline, Cecil, Dorchester, Garrett, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico, or Worcester Counties; and (4) have an automatic fire sprinkler system. The record owner of the new dwelling may claim a credit equal to $1.25 for each square foot of the new dwelling to offset the cost of the installed sprinkler system. The Office of the State Fire Marshall shall receive and approve the applications. However, the Office may not approve a credits in a taxable year beginning after December 31, 2018. The House Ways & Means Committee passed HB 1143 and SB 728 with additional amendments but the House did not act on the Committee report before Sine Die and both bills failed.