An internal MACo Sprinkler Workgroup that has been meeting over the 2016 interim has concluded its primary work and is drafting legislation that address rural housing concerns over a 2012 State mandate to have sprinkler systems in single family dwellings. The Workgroup was formed after sprinkler legislation failed to pass the General Assembly during the 2016 Session. As previously reported on Conduit Street, several rural counties have raised concerns about the mandate’s effect on affordable housing costs within their jurisdictions.
The Workgroup was composed of a geographically balanced mix of county elected officials, planners, code enforcement officials, budget officers, and fire safety representatives. MACo Legal and Policy Counsel Les Knapp and Caroline County Chief of Staff Sara Visintainer staffed the Workgroup. The Workgroup reviewed: (1) sprinkler system technologies, benefits, and costs; and (2) the effects the mandate was having on rural workforce and affordable housing.
After reviewing the collected data, the Workgroup decided to craft a legislative proposal that would focus to creating a grant or tax credit system for low-income or working class purchasers of single family homes not on public water that would offset the cost of installing a sprinkler system. The Workgroup is still finalizing the legislation’s details.
The approach is similar to legislation proposed during the 2016 Session. 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.