Whose Property Rights Should Be Protected? - Granite Grok

Whose Property Rights Should Be Protected?

Legislation

I WOULD LIKE to counter a few points from the op-ed written by Max Latona and Jason Sorens titled “Stronger property rights can address housing shortage” that was published March 26, 2021.


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As the founder of the Bedford Residents Association, I’d like to ask Mr. Latona and Mr. Sorens a single question: Are you familiar with local government in New Hampshire? What these gentlemen are proposing will take property rights away from the majority of taxpayers who have voted for what they want in their own cities and towns.

In addition, there is nothing in the New Hampshire Constitution that says the state has the right to mitigate a “housing shortage” for the benefit of developers or any other business. There is also nothing in the constitution that says the state should be allowed to override the will of the voters in any city or town in order to provide workforce housing.

The government should lower taxes to promote business, but they are not required to provide housing for those workers. It is up to businesses to do what they can to attract workers. Bills such as HB 586, HB 341, and SB 306 (the Housing Appeals Board that was slipped into last year’s budget by a few wayward GOP Senators) are just plain unconstitutional.

HB 586 is not about protecting the rights of the individual property owner, but about developers being given special rights and benefiting from your tax dollars, so they can flood New Hampshire with high-density housing that will never carry its weight in taxes. Guess who bears the burden of the need for more schools, fire, police and EMTs? Guess who suffers from lower property values when their neighborhood becomes flooded with high-density housing? You guessed it: the single-family homeowners, especially retirees, who are already at the brink of being taxed out of their homes.

Taking private property for economic development, even with compensation, is exactly what HB 586 would do. The weak example cited where a farmer owns 100 acres and wants to develop it is non-existent. We are not aware of many towns where 10 acres are required to build one home. Even if a town with this requirement did exist, the owner of an 8-acre lot would likely be given a variance without much objection from the public.

Of course, developers across New Hampshire are ready to get to work to solve the so-called shortage, but you can bet it is never for the public good. Naturally, they are eager to line their own pockets, often with outrageous tax-free deals like tax credits for up to 10 years. What Granite State resident in his right mind would ask the state to replace local control on behalf of the rights of a few developers who do not care about preserving a town’s aesthetics?

With regard to SB 306, the Housing Appeals Board (HAB) was secreted into the budget when certain GOP senators knew it would fail a 4th time. The HAB currently mandates that a three-person board can override any local town board. Read that again: any local town board. It should be abolished on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. The only property rights it protects are those of greedy developers who don’t care how you voted to preserve the look and feel of your town.

Mr. Latona and Mr. Sorens allege that ‘Republicans think supporting “local control” justifies the war on housing.

Spoken like true liberals — those who truly do not understand the principles of self-government. They are advocating for the rights of a few developers who would trample on the rights of the other 99.99%.

In addition, the polls they cite are far from unbiased and do not represent the majority of Granite State taxpayers. Most of these college polls only survey about 300 people.

Rep Sue Homola from Hollis has it right in her April 5, 2021, Union Leader op-ed, “Republicans aren’t the cause of a housing shortage”.

She sees right through these bills and gives an excellent explanation of how dangerous to property rights they really are.

The best government is that which is closest to the people. People in Grafton have decided they don’t want zoning.

If you don’t want zoning and you are not worried about having an apartment building, a motorcycle repair shop, or working farm next door, you move to a town like Grafton.

People in Bedford have zoned their town to protect the property rights of 99.99% of the homeowners already there. They want to protect the property value of the homes of all the residents.

The Bedford Residents Association has been a strong advocate for local control. This association is not a “vocal few” but the majority of voters who were given the chance to have a say in how our town is developed.

And we want the state to butt out.

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