Letters: Legislative response to New Hampshire’s housing crisis

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To the Editor:

It is hard to overlook the irony that the letter entitled “Property Rights for Some But Not For All?” was published on the same day (April 22) that the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Grants Pass v. Johnson. In that case, the city of Grants Pass, Oregon is asking the court to uphold an ordinance it passed prohibiting anyone from “camping” on public property and empowered the police to remove anyone who does and to issue them a citation. The ordinance clearly targeted the city’s unhoused population. At oral argument Justice Sonya Sotomayor asked the attorney for the city, “If homeless people aren’t allowed to sleep anywhere, are they supposed to just kill themselves?”

We have a housing crisis in New Hampshire. It doesn’t just impact homelessness, it impacts critical elements of our economy and our future. Young professionals are leaving the state because of the lack of affordable housing. That, in turn, negatively affects the choices businesses may make about relocating here. The effects may not be felt next week or even next month, but in the long run it will be a major problem for this state.

The author of the letter referenced above decried efforts by the legislature to address this crisis. In the view of the author, those steps threaten the very existence of single-family homes in New Hampshire. The author also rejects the notion that the government has any role to play in this matter. (Although not directly on point, the author also takes the opportunity to call climate change “false” and to assert that the steps the legislature has taken are part of a worldwide agenda of the UN. You may make of that what you will.)

No one is being deprived of a property right by any of this legislation.

The extent and the limits of property rights has been amply set forth in numerous decisions of both the U.S. and New Hampshire Supreme courts. (See e.g. Britton v. Town of Chester, 134 NH 434 (1991)) Indeed these laws are about reducing the restrictions imposed on property owners by zoning ordinances, something people opposed to “big government” should applaud. These laws most certainly will NOT result in “the eradication of single-family neighborhoods” as the author claims. Kudos to the legislature for taking a proactive (albeit somewhat belated) approach to addressing this crisis.

Legislation like this will provide long-term benefits to all citizens in New Hampshire.

James Costello


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