Little Support for Blighted Property Bill - 1409 responses

Feb 02, 2015

No one wants to live next to an eyesore property, but should owners of neglected homes or buildings be subject to fines when they ignore violation notices? Sen. Martha Fuller-Clark thinks so, and has sponsored a bill (SB 175) that would give municipal authorities the power to fine owners of blighted properties up to $250 per day, after written notices have been ignored for 'a reasonable period of time'. In the run-up to a Senate committee hearing on the bill, the Live Free or Die Alliance (LFDA) asked its Facebook members – numbering over 52,000 - to weigh in on the issue. 

In response to the question, "Should NH give municipalities the authority to fine owners of "blighted" properties?", 65% of those directly responding answered negatively, with only 35% showing support for the proposed bill. Forty-four percent of total commenters opted not to give a yes or no response, instead addressing their comments to broader issues. In sum, the LFDA received 286 specific comments and 1123 concurrences for a total of 1409 citizen responses. 

The majority, who were opposed to the bill, fell largely on two fronts. Some respondents argued that blighted property owners likely could not afford repairs and that fining them was therefore counterproductive. "Fining people who have no money won't solve the problem, it will only make it worse," one commenter said. Others asserted that the proposal infringed on property owner's rights. "If they pay their taxes its really no one's business," one poster argued. Several commenters suggested alternative ways for towns to cope with blighted properties. "If a town has an issue with a property owner, they can take it to court and have it resolved there," one respondent suggested. "Before government assistance, people helped their neighbors. Let's get back to that," offered another. 

For those in favor of the bill, blighted properties represented an infringement on the rights of neighbors. "It's fair and constitutional for a community to keep and improve its real estate values by requiring owners to maintain their properties at minimum levels of aesthetic and safety standards," one poster argued. "Individual rights should not protect someone's ability to drag their neighbors property values down," another noted. Some reiterated the bill's intent that the money from fines should go toward reimbursing repairs. 

Those who did not give a yes or no response to the question discussed a variety of issues related to housing. "I wish NH would go after slum land lords and force them to repair or sell run down neglected rentals," one commenter said. "Permits should be free if they are for renovations," another argued. "I think I would support pushing the problem back to the towns to figure out how they want to deal with it locally. It's the only way to get the solution and the problem into the same room," a poster suggested. 

Click here to see the full Facebook discussion of this question.

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