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Letters to the Editor

Readers write about what finance institutions can do for the 'green' building movement, and the face of presidential candidacy.

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Mortgage lending should encourage green builders

Regarding your Jan. 15 editorial, "Shadings to greener buildings," which drew needed attention to the importance of building energy-efficient and less polluting buildings: One factor that has been overlooked in the effort to encourage green building is financing for homeowners.

While there are numerous state and federal tax rebates for such things as installing energy-efficient windows or solar panels in one's home, those incentives are far outweighed by the disincentive provided by Fannie Mae's refusal to underwrite homes built using unconventional techniques. Most banks today write mortgages they intend to sell, and if Fannie Mae won't underwrite certain homes, banks won't write mortgages on them.

I built an underground home last summer and was shocked to learn from my credit union that they couldn't write a mortgage on it because it wasn't made with stick-frame construction techniques. Now I'm stuck in a loan that is two percentage points higher and 10 years shorter than a typical mortgage. All my tax rebates and savings in energy costs will go straight to my lender.

Portfolio lenders lend on unconventional properties, but they generally charge a few percentage points over the norm to compensate for the perceived added risk. We need to provide some sort of mortgage insurance for people willing to employ innovative, green construction techniques until those become the norm, instead of the less efficient stick-frame ones. When that happens, the free market will be able to regulate mortgage rates on green homes, but now it cannot.


Voting on a proper basis

Regarding your Jan. 10 editorial, "New Hampshire's humbling lessons": I feel our election campaigns are in danger of being little more than popularity contests.

Candidates are carefully groomed for "likability," which leaves deeper questions of intelligence, experience, and leadership ability unresolved. The specter of Hillary Clinton's tears producing sympathy votes in New Hampshire is a case in point.

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