For the third year in a row, a bill (SB 401) was introduced in New Hampshire to require owners of residential real estate on private roads to contribute toward the maintenance of the road. For the third year in a row, the bill failed.
The effort has been led by realtors, who point out Fannie Mae will not buy loans secured by houses on private roads without the existence of an enforceable maintenance agreement or a state law imposing a maintenance requirement. Many home buyers need loans eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae, which generally offer lower interest rates. If Fannie Mae won’t buy the loan, then the pool of available buyers drops. When that happens, the price of the real estate drops, according to the law of supply and demand.
Opponents raised several concerns, including:
- How will the expense be allocated (by frontage? Number of trips? Acreage?)
- Who decides the appropriate level of maintenance?
- The difficulty in defining residential (would it include camps and land simply zoned residential?)
- The unknown amount of the expense.
The Senate tried to address some of these issues in an amendment, but the House never even allowed the bill to be introduced. Because this year’s bill was substantially similar to the defeated bill from last year, the House needed to suspend its rules to allow the introduction of SB 401. The House voted 286-18 to not suspend its rules to allow the introduction of HB 401. While that vote was procedural and not on the merits of the bill, the overwhelming tally may provide insight into the likelihood of such a bill passing in the near future.
The defeat of SB 401 appears to illustrate New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” mentality perfectly. New Hampshire residents and elected officials tend to bristle over requirements imposed by the federal government, or organizations that smell like the federal government. Having a quasi-governmental agency like FNMA tell New Hampshire what to do may have played a role in a private road maintenance requirement being rejected. Perhaps the solution lies outside New Hampshire? The “problem” may exist with FNMA, not New Hampshire.