Letters to the Editor

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

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.

Jasmine Krotkov
Neihart, Mont.

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.

While the penchant to pull the proverbial lever based on gut feelings is all too human, much is at stake.

We are encouraging candidates to become mere performers, capable of delivering media sound bites and not much more.

We would do well to deeply question what qualities the executive officer of the world's only superpower truly needs. How important does Al Gore's supposed stiffness in front of the camera in the 2000 campaign look to us now? And how, I wonder, would a certain brilliant and unconventional lawyer from my home state of Illinois have been received by the public 150 years ago if he had required vetting on YouTube?

Roberta Werdinger
Ukiah, Calif.

In response to the Jan. 11 article, "A movement vs. a campaign," which characterized the campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as essentially about race and gender: I felt this article was an open invitation for people to vote on such a basis.

In 1960, many people voted for or against John F. Kennedy based on his religion. Is history going to repeat itself?

I am fearful that in this election we will disgrace ourselves as a nation by rejecting – or voting for – a candidate based primarily on race or gender, rather than on that candidate's qualifications for office.

John McBride
Bettendorf, Iowa

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail we receive, we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number. Any letter accepted may appear in print or on our website, www.csmonitor.com. Mail letters to Readers Write and Opinion pieces to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115. E-mail letters to Letters and Opinion pieces to OpEd.

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