August 11, 2013

Letters to the editor: Tax deduction helps homeowners

Mainers have long understood the value of homeownership to our communities and families. In fact, according to the U.S. Census, 73 percent of Maine households own their home, the fourth highest homeownership rate in the country.

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Curtailing the mortgage interest deduction, as called for in a recent op-ed piece, would drive up Maine homeowners’ taxes, says the head of a state Realtors association.

The Associated Press

This means that changes to the tax code that negatively affect homeowners will have a disproportionate impact on Maine families.

A recent op-ed ("Maine Voices: Mortgage deduction ready for reform," July 28) suggested that curtailing the mortgage interest deduction might be a solution for ending homelessness and making homeownership more affordable.

Maine's 4,000 Realtors know firsthand the importance of homeownership tax incentives to a young couple shopping for their first home, or seniors on fixed incomes paying down a mortgage.

For the average Maine homeowner, eliminating the mortgage interest deduction would mean a nearly $2,100 tax increase each year. Sixty-three percent of Maine homeowners with a mortgage claim the deduction each year.

Homeownership is a ladder to the middle class, and home equity is often the biggest component of our net worth. National Association of Realtors research shows that eliminating the deduction could result in a 21 percent decrease in Maine home prices, or $21,700 for the typical home.

Preserving housing tax incentives is also a matter of fairness. Hardworking families purchased homes with the expectation that these vital tax provisions would remain in place. It would be unfair to change the rules in the middle of the game.

Making homeownership more affordable is a goal that Maine Realtors share. Yet, we disagree that a tax increase on Maine homeowners is the appropriate solution.

After several challenging years, the housing market in Maine is showing signs of recovery. Changing the homeownership tax incentives that have been in place for more than a century could jeopardize the fragile economic recovery we're beginning to experience. 

Bart Stevens

president, Maine Association of Realtors

Oakland

Organ donations help people 'start their lives over again'

In last Sunday's Maine Voices ("A chance to live is the greatest gift," Aug. 4), a subject was brought forth that really needs to be addressed more often to the American public.

There is a great need for more organ donations, be there a live donor or a relative who unfortunately is deceased -- but, with their organ donations, could live on in someone else.

I am a mother with four children, three of whom inherited from their father polycystic kidney disease. Through no fault of their own, they have lost the function of their kidneys to the cysts that grown on them.

Two of the youngest children have already been on "the list" of those waiting for an organ donation -- one for five years, and the other for 2½ years. This means they were on dialysis three times a week for that length of time but have now been fortunate to have received a kidney. My oldest son is on dialysis, waiting on the same list, and it could be five or more years.

As a mother, I live with them through this time watching the physical and mental breakdown as they wait. (I personally can't donate one of my kidneys as I have had cancer and could pass it on with my kidney.)

If you read the Maine Voices column Aug. 4, you would see how many people are waiting on these lists to start their lives over again. The kidney list, I'm sure, is the longest.

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