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Santa Fe REALTORS® Promote Diverse Housing Options in Housing-strapped Region

In communities across the country, record low housing inventory, extreme rental shortages, chronic NIMBYism, and a heavily regulated building environment are thwarting the cause of affordable and accessible housing.  In central New Mexico, the REALTORS® are seeking solutions as a leading force in the Santa Fe Housing Action Coalition (SFHAC).  With a Housing Opportunity Grant, they’re advancing the coalition’s mission to expand the diversity of housing options in the region.

Donna Reynolds, Government Affairs Director of the Santa Fe Association of REALTORS®, describes SFHAC, on whose Leadership Council she serves, as a broad group of stakeholders including businesses, homebuilders, educational, medical, and art institutions, community foundations, and traditional housing organizations; it also benefits from close relationships with the City and County of Santa Fe. “In order to build community support for more diverse local housing options (such as multi-family housing, accessory dwelling units, rental housing, housing-in-place and senior housing, emergency housing, sweat-equity housing, and housing for those with disabilities,) SFHAC developed a media/public engagement plan,” she says.  “Its goals were to raise awareness that Santa Fe has a significant housing crisis; help define local housing issues; demonstrate the link between housing and jobs; and create local stories that could be used during future campaigns.”

A compelling four-minute video telling multiple real-life stories of local housing insecurity is the centerpiece of the public engagement plan, supported by a REALTOR® Party Housing Opportunity Grant and additional funds from SFAR. “SFHAC is working to create a social media strategy that will use these videos and many other resources. It is also producing a monthly online newsletter to engage its members and the public,” notes Reynolds.

The grant funding also supported a day-long program to educate and train coalition members in recognizing and resolving intercultural conflicts in housing issues.

The historical displacement of indigenous and Hispanic people from their land and homes is one example of the kind of mistrust that lingers in the current housing environment, explains Reynolds. “By helping members to better understand issue of unaware bias, power, privilege, language, and history, we can break down a number of barriers that stand in the way of cooperation and progress,” she says. In addition to SFHAC members, the leadership of the Santa Fe REALTORS® participated in the training, as well as one of SFAR’s regular diversity training instructors whom Reynolds invited so that some of the unique cultural sharing could be an additional resource for future REALTOR® training programs. “The timing of the training was perfect,” notes Reynolds, “as the coalition has now been awarded a major grant from local funders to continue and build on its work.”

In more positive news, Reynolds reports two local legislative wins that will further the cause of the Santa Fe Housing Action Coalition:  the relaxation of land use requirements to encourage the expansion of accessory dwelling units, and the continuation of a fee option for multi-family development. That’s good for housing, good for the communities, and good for the REALTORS®.

To learn more about how the Santa Fe Association of REALTORS® is collaborating to grow diverse housing options in Santa Fe, contact Government Affairs Director Donna Reynolds at 505-982-8385.

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REALTOR® Party Training Conference Materials

REALTOR® Party Video

Watch and download the 2020 REALTOR Party video

Three Pillars Document

Read and download the REALTOR® Party Pillars outlining NAR’s Advocacy focus.

2020 REALTOR® Party Training Conference Program

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2020 REALTOR® Party Training Conference Photo Gallery

2020 Census Infographic

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Maryland’s Coastal Association of REALTORS® Battles Restrictions on Short-Term Rentals

The local REALTOR® association representing three counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore was aware that Worcester County was looking to overhaul its outdated rental code, but was expecting the effort to focus on clarity and uniformity of language. What was presented was a set of severe restrictions on short-term rentals, which is naturally a major issue in coastal communities. When some of the County Commissioners proved unreceptive to the REALTORS®’ initial advocacy, it was time to call on the Land Use Initiative and Advocacy Everywhere programs. The County Commission heard the message loud and clear, and sent its proposal back to the drawing board.

Sarah Rayne, Government and Public Affairs Director of the 1,000+ member Coastal Association of REALTORS® of Maryland, recalls the list of restrictions the County Commission was proposing:  “They wanted to limit the number of ‘unrelated’ people in a short-term rental unit to five; to require all short-term rental units to install an extra parking space; to define ‘short-term’ as under twenty-eight days; and even to prohibit birthday parties, showers, and other special events. The REALTORS®’ position is that a short-term rental is still residential, and so all these restrictions were simply unfair.” The ordinance also sought to create a rental license requirement, which Rayne notes that the REALTORS® do not oppose, as long as the fee is not exorbitant.

While the REALTORS® have strong relationships with most of the Worcester County Commissioners, it was clear that their first efforts at direct advocacy were not getting through to some. So, Rayne commissioned a Land Use Initiative review of the proposed ordinance to analyze land use and zoning legislation. “I’ve worked with them a number of times, and they’re always great – they seem to thrive on tight deadlines,” she says. “This time, they sent us sixteen pages of very useful information, which we condensed into a brief position statement and sent to our members, the media, and the County Commissioners.”

Just a few days prior to the vote, some of the Commissioners were still resistant to the REALTORS®’ reasoning. “That’s when we realized, ‘Ok – we need to get our members involved!’” says Rayne.  “We’re a small association, but our members are great, and very supportive of our Government Affairs efforts and advocacy.”  Rayne called on Susan Mitchell, Director of Government Affairs for the Maryland REALTORS®, who activated an Advocacy Everywhere effort using REALTOR® Party Mobile Alerts. “It’s such an effective program,” says Rayne, “it was very easy for our members to respond.” And respond they did: the alert went out on a Friday, and over the course of the weekend, the seven Worcester County Commissioners were bombarded by more than 630 emails from 90 unique addresses.

At the next meeting of the County Commission, several members of the Coastal Association of REALTORS® of Maryland were present and testified on behalf of property owners.

The Commission voted to approve the creation of a rental license and sent the rest of the proposed ordinance back to staff for re-drafting. “They’ll be addressing many of the REALTORS®’ concerns in the re-write,” explains Rayne, adding, “It was a definite win for property owners and our members. I’m certain that our call for action made a big difference.” Although the association is small, she says, REALTOR® Party resources help it achieve results that are relatively major. “I’m a big fan of all these tools that allow us to create such an impact!”

To learn more about how the Coastal Association of REALTORS® of Maryland is protecting the rights of homeowners in Worcester County and beyond, contact Government and Public Affairs Director Sarah Rayne at 410-641-4409.

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Pacific Southwest REALTORS® Helps Create Homeless Resources Website

San Diego’s East County communities had more than 1,000 homeless residents in early 2019, according to the best estimate of an annual homeless count, a number that will only be increasing, given the lack of new housing construction and the escalating cost of housing in the region. Looking for a way to connect this population with the local food, shelter, health, and veterans’ resources available, the area’s REALTORS® discovered that, according to additional studies, the majority of people experiencing homelessness in the area have cell phones. An increasing number of these publicly funded phones now have internet access. A $5,000 Housing Opportunity Grant enabled the Pacific Southwest Association of REALTORS® (PSAR) to partner with the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce Foundation and The East County Homeless Task Force in developing ECAssist.org, a website serving as a one-stop resource for those experiencing homelessness.

PSAR Government Affairs Director Tracy Morgan Hollingworth explains that the initial idea was to create an app, similar to the City of San Diego’s “Getting it Done” app, but she learned from colleagues that app stores like Google and Apple are notoriously selective about the programs they’ll market. So, they decided to create a website, instead.

The East County Homeless Task Force is a collaborative grassroots organization determined to reduce homelessness in the area; its Access to Services Solutions group and its Communications and Marketing Committee worked together to develop the website. Hollingworth credits Past Chair of the PSAR Government Affairs Committee, Kay LeMenager, with providing the tireless dedication that really got the project off the ground. Grants don’t have to be large to be effective, she notes, as long as there are enough dedicated people willing to do the work. “It was a slow, methodical process – three years – collecting all that information from all those resources, but Kay and her Committee members saw it through.” Now that it’s up and running, the Task Force has a commitment from the El Cajon Collaborative, who developed the website navigation and serves one of the poorest communities of East County, to maintain and update the site over the next two years. The site is well organized and user-friendly, allowing visitors to locate food pantries, various hotlines, medical care and shelter information in just a few clicks. The site translates into 15 languages, and also has a function that accepts donations.

PSAR is now helping with marketing ECAssist.org:  press releases have gone out to the media and relevant publications; the East County Homeless Task Force and has asked other municipal entities to feature it on their own websites; and Hollingworth is working with LeMenager and her Committee to create a speakers bureau to spread the word at local civic and business clubs. Last April, honoring the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, representatives of PSAR officially presented the $5,000 check to the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce Foundation, at a meeting of the El Cajon City Council.

“We made a great effort to try to reduce homelessness in Eastern San Diego County through the development of ECAssist.org, and we’re so grateful for the support of the REALTOR® Party that allowed us to do so,” says Hollingworth.

To learn more about how Pacific Southwest REALTORS® is working to connect area residents experiencing homelessness with available resources, contact Government Affairs Director Tracy Morgan Hollingworth at 619-618-5986.

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Royal Palm Coast REALTOR® Association Keeps Redundant, Burdensome Zoning at Bay

In the last three years, more than 45 municipalities across Florida have modified their vacation rental ordinances to be more restrictive. In Cape Coral, a seasonal residence for many homeowners, REALTORS® aided by a Land Use Initiative led a successful charge to keep additional restrictions off the books.

The rush to update ordinances covering vacation rental issues is explained by Chris Lopez, Public Policy Director of the 7,300-member Royal Palm Coast REALTOR® Association, which serves two counties along the Gulf Coast:  “It became evident several years ago that there was a big gap in ordinances dealing with the technology that brought us all the on-line booking platforms. The instinct seems to be to create a whole raft of new ordinances addressing the perceived ‘threat,’ rather than investigating the suitability of what already exists in local code. City Councils also reflexively jump on the ‘gap’ as a funding opportunity, where they could impose registration fees, fines for violations, and collect business and rental taxes on these properties. Our goal has been to minimize this excessive government involvement.”

Faced with a proposed new set of such ordinances, the Royal Palm Coast REALTORS® applied for a Land Use Initiative review by NAR consultants. “It’s always my first step, in cases like this,” says Lopez, noting that, “if we can use this legal expertise in early conversations with city leaders, we may be able to head-off expensive efforts for both sides down the road. Having the national and state framework that NAR consultants provided was extremely persuasive in these meetings, and in workshop settings when we seek to re-draft legislation, and in support of our testimony during public hearings. It’s a powerful ace-up-the-sleeve.”

The REALTORS®’ strongest objection to the Cape Coral proposal was that most of the concerns it attempted to address were already covered by existing city ordinances. “We have regulations regarding noise. We have rules about parking, and trash collection, and property upkeep. All these issues can be effectively managed with a call to the police. There is simply no need to duplicate the legislation by adding a redundant layer just for vacation homes.” Beyond that, the economic burden that the new rules would impose on affected property owners and businesses could be onerous. After a good faith effort at workshopping the proposed Cape Coral ordinance with city staff and a like-minded coalition of organizations, including Airbnb and the Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, the REALTORS® found that they still could not support the resulting compromise language.

At that point, reports Lopez, they mobilized REALTOR® members and the general public with a mailing. “At the second public hearing on the ordinance, we filled the room with business people, REALTORS®, and homeowners, many of whom voiced their fears that these overly restrictive measures would affect their ability to live and do business in Cape Coral.”  There was no one to speak in favor of the proposed ordinance, and the City Council was forced to concede that the protections in place were adequate, if no one wanted them changed. “It was a pretty great victory,” admits Lopez: “going in to the hearing, the outcome was a toss-up. After our people had their say, all seven Council members and the Mayor had come around to our way of thinking.”

“I can’t speak highly enough about the service that Robinson & Cole provides,” he adds. “These collective resources of the REALTOR® Party that can be called into play when high stakes are on the table are so important, and form a critical part of our ongoing advocacy. We keep a constant eye on local municipal agendas, and work hard at maintaining strong relationships with our civic leaders, so we’re able to be fully engaged and keep finding good solutions for our communities.

To learn more about how the Royal Palm Coast REALTOR® Association is keeping a vigilant eye on short-term rental ordinances and other legislation of concern to Southwest Florida property owners, contact Public Policy Director Chris Lopez at 239-936-3537.

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NAR Provides Testimony on Housing Finance Reform

NAR’s president elect Vince Malta provided congressional testimony on housing finance reform to the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs on Wednesday, March 27.

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REALTOR® Party Leaders Plan for 2019

NAR CEO Bob Goldberg & 2019 President John Smaby

NAR CEO Bob Goldberg & 2019 President John Smaby

A few weeks ago, nearly 600 REALTOR® Party leaders gathered in in Minneapolis, Minnesota for the 2019 REALTOR® Party Training Conference. This conference was special for a number of reasons. For the first time, it went beyond just the state and local advocacy components of our organization and brought in the federal parts, as well. It also kicked off an important celebration – the 50th anniversary of the REALTORS® Political Action Committee. While RPAC certainly is one of the most powerful PACs in America, we like to think that RPAC also stands for REALTORS® Participate Advocate and Celebrate, the conference theme.

While a lot of fun was had in our purple REALTOR® Party shirts, we also laid the foundation for important advocacy outreach efforts in each state and region throughout 2019. All of this work was tied to NAR’s 2019 strategic priorities. We also got a preview of our 2019 federal policy priorities. Finally, it wouldn’t have been a REALTOR® event without an opportunity to give back. Conference attendees donated nearly 500 toys to Toys for Tots Twin Cities. This is a great organization that has been “bringing the joy of Christmas to America’s needy children” sin 1948.

The REALTOR® Party comes alive with our stories of advocacy and community involvement. These stories, powerful and inspiring, are stories of how the REALTOR® Party is a force to be reckoned with at all levels. Your state leaders have developed ways to Own Our Story and make sure it’s told, and told well. Helen Keller once said, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” That’s what the REALTOR® Party is about — 1.3 million members and staff working together nationwide, advancing public policies and candidates that build strong communities, protecting property interests, and promoting a vibrant business environment. No doubt, our ability to articulate the REALTOR® narrative effectively will play a huge role in the future of our businesses and our associations.

We hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday season.

Bob Goldberg, CEO

John Smaby, 2019 NAR President

 

 

 

 

Bob Goldberg, CEO                      John Smaby, 2019 NAR President

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