In the weeks before a budget vote by the D.C. City Council, staff at the 3,000-member D.C. Association of REALTORS® (DCAR) was monitoring negotiations closely – and a good thing, too: just three days out, a single tweet from a veteran journalist hinted that a council member was planning to introduce an “emergency amendment” that would impose a “Mansion Tax” on homes valued more than a million dollars, and a separate tax on those more than $2 million. Never mind that many million-dollar homes in the nation’s capital could not be considered ‘mansions’ by any other standard; the “emergency” nature of the legislation left no room for public comment, which was what alarmed the REALTORS®.
At the time, DCAR was in the middle of a campaign advocating to keep an important consumer protection measure adequately funded. They had to shift gears fast, relates Bryan Frantz, the board’s Manager of Communications. “First, we called the council member, with whom we’ve always had a good relationship, to confirm it was true.” Notes DCAR Vice President of Government Affairs Katalin Peter, “I actually said, ‘You’re kidding, right?!’” The council member was not, and Peter informed him that the REALTORS® would have to do what they had to do. “I told him that while we understand he might want to consider tax proposals, not allowing any public debate was way too extreme. This would increase the annual residential property tax for a large number of D.C. homeowners, and they deserve a fair hearing.”
Next, DCAR notified NAR staff that they needed to halt the campaign in progress to tackle the last-minute amendment. “They were able to pivot on a dime and do exactly what we needed,” says Frantz. “With very little time, they gave us the ability to mobilize a significant portion of our membership for the cause. They helped us put out another Call for Action, and despite the fact that the interruption of a campaign-in-progress may have been somewhat confusing, there was a tremendous response from our members. It was our single most successful campaign ever, with more than 260 action-takers contacting their own representatives, the City Council Chairman, and DC’s at-large representatives.”
With that kind of push-back – plus Peter’s energetic direct lobbying of the entire City Council – the council member in question agreed to introduce his proposal as a stand-alone bill in an upcoming session, which will give opponents the opportunity to approach and combat it with typical methods. Additionally, the $1 million threshold will be increased to $1.5 million. Notes Frantz, “While we’re obviously still going to advocate against this bill, even if it passes as written, we’ve accomplished a significant victory in stopping the property tax hike (for now)!”
Peter emphasizes that thanks to the REALTOR® Party, GADs needn’t feel alone when a legislative crisis such as this one hits: “Don’t think you have to lift this all by yourself: this resource is really, really good – as good as you are – and the team is right there for you! NAR staff is so quick and agile,” she adds. “We simply couldn’t have done this without them.”
To learn more about how REALTORS® in the nation’s capital are protecting the rights of property owners with tools from the REALTOR® Party, contact Katalin Peter, DCAR’s Vice President of Government Affairs, or Bryan Frantz, Manager of Communications.