In Spring 2020, the Rogue Valley Association of REALTORS® was poised to conduct a major Wildfire Safety Campaign in the City of Ashland, Oregon, with plans to be in full swing throughout the summer. Just before the launch, the pandemic forced a three-month delay. Then, a massive wildfire tore through the region, destroying more than 2,500 homes. Times have been tough – there is still a constant haze of smoke overhead and local fires have become the new normal – but the REALTORS® knew that the campaign was more necessary than ever. One year later, they had carried out their original plans, with several unexpected benefits.
Greg Addington, the Governmental Affairs Director of the 1,500-member association, explains that the campaign began as a reaction to a 2018 proposed city ordinance to regulate vegetation, building materials, and landscaping at point of sale. “As REALTORS®, our members know that fire prevention is crucial, but they also knew that their clients being surprised with a $20K landscaping bill at point of sale was never going to go over well.” The City, on the other hand, was convinced that that was the moment when resources were on the table and improvements to the property were most likely to be made. It wasn’t easy, he reports, but the REALTORS® were able to convince ta city advisory council to let them conduct a broad education campaign that would not only reach the public, including homeowners, home buyers, and home sellers, but train and certify home inspectors in fire inspection at no cost. The plan, made possible by a $33K Consumer Advocacy Grant from the REALTOR® Party, is a long-game, and it will be years before they know if it has achieved its goal of changing behavior.
The Rogue Valley REALTORS® joined the Ashland Wildfire Advisory Council and created co-branded materials that drew on the expertise of the Ashland Fire & Rescue professionals. A large-format mailer was sent to Ashland residents and REALTORS®, indicating a recent risk assessment score for each property; an additional brochure focused on what to look for and what questions to ask when selling or shopping for a home in a fire-adapted community, along with a list of local resources; and targeted digital public-service ads ran on Facebook for several weeks. The centerpiece of the campaign, and the biggest item in the budget, was a free, two-day, in-person training and certification program for home inspectors conducted by the National Fire Protection Association. It was very well attended, and likely certified the majority of home inspectors operating in the Ashland region, reports Addington. The association’s Education Department also joined forces with Ashland Fire & Rescue to develop an annual Continuing Education class to keep members up to speed on best practices in fire mitigation.
The effort has brought members into more active participation with the association, says Addington, noting that the feedback has all been positive, and members have been especially impressed by the co-branding and cooperation that the association has achieved with city agencies. The campaign has notably improved relations with the city’s administration and even state legislators. “It’s an issue that everyone recognizes as top priority, regardless of politics,” he says. “What we’ve been able to do, with the help of the REALTOR® Party, has given us strong talking points with politicians of all stripes, and they recognize how invested we are in the public good.”
Addington encourages other small associations to take the first step toward tapping into the wide-ranging resources of the REALTOR® Party: “NAR has so many programs and so many resources that it can be overwhelming, especially as a smaller local board with limited staff. But once you do something like this, it opens up a whole world of possibilities and opportunities. I may not know who to call with my next idea, but I do know the staff member who helped me with this project – and I know she’ll know who can answer my next question!”
To learn more about how the Rogue Valley Association of REALTORS® is working to prevent wildfire damage and protect property rights in southwestern Oregon, contact Governmental Affairs Director Greg Addington at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541.892.1409.