A Climate Action Plan might sound good in theory, but the devil, as they say, is in the details. When the City of Bakersfield, California proposed such a plan earlier this year, the local REALTOR® association spotted a number of serious red flags. With support from the REALTOR® Party’s Land Use Initiative program, it managed to convince the Bakersfield City Council that the plan was not only unnecessary, it threatened to worsen the housing crisis by making it more difficult and costly to sell a home.
Kim Huckaby, Government Affairs Director of the Bakersfield Association of REALTORS®, explains that the draft Climate Action Plan (CAP) would have gone above and beyond the already stringent restrictions and regulations of the State of California. Of particular concern to the REALTORS® was the requirement that all homes would have to be powered by electricity at point-of-sale. “It called for the imminent ‘de-carbonization’ of new and existing residential and non-residential buildings,” she says. “The city was proposing this without any economic study, so we did our own analysis, and determined that it would cost homeowners about $50K to retrofit the average local home before putting it on the market. Not only would such a mandate be unhelpful in the midst of a housing crisis, it is totally counter to our notion of private property rights.”
Huckaby notes that the CAP also sought to re-introduce Property Assessed Clean Energy, a disastrous policy that had caused a number of Bakersfield residents to lose their homes before it was rescinded by the City Council in 2016. “Somehow, this measure found its way back into the proposed CAP, and the very same City Council was not aware of it! Reminding members that this failed policy wasn’t good then, and it isn’t good now, was a very persuasive point as we lobbied against adopting the CAP.”
The REALTORS® gained strength in forming a coalition with the local builders and apartment associations, as well as Bakersfield’s agricultural and oil industries, the region’s two main economic drivers. “They are the region’s biggest employers and are key to the city’s strong tax base,” says Huckaby. “Naturally, they had concerns about the proposed ban on natural gas, as well as the impact on jobs in Bakersfield, and the ongoing housing crisis matters to us all.” The next step was applying for a review of the proposed CAP by Robinson & Cole, the law firm retained by the REALTOR® Party to provide policy analysis through the Land Use Initiative program. “This is my favorite of all the REALTOR® Party programs,” says Huckaby: “For associations our size, that don’t have the staff or the expertise to pinpoint the issues in a 108-page document, it’s a lifesaver. They turned their review around in a very tight timeframe, and we were able to put their findings into a powerful letter to the City Council.”
The REALTOR® leadership team also testified against the CAP at a City Council meeting. “Between our coalition strength, our economic research, the Robinson & Cole analysis, and the ability to point to the revival of a failed policy, we were able to convince the City Council to pull the CAP in just seven days of lobbying. Given the case that we’d mounted against the proposal, there wasn’t a single Council member that could have voted in favor,” reports Huckaby. In fact, the City Council was so impressed by the resources that the REALTORS® brought to bear on the CAP issue, they asked for help seeking solutions moving forward; the REALTORS are only too glad to be valued and involved.
To learn more about how the Bakersfield Association of REALTORS® has kept the municipality from committing to a plan that would increase the cost of real estate transactions, contact Government Affairs Director Kim Huckaby at firstname.lastname@example.org or 661.444.0376.