In the months leading up to its 2021 centenary, the Colorado Association of REALTORS® thought long and hard about how to mark the momentous milestone. With a global pandemic in progress and racial justice on everyone’s mind, something ambitious and impactful was in order. Working in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, they achieved a powerful slate of legislation that will improve homeownership access for all Coloradans. They named the effort ‘A Century of Opportunity.’
“Homeownership is one of the fastest ways to build wealth, yet many Coloradans were finding themselves locked out,” explains Liz Peetz, the association’s Vice President of Government Affairs. “This sweeping legislative effort was the answer to our question, ‘What can we do about it, as REALTORS®?’ The discussion began with the big picture and maintained an ambitious scale: we were committed to addressing obstacles along the entire housing continuum, starting with the barriers many populations are facing today, and looking forward to adopting best practices to increase the supply of affordable housing at a sustainable level for the future.”
The REALTORS® were already in close contact with Habitat for Humanity, as both organizations are focused on the same research regarding market trend statistics and the Affordability Index. Over discussions last summer, the two groups distilled their focus to four distinct areas, each of which became draft legislation: creating strengthened Student Financial Literacy Standards in the high school curriculum; a Credit Building Pilot Program that allows renters to have their rent payments reported to credit bureaus; an Annual Public Report on Affordable Housing; and three grant programs promoting new solutions in Affordable Housing Development. An Issues Mobilization Grant from the REALTOR® Party funded extensive statewide focus groups, with diverse filter groups, that helped inform the crafting of each of the four pieces of legislation and backed them all with a compelling narrative; it also paid for engaging and informative infographics to generate public support for the four bills.
The Century of Opportunity granting legislation was sponsored by a strong REALTOR® Champion in Representative Julie McCluskie, says Peetz, noting that her expertise in the issues and her powerful position in the legislature were key to its success, as was her ability to fight every step of the way to align stakeholders towards transformative public policy in the $48 million legislative bill. Having a partner like Habitat for Humanity, which already enjoys support on both sides of the political aisle, was also a significant benefit, she adds.
Using the Advocacy Everywhere program, the Colorado REALTORS® sent out a Call For Action urging members to contact their legislators about the bills. “We’re really proud that all four pieces of legislation got through, and with bi-partisan support,” says Peetz. “It wasn’t easy, but the end result will empower and uplift aspiring Colorado homeowners well into the future. It’s such a fitting way to honor a century of REALTOR® values, and we couldn’t have done it without the REALTOR® Party.”
One unanticipated benefit of the effort, Peetz discovered, is the new relationships the REALTORS® have made with other stakeholders that will continue to build dividends in the future. One such example is the Credit Builders Alliance, a national non-profit organization that has invited her to speak at its webinars. “I always appreciate the chance to explain why REALTORS® care about the same things another organization’s constituents do: it strengthens our brand and our positions as allies.”
To learn more about how the Colorado Association of REALTORS® is marking its first hundred years by making a big impact on housing accessibility for all Coloradans well into the future, contact Liz Peetz, Vice President of Government Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303.785.7121.