In Idaho, where housing costs have been soaring, the state REALTOR® association was determined to bring first-time homebuyers the advantages of dedicated tax-free savings accounts.
The effort began in partnership with Governor Brad Little during his gubernatorial campaign, and signed into law in 2020 — the day before the state entered its coronavirus stay-at-home order.
Says Max Pond, Government Affairs Director of the Idaho Association of REALTORS®, “The credit goes to Governor Brad Little and his staff, the IR Legislative Committee and the IR Public Policy & Trustee Committee. It was their dedication to making homeownership more accessible to first-time buyers that really got this effort across the finish line.” The focus, he notes, transcends personal real estate matters: creating housing opportunities for young buyers strengthens local labor markets, and the state economy overall.
The association is also grateful to the REALTOR® Party, he says, for early polling that gave the association clarity on the public perception of the issue, and for economic research that established an important baseline as they began to develop messaging in support of the proposed legislation.
Governor Little, who’s been an advocate of first-time homebuyer savings accounts since his campaign, urged the state legislature to pass the legislation developed by the Idaho REALTORS® in his first State of the State address, in 2019. In 2020, the association engaged directly with lawmakers on the issue, making use of a new advocacy program it based of the Federal Political Coordinator Program. With targeted phone calls and emails to individual lawmakers in key districts, the REALTORS® made their case for the legislation.
In addition to the bill establishing a first-time home buyer savings account program in the state of Idaho, a second bill was also passed, eliminating the filing deadline for applying for a homeowner’s tax exemption. The latter was all about the timing of a house purchase, explains Pond: “If you were buying a home and were unable to take the tax relief until the following year, that could price you right out of the market. Many young folks weren’t able to qualify for a loan – a couple hundred dollars makes a big difference.” The first-time home buyer savings account program was passed with an emergency clause that put it into immediate effect, so that prospective buyers could establish a dedicated tax-free account, up to $15,000 per year for singles and $30,000 for married couples, at any credit union or state depository. The REALTORS®, says Pond, will be promoting and monitoring the program to make sure it’s a success.
In addition to these victories for real estate, Pond reports that the state Real Estate Commission proposed three additional bills to modernize the regulatory code in Idaho that also passed in the most recent session, all of which emerged from IR Broker Summits in recent years. “All of this legislation will make the industry move at the speed of business for brokers, agents, and consumers in Idaho,” he says. “It was a successful year for our members and the association is proud of that!”
To learn more about how Idaho REALTORS® have been making the purchase of a first home more accessible in their state, contact Government Affairs Director Max Pond at 208-230-6703.