An Issues Mobilization Grant helped the local REALTORS® rally a Tennessee community in opposition to a proposed moratorium on new developments that would have increased the price of housing and hurt the construction and trade industries. Advocacy Everywhere got the message through to the County Commission.
When the Planning Commission of Jefferson County in eastern Tennessee attempted to impose a moratorium on development of subdivisions of over four lots for a period of six months – or until its long-range plan was updated – the local REALTORS® saw a red flag. Six months would be plenty detrimental, but a planning update could take twenty months, and they weren’t about to let it go there. With an Issues Mobilization Grant from the REALTOR® Party and help from the Advocacy Everywhere program, the 500-member Lakeway Area Association of REALTORS® rallied the public to oppose the threat to housing inventory, prices, and the construction and trade industries.
Like other communities around the country, Jefferson County has been feeling the pressures of inadequate housing supply and rising home prices. As 70% of its population is employed in neighboring counties where commercial and industrial opportunities are more prevalent, Jefferson County serves the region’s workforce, and the proposed moratorium was only going to drive up the cost to access housing there.
Lauren Cecil, Government Affairs Director of Tennessee REALTORS®, helped the local association draft its grant application for the REALTOR® Party resources. “I worked with Will Sliger, the Legislative Chair of the Lakeway Area Association of REALTORS®, to get the language and strategy right, and to convey the seriousness of the issue. That preparation served us well, because we had already articulated the situation, the need, and the urgency, when it came to working with Real Strategies, the REALTOR® Party’s campaign consultant.”
The Issues Mobilization Grant supported a public-facing website through which local residents could contact the twenty-one County Commissioners via email; several weeks of digital advertising connected to the website; and a round of live phone calls to voters.
Cecil credits Sliger and 2022 President Greg Hurst with the campaign’s heavy lifting. When the advocacy campaign got underway, she says, “they dug deep into the process, which gave them access to the campaign dashboard to see the live response data. They really fought the good fight, tracking the various avenues of response and pivoting, taking up the phone themselves to make personal calls to fellow members as well as to the legislators.”
The vote by the County Commission was a real nail-biter, reports Sliger, who had been assured by one commissioner that there was no way the proposed moratorium was going to be derailed. “We managed to squeak by with one vote – and that was from an unexpected source who quietly flipped his position,” he says, noting that the win can certainly be attributed to the influence of all the phone calls and emails. He heard from one commissioner that the legislative body was being “blown away” by the volume of messages.
“I am incredibly grateful that the REALTOR® Party has given us another arrow in our quiver to advance the causes that matter to REALTORS® and their communities,” he adds. “When I do the RPAC orientation for new members, most of the examples I use are typically from the state level; now, I’ll be telling our own story: what the Lakeway Area Association was able to accomplish with RPAC dollars that we brought right back here when it was needed to stop this development moratorium. At the end of the day, this is much bigger than just that single accomplishment. This power behind us, it’s where the rubber meets the road.”
To learn more about how REALTORS® in Jefferson County, Tennessee are using REALTOR® Party programs to keep housing prices stable and housing development healthy, contact Lauren Cecil, Government Affairs Director of Tennessee REALTORS®, at email@example.com
or 615.440.5057; or Will Sliger, Legislative Chair of the Lakeway Area Association of REALTORS®, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-307-1429.