2019

Coeur d’Alene REALTORS® Bring a “Storybook Trail” to Growing Community

It must have been like Christmas at the Rathdrum, Idaho City Hall: the local REALTOR® association had decided to make the small but up-and-coming mountain community the beneficiary of a Placemaking project, with support from the REALTOR® Party, as well as considerable volunteer power of its own.

Ali Taylor, association executive of the 1600-member Coeur d’Alene Association of REALTORS®, explains that her board was aware of Placemaking Grants, and wanted to find a way to use one to help a local community where its members live and work. They chose the City of Rathdrum, a growing city that was still small enough to benefit from the impact of a relatively modest project. Taylor and her board president, Amanda Kuespert, sat down with staff from the Rathdrum Parks and Recreation Department, and asked, “What can we do for you?” It didn’t take much brainstorming to land on a dream project with broad appeal: the creation of a storybook trail at the base of Rathdrum Mountain.

Taylor contacted NAR staff and pitched the idea, whose walkability and community gathering features made it a good fit for a Placemaking Grant. “The project’s intent is to provide children and their families, and even schools and daycares, a destination for spending quality time outdoors, away from the television and electronics, while being active and learning at the same time,” says Taylor. She also expects that the StoryWalk will attract visitors from beyond the City of Rathdrum, which could bolster local businesses, and notes that the trail will be a positive asset for REALTORS® to use in marketing the area.

The Placemaking Grant supported the construction of a gentle, unpaved creek-side trail on a wooded 540-acre plot of public land just a few minutes’ drive from the downtown Rathdrum, and several schools. The city provided the mapping and design of the trail, which features 20 cement posts installed along the path, specially designed to hold pages from picture books chosen by the local library. The books, whose pages are protected by plexiglass covers, will be changed four times a year. The ‘reading stations,’ as well as benches and a nine-foot high cement Bigfoot statue marking the trailhead, were funded by the Placemaking grant, together with another $2,500 pledged by the Coeur d’Alene Association of REALTORS®.

About 20 REALTOR® volunteers joined with city volunteers, Boy Scouts, and other community partners to clear the trail site and install the book posts over the course of about five days this summer. “We had a blast working with all of them!” reports Taylor. “It was a great collaboration, and many parties can claim real ownership of the project, which has been a real success.” The city built a parking lot near the trail to improve access, and has committed to taking care of trash removal; it is also providing an on-site ‘camp host’ during the trail’s open season to provide safety and information.

The City of Rathdrum organized a festive ribbon-cutting ceremony with the mayor when the trail was nearly complete towards the end of the summer, and in its inaugural season, the camp host reported 30 to 60 visitors per day. Several signs, one at the trailhead, a smaller one mid-trail, and a plaque on Bigfoot, credit the Coeur d’Alene REALTORS® with making it possible, and Taylor says that they’ve noticed quite a buzz over the city’s new attraction on local social media. “The project has helped us to develop a strong relationship with community members and city officials,” notes Taylor, adding “It’s been much more impactful than simply writing a check.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho are using REALTOR® Party resources to improve the quality of life in their local communities, contact Association Executive Ali Taylor at 208-667-0664. To learn more about Storybook Trails, see Storybook Trails: Where Kids Can Walk and Learn at the Same Time.

Read more

North Carolina “Congressional Road Shows” Highlight Working Relationships of REALTORS® and Capitol Hill Counterparts

“August recess” sounds like a lovely month of downtime, but for hardworking members of Congress, it’s one of the busiest times of year, packed with constituent meetings and events in their home districts. In North Carolina this summer, NC REALTORS® experienced the phenomenon first-hand through a series of “Congressional Road Shows” that gave them rare access to Representatives across four districts. The opportunities capitalized on, and gave REALTORS® members a glimpse into, the successful workings of the state’s Federal Political Coordinators (FPC).

NAR’s Federal Political Coordinator program takes political advocacy to the halls of Congress and makes it personal. Each state association pairs a knowledgeable REALTOR®, the Federal Political Coordinator, with a member of Congress in a one-on-one relationship, in which the FPC can effectively advocate for favorable real estate industry policies, and serve as a resource and educator on housing issues in a given state or district. Often, the FPC and his or her Congressional counterpart have an existing relationship, making the working bond even stronger.

Kevin Green, the FPC working with Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina’s 6th District, including Greensboro and Asheboro, reports that the Congressman and his staff were excited to participate in this summer’s “Town Hall” type meeting.  “He was able to interact with his constituents, answer real-estate specific questions and share with us his view of the mood in D.C.  The FPC program allows us to personally connect with our Congressman, and also gives him a resource for real-estate related economic data and demographics in his district.”

Bill Aceto, who is paired with Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina’s 5th Congressional District, which includes Winston-Salem, agrees that the mutual value of the FPC relationship is invaluable. “There are very few, if any, other industries I know of that have this kind of access, and such positive relationships with members of Congress across the board; of course, it doesn’t hurt that RPAC provides such generous support. Our representatives look to us as a reliable resource,” he continues, “with good industry data and our fingers on the pulse of what’s going on in the district. They know that we’re not lobbyists, but volunteers: we are citizen advocates!”

Troi Bachmann, Local Government Affairs Director of the Winston-Salem area, helped to coordinate the event with Representative Foxx, working with Katharine Wendt, NC REALTORS®’ State Grassroots Coordinator and Regional Government Affairs Director. “Our members were thrilled,” says Bachmann. “It was so powerful to see our elected Congresswoman here in our REALTOR® association office, in conversation with our own Bill Aceto, talking through a pre-approved agenda based on NAR’s guidelines; it really showed our members the power of the REALTOR® brand. Bachmann, who is a shared GAD with the local Homebuilders Association, arranged for its members to attend the event, as well, and Representative Foxx addressed issues of concern to both industries. These ranged from the National Flood Insurance Program, to association health care reform, to a shortage of skilled building labor. The hour-long event seemed to make an impression on the Congresswoman, too, says Bachmann. “She asked us to make sure we do it again!”

Also making themselves available to their REALTOR® constituents were Representatives Ted Budd and David Price. According to Wendt, who began planning the Congressional Road Shows more than four months in advance, they were lucky to get as many as that:  “We reached out to each of the 13 Congressional district offices in the state, and some were already booked for every minute of the August recess!” she recalls, adding that members who sit on the Homeland Security Committee advised them that, during hurricane season, they’d have to cancel if FEMA called…. On the strength of the success of this year’s Road Show, NC REALTORS® is going to repeat the effort next year, and will start planning even earlier. “Now that we’ve built connections with the schedulers in each office, we should have a leg up,” says Wendt. The value of opportunities like this, she adds, is that it’s not feasible for all REALTORS®   to attend the REALTORS® Legislative Meetings in May and travel to the Capitol for National Legislative Day visits coordinated by the FPCs. “This gives them a chance to be involved closer to home, advocating for issues close to the heart of their industry and communities.”

In addition, FPC Bradley Cohen was asked by his Congressman Richard Hudson to participate in a small business round table organized by the 2020 Trump Campaign, part of a larger effort by the Trump campaign asking business leaders across the country about the economic impact of their industry. NAR Political Representatives and Research staff helped prepare Bradley Cohen with appropriate North Carolina-specific real estate data. Trump Campaign Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany prompted many questions directly to our FPC during the panel. He was able to lead the conversation around a myriad of housing issues including: the economic impact on the average home sold, improving home ownership rates, tax reform with the 20% deduction for independent contractors, opportunity zones, affordable housing, and association health plans.

To learn more about how NC REALTORS® are working with their elected officials to make a difference for the state’s property owners, the real estate industry, and small businesses, contact Katharine Wendt, State Grassroots Coordinator and Regional Government Affairs Director, at 919-573.0988 x388.

Read more

Safety & Disaster Preparedness Dominate September

As the end of summer nears, our advocacy efforts are back in full swing! This month we celebrate REALTOR® Safety Month and National Preparedness Month. Throughout September, we are reminded of how these play out in our advocacy outreach efforts.

REALTORS® face job-related risks every day — working alone, meeting with strangers in unfamiliar places, and sharing personal contact information. While independence is one of the perks of our industry, it can leave us open to vulnerabilities. While we designate September as REALTOR® Safety Month to raise awareness of safety issues, it’s important for real estate professionals to stay focused on safety year-round. That why, more than a decade ago, we launched the REALTOR® Safety Program. The program provides members with safety education, tips, and countless other resources and tools at no cost, including the NEW REALTOR® Safety Network. The program covers a range of topics, including cybersecurity and data privacy — two hot topics for advocacy. The aim: Help REALTORS® make it home safely to their family every night. Learn more at nar.realtor/Safety.

We’ve also partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for National Preparedness Month. When natural disasters like Hurricane Dorian strike, it’s essential that real estate professionals remain safe, but also to look out for their clients and their families so that they have the resources they need. This year’s theme: Be Prepared, Not Scared is an excellent reminder for us to ready ourselves and our clients for natural disasters, and help families in the wake of a tragedy by raising awareness about disaster risks and the simple, proactive steps everyone can take. Visit ready.gov/september for shareable content, graphics, and videos throughout the month. The resources also offered on NAR’s Disaster Preparedness Resources are a valuable asset that can help build a culture of preparedness and ready the nation for catastrophic disasters.

According to FEMA, just one inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage to your home. As floodwaters rise, so do the costs of repairing your home and replacing the things inside of it. Heavy rains or hurricanes that lead to flash flooding highlight the need for the National Flood Insurance Program. Learn more at realtorparty.realtor/nfip.

As with every natural disaster, we encourage you to make a donation to the REALTORS® Relief Foundation. Over the past 18 years, the foundation has collected and distributed more than $32 million in aid for some 80 disasters in 39 states and territories since it launched after the September 11 terrorist attacks. It’s helped more than 13,000 families. Every dollar goes directly to victims of disaster, and NAR covers 100% of administrative expenses. Donate today.

Resources

Read more

National Homeownership Month Resources Available

June is National Homeownership Month and we are celebrating the homeowner heroes of today, tomorrow, the future! Download videos, graphics, and resources to share online and social media from Homeownership Matters at resources.homeownershipmatters.realtor/resources/.

Read more

REALTORS® Reverse FEMA Flood Insurance Suspension Within Days of Dubious Shutdown

In Washington, it’s who you know, what you know, and how you use it that matters.  And when a significant number of those ‘whos’ are furloughed by the federal government, it makes navigating any given federal policy crisis that much more challenging.

Such was the case on Christmas Eve, when the National Association of REALTORS® was tipped off that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) would be suspending National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) operations during the government shutdown – this, after Congress and the President had enacted legislation reauthorizing the NFIP through May 31.  NAR’s advocacy team flew in to action calling contacts, developing strategies, and gathering data.  They were able to bring about a full reversal of the decision, says Senior Policy Representative Austin Perez, because of the depth of knowledge, resources, and relationships that the association has in place.

Two days before FEMA publicly announced the NFIP suspension, Perez was able to confirm the rumor of the program’s impending closure, but not through FEMA, most of whose staff was furloughed at the time. Instead, Perez turned to the insurance agents who sell the policies for FEMA and thus would be the first notified of any NFIP operational change.  Indeed, FEMA had directed these agents to stop selling NFIP insurance while government attorneys determined the legality of NFIP operating under the Anti-Deficiency Act – the law generally barring federal agencies from operating during a lapse of appropriations.

Having identified the problem, Perez mobilized the advocacy team to find a solution. Legislative research revealed that the Anti-Deficiency statute had not applied to NFIP during previous shutdowns because the program is funded by policy-holder premiums, not annual appropriations.  A post on the Hub brought in real-time data on affected home sales from NAR’s volunteer leaders, whose networks reported hundreds of stalled sales per day.  “We were able to respond to the government attorneys with actual data and legislative history and put this information in the hands of policy makers in less than twenty-four hours,” says Perez.

Armed with data and proof of precedent, the team of lobbyists led by Shannon McGahn, NAR’s Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, used their access to the White House and Congress to apply pressure on the government attorneys who had determined that NFIP would be shut down along with the government.  Meanwhile, virtually all of the housing industry’s financial services groups, including insurers and lenders, joined NAR in issuing statements criticizing the questionable FEMA decision.

Within days, FEMA issued a statement resuming operations and retroactively covering the tumultuous week of insurance insecurity.  “It was only because of our strong and longstanding relationships in the government, within the insurance industry, and most especially among our own active volunteer leadership, that we were able to mobilize so quickly to resolve the crisis,” says Perez.  “Faced with real-time evidence and the impact on the national economy, it was a no-brainer for our federal policy makers.  We’re grateful to all our members who overwhelmingly responded to our call for home-sales evidence during that eventful stretch of the holidays.  The system worked!”

To learn more about how the National Association of REALTORS® used its contacts, savvy, and industry expertise to convince FEMA to reverse its surprise decision and reinstate the National Flood Insurance Program, contact Austin Perez, Senior Policy Representative, at aperez@realtors.org or 202.383.1046.

Read more

With Advocacy Everywhere, Illinois REALTORS® Rally Peoria Voters against New “Parcel Tax” on Property Owners

Attempting to bridge a $1.2 million hole in its budget, the City Council of Peoria, Illinois, thought it would impose a new fee on owners of all residential and commercial property within its jurisdiction. The proposed fee, which was expected to increase over time with no end in sight, was not going to get by the Peoria Association of REALTORS® without a fight: “They’ve poked the wrong bear!” declared one board member. With help from the state association and the REALTOR® Party, the REALTORS® used Advocacy Everywhere and other measures to call voters’ attention to the threat and encourage calls of opposition to the City Council. Overwhelmed by the volume, the Council agreed to a compromise.

Dallas Hancock, CEO of the Peoria Area Association of REALTORS® (PAAR,) notes that her Government Affairs Committee is proactive and engaged, meeting with the community’s elected officials and staff on a monthly basis to keep the lines of communication open. “Some Council members even contact us directly, when something comes up that needs our attention. And when they don’t, we can depend on Kristie to be closely monitoring City Hall!” Kristie Engerman, the Local Government Affairs Director and Regional Manager for Member Outreach with the Illinois REALTORS®, explains that in this case, the city was trying to fill a shortfall in the Public Safety Pension fund, a perennial challenge that grows exponentially, and which requires a last-minute band-aid every November. “PAAR’s Government Affairs Committee does a great job developing and maintaining working relationships with City Hall, but at the end of the year when there’s a sense of desperation over balancing the budget, you’re going to need more than that. You need pressure from voters,” she says.

Engerman enumerates the “vast store of REALTOR® resources” that PAAR brought to bear on the effort to oppose the proposed Public Safety Pension Fee, part of a program that the REALTOR® Party helped to put together within a matter of hours in mid-November:  “Emails and texts messages to PAAR members, on Fridays and Mondays of two consecutive weekends; and a consumer component supported by the Illinois REALTORS®’ Advocacy Fund that involved texts, social media, and a postcard mailer. We used all avenues at our disposal.  Let me tell you, Peoria is a relatively small community, and when Council members have thousands of constituents calling and emailing – they notice.”

In the end, the Public Safety Pension Fee passed, but in a reduced version of the original proposal: the fee itself was lowered, and a sunset clause limited the duration to three years. Says Hancock, “We’re glad for the compromise. More than that, we really raised awareness among voters in the community. Our REALTORS® saw the advocacy system at work; the public saw REALTORS® in action; and many voters were jolted out of apathy and into action. But most importantly, the elected leadership experienced the impact of the REALTOR® Party collaborative efforts. That’s a big win.”

She continues, “We are just so fortunate to have Kristie handling our Government Affairs – along with those of the rest of the state – with such expertise. Efforts like this could never happen the way they do without her guidance.”  As for Engerman, she notes that it was widely considered time for some push-back on Peoria city budget matters, and it’s been good to put a spotlight on the long-term issues. “For the viability of the entire region, we want Peoria to remain competitive in the housing market, which it can only do if taxes and fees on property ownership are kept at a reasonable level. The REALTORS® are the only organization out there looking to protect private property rights, and at the same time, thanks to PAAR’s strong Government Affairs Committee, we can talk to the City Council about formulating a long-range business plan to resolve challenging budget needs.”

To learn more about how REALTORS® in Peoria used a REALTOR® Party program to protect property owners from unfair tax burdens, contact Kristie Engerman, Local Government Affairs Director and Regional Manager for Member Outreach for Illinois REALTORS®, at 309-253-864; or Dallas Hancock, CEO of the Peoria Area Association of REALTORS®, at 309-688-8591.

 

 

 

Read more

REALTOR® Advocacy Continues Despite Government Shutdown

NAR CEO Bob Goldberg & 2019 President John Smaby

NAR CEO Bob Goldberg & 2019 President John Smaby

As of Monday, January 7, the partial shutdown of the federal government had become the third-longest in U.S. history, with White House and Congressional leadership still unable to reach an agreement on funding for southern border defense.

Currently, more than 420,000 federal employees are working without pay, including some at the IRS and Department of Homeland Security, while 380,000 workers have been furloughed from the Departments of Transportation and Housing & Urban Development, among others. In all, nine of 15 federal departments are closed, while dozens of agencies also remain shuttered. Fortunately, however, roughly 75 percent of government services are unaffected by the shutdown.

Still, concerns would deepen should the shutdown persist for additional weeks, and many Americans and federal government workers are certainly feeling the effects of the stalemate one way or another.

The situation becomes particularly bleak for all federal government employees who will not receive a paycheck until the government reopens. Obviously, any American who faces a temporary pause in income because of the shutdown could struggle to on time make payments in the coming days and weeks. That includes mortgage payments and bills for things like rent, car loans and student debt. Any delay in these payments could harm an individual’s finances and their credit, which would obviously impact their ability to buy a home or make other large purchases in the future.

During the shutdown, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is not issuing new rural loans or closing on direct loans. HUD, however, will still close on single-family loans, but furloughs at the agency could make the process longer and more difficult.

For ordinary Americans, this shutdown creates economic uncertainty and feelings of long-term instability. Buying a home is a high-stress transaction, and adding another complexity to the process with possible delays in the transaction only further hurts the economy and U.S. consumers. It could even begin to shave off GDP growth in a measurable way.

We will continue to work with congressional leaders and White House officials to minimize impacts of the shutdown on the housing market, and to ensure our 1.3 million members across the country are equipped with every resource necessary to continue operating as usual during the shutdown. We have also prepared a page which outlines all the ways you and your business could be impacted, along with a comprehensive document explaining the specific impact on each governmental entity that impacts housing.

Read more

2019 Key Messages

Download the 2019 REALTOR® Party Key Messages.

 

REALTORS®

REALTORS® are champions in their communities.

  • REALTORS® positively impact their neighborhoods by promoting real property ownership and strong community development.
  • As a trusted resource in the community, REALTORS® are natural advocates for homeownership and real estate issues.

 

PARTICIPATE

The REALTOR® Party empowers REALTORS® to shape the future of the real estate industry.

  • REALTORS® embrace their engagement in the legislative and political process.
  • No matter the breadth or depth of an issue, REALTORS® are involved in the solution.

 

ADVOCATE

When REALTORS® speak, leaders at every level of government listen.

  • The REALTOR® Party creates a groundswell of support for the industry by activating advocates in every corner of the country.
  • REALTORS® mobilize to make transformational, lasting change at the local, state, and federal levels of government.

 

CELEBRATE

The REALTOR® Party recognizes success and celebrates the REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC), protecting our industry for 50 years.

  • RPAC is the gold standard for bipartisan political influence among all industries.
  • RPAC is continuously perfecting its craft to elect pro-REALTOR® candidates across the country.

 

 

Questions? Contact Tiane Harrison at 202-383-7531.

Read more