Citrus Valley REALTORS® Encourage Voting, Transforms Office into a Voting Center

“We don’t care how you vote, we care that you vote!” That’s the rallying cry of the Citrus Valley Association of REALTORS® in greater Los Angeles, whose board makes voter registration a priority. “No one knows better than REALTORS® that the surest way to make a difference, starting at the local level, is by voting,” says Government Affairs Director Bill Ruh. That’s why the association was proud to have one of its three locations, the Glendora office, serve as a Voting Center over a multi-day period during the recent elections.

For the past several years, the office had been a precinct polling location, which involved a single-day commitment on Election Day itself. But this year, in an effort to make voting more convenient for its citizens, explains Ruh, the State of California authorized the establishment of Voting Centers, which increase voting access throughout a three-day span, and accepts ballots from residents of any part of the county. “We’re a very mobile county,” he says, “and it’s not at all uncommon for people to live in one part of the county and work in another. And it’s a very big county!  So, this gives people the flexibility they need:  they are no longer limited to a certain assigned polling location, or even to a single day.” In fact, he adds, voters from other counties were welcome to submit absentee ballots at the Voting Center too. “It’s all about removing the barriers and obstacles that can make it inconvenient to perform this basic civic duty. The County and REALTORS® are on the same page, wanting to offer every opportunity for people to vote, and this was a big step forward.”

The Glendora office, he notes, was an ideal location: right on the legendary, well-traveled Route 66, in a spacious and pleasant facility with plenty of parking.  “We had the enthusiastic support of CVAR President Helen Moreno and CVAR CEO Mark Epstein, who both immediately saw the value of the Vote Center, so we were able to jump at the opportunity when Los Angeles County began seeking venues. A fairly steady stream of more than 1,100 members of the voting public took advantage of the fact that they could just drop by and vote with the sample ballot they’d received in the mail.” In another progressive step, voters were also offered same-day registration. “REALTORS® loved this aspect,” notes Ruh. “A client just moved to a different district and it’s Election Day? No problem!”

The voting center was staffed by the County Registrar of Voters, and it couldn’t have gone more smoothly, he reports. They brought in privacy barriers and the voting machines, which were like giant computer touch screens; each ballot was also printed with a QR code, enabling voters to fill out a digital ballot on their smartphones in advance, and simply confirm the information at the Voting Center. “You could vote whichever way worked for you; they younger set was definitely voting by phone. The whole system seemed like the trend of the future,” says Ruh, who encourages other associations to become a polling place, for even a single day: “The sense of helping the cause of democracy at the most fundamental level is well worth it.”

REALTORS® were excited by the important role the association was playing, and were very active on social media, encouraging office colleagues to vote — and to get others out.  “Many of the people I spoke to in line pointed out that they were connected to one REALTOR® or another through home sales, neighborhood activities, the PTA, Kiwanis, Rotary — you name it. It makes you realize that REALTORS® are everywhere,” concludes Ruh, “and so well positioned to get out the vote.”

To learn more about how the Citrus Valley Association of REALTORS® is promoting civic involvement in Los Angeles, contact Government Affairs Director Bill Ruh at 909-305-2827. Ruh’s own civic engagement is not limited to his work with the REALTORS®: he is also a Councilmember for the City of Montclair, and an appointee of Governor Gavin Newsom to the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, currently serving as Chair.

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After a Wildfire, Oroville REALTORS® Makes Smart Growth Plans to Rebuild Paradise

The aftermath of the 2018 Camp Fire Wildfire in California

It’s not every day that a community can plan its own redevelopment from scratch. Following last fall’s devastating wildfire that destroyed Paradise, California, however, that’s exactly the silver lining that the town is facing. Paradise, having popped up during the Gold Rush and grown haphazardly over the years, never had a town center or any coherent pattern, and the opportunity to rebuild comes with the advantage of a clean slate; for neighboring communities like Oroville, California, whose population has swelled by 20% as it accommodates refugees from the fire, the need for significant housing expansion is urgent.  Organizations like the Oroville Association of REALTORS® are determined to steer the new growth toward Smart Growth.

Ellie Rosebush, executive of the 131-member Oroville association, was at work when she lost her own house in the November 2018 Camp Fire. She’s quick to credit the California Association of REALTORS®, many local associations, and fellow AEs from across the country with providing her and her community with critical support that got them through the harrowing aftermath. When she began thinking of a topic for the association’s annual “20/20” forum, it made sense to be thinking of Smart Growth. With a REALTOR® Party grant, the Oroville Association was able to bring an expert to the table.

That expert was Kate Meis, executive director of The Local Government Commission, a Sacramento-based nonprofit that helps local governments grow smarter and more sustainably. She presented a compelling case for Smart Growth, with inspiring examples of places that have come back from devastation even stronger.  Speaking to a gathering of 95 attendees interested and involved in the restoration of the area, she cited a town in the Midwest that was destroyed by a tornado and might have folded, rebuilt, instead, and is now a model of fundamental Smart Growth principles. She also described the success of San Francisco’s Embarcadero neighborhood, whose current prosperity as a cultural and economic center was only possible after the disastrous 1989 collapse of an overhead freeway. For neighboring towns like Oroville that are desperate for more housing but don’t have a ‘clean slate,” she emphasized the benefits of in-fill development. The buzz in the room was palpable, says Rosebush, as people saw solutions in the success of other once-devastated areas.

Rosebush explains that her team made a significant effort to bring a ‘who’s who’ of community builders to the forum. “We contacted all the local government groups, City Councils, County Supervisors, and Chamber and Downtown Associations leadership. Many attendees were newcomers to the conversation, which made us especially happy. One group, the Rebuild Paradise Foundation, connected with Kate immediately following her presentation, to invite her to come speak to another group involved in the growth of our community,” she reports. “As ‘The Voice of Real Estate’ here in the Paradise-Oroville area,” she notes, “it’s our responsibility to plant seeds like this, and bring the right people – interested, empowered people – together to hear, learn, discuss, and plan. We’re influencers, keeping the message of Smart Growth front and center in a region where growth is going to happen.”

To learn more about how the Oroville Association of REALTORS® is contributing to the vision of the community that will rise from the ashes of Paradise, contact Association Executive Ellie Rosebush at 530-533-9112. A more in-depth article on the work of the Oroville Association’s efforts can be found in this quarter’s issue of On Common Ground, The REALTOR® Party’s Smart Growth magazine.

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Greater Los Angeles and Southland Regional Association REALTORS® Join Forces to Defeat Parcel Tax

On the heels of a highly publicized teachers’ strike earlier this year, the Los Angeles Unified School District decided to ride the wave of success by calling for a 16-cent per square foot parcel tax on all residential and commercial buildings. It claimed that Measure EE, as it was called, would support students; opponents saw it as an opportunistic attempt to fund the mismanaged budget of a bloated school system.  The REALTORS® of the Greater Los Angeles Association (GLAAR) and the Southland Regional Association (SRAR) joined a broad coalition of local business and industry organizations to oppose the measure as unfair and irrational, soundly defeating it at the polls.

As James Litz, Government Affairs Director of GLAAR, explains, Measure EE would have cost the owner of an average house in the city about $200 per year, starting in November. But the association’s real concern was the cost to owners of the city’s commercial and apartment buildings, who would be taxed by square footage on every floor. “Besides which,” he adds, “this tax wasn’t a solution to the real budgetary problems the school district is facing: the fiscal house of LAUSD is a mess, so why throw money at it?”

Using an Issues Mobilization Grant, the REALTORS® and their partners were able to rally voters to the polls for the single-measure special election – the cost of which, itself, was $12 million dollars to taxpayers, notes Litz. “Our coalition was able to put together a strong media campaign, with great ads running constantly on MSNBC,” he says. They also made extensive use of door hangers, which he points out, from a REALTOR® standpoint, give members direct and effective contact with clients and neighbors.

The campaign benefited from the involvement of the Southland Regional Association of REALTORS® (SRAR), as well, whose bounds also include the beleaguered school district. Elizabeth de Carteret, the association’s Director of Industry and Community Relations, was already mobilizing her members for a city council special election that fell on the same day as the parcel tax vote, so they rolled the campaign against the parcel tax into their effort. “We have lots of members with kids in the public schools, and members who volunteer in them; we also know, as REALTORS®, that good public schools sell properties – we’re not against any of that,” she says. “This was a just a calculated money grab, and one that would unfairly burden property owners.” SRAR’s REALTOR® members manned three phone banks, spoke at office meetings, went door to door, and engaged in an active social media effort.

On June 4, the misguided measure failed in 14 of the 15 City Council districts in Los Angeles.

Litz notes that the REALTORS® will gladly support meaningful reform of the school district’s financial practices – and systemic improvements in public education. “We realize it may be easier said than done,” he says, “but our young people deserve quality and options when it comes to public education, and we’re all for making that happen!”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® in Los Angeles are protecting property owners from unfair tax burdens, contact Greater Los Angeles Association Government Affairs Director James Litz at 310-967-8800; or Elizabeth de Carteret, Director, Industry and Community Relations, Southland Regional Association of REALTORS®, at 818-947-2256.

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Pacific Southwest REALTORS® Helps Create Homeless Resources Website

San Diego’s East County communities had more than 1,000 homeless residents in early 2019, according to the best estimate of an annual homeless count, a number that will only be increasing, given the lack of new housing construction and the escalating cost of housing in the region. Looking for a way to connect this population with the local food, shelter, health, and veterans’ resources available, the area’s REALTORS® discovered that, according to additional studies, the majority of people experiencing homelessness in the area have cell phones. An increasing number of these publicly funded phones now have internet access. A $5,000 Housing Opportunity Grant enabled the Pacific Southwest Association of REALTORS® (PSAR) to partner with the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce Foundation and The East County Homeless Task Force in developing, a website serving as a one-stop resource for those experiencing homelessness.

PSAR Government Affairs Director Tracy Morgan Hollingworth explains that the initial idea was to create an app, similar to the City of San Diego’s “Getting it Done” app, but she learned from colleagues that app stores like Google and Apple are notoriously selective about the programs they’ll market. So, they decided to create a website, instead.

The East County Homeless Task Force is a collaborative grassroots organization determined to reduce homelessness in the area; its Access to Services Solutions group and its Communications and Marketing Committee worked together to develop the website. Hollingworth credits Past Chair of the PSAR Government Affairs Committee, Kay LeMenager, with providing the tireless dedication that really got the project off the ground. Grants don’t have to be large to be effective, she notes, as long as there are enough dedicated people willing to do the work. “It was a slow, methodical process – three years – collecting all that information from all those resources, but Kay and her Committee members saw it through.” Now that it’s up and running, the Task Force has a commitment from the El Cajon Collaborative, who developed the website navigation and serves one of the poorest communities of East County, to maintain and update the site over the next two years. The site is well organized and user-friendly, allowing visitors to locate food pantries, various hotlines, medical care and shelter information in just a few clicks. The site translates into 15 languages, and also has a function that accepts donations.

PSAR is now helping with marketing  press releases have gone out to the media and relevant publications; the East County Homeless Task Force and has asked other municipal entities to feature it on their own websites; and Hollingworth is working with LeMenager and her Committee to create a speakers bureau to spread the word at local civic and business clubs. Last April, honoring the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, representatives of PSAR officially presented the $5,000 check to the San Diego East County Chamber of Commerce Foundation, at a meeting of the El Cajon City Council.

“We made a great effort to try to reduce homelessness in Eastern San Diego County through the development of, and we’re so grateful for the support of the REALTOR® Party that allowed us to do so,” says Hollingworth.

To learn more about how Pacific Southwest REALTORS® is working to connect area residents experiencing homelessness with available resources, contact Government Affairs Director Tracy Morgan Hollingworth at 619-618-5986.

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Bay East REALTORS® Mobilize on Short Notice to Fight Just-Cause Evictions

California’s Bay East Association of REALTORS® had numerous reasons to oppose the city of Hayward’s proposed just-cause eviction ordinance, but less than a week to get an opposition campaign underway. Although the emergency legislation passed, support from the REALTOR® Party’s Advocacy Everywhere program helped raise awareness of the serious downsides of the ordinance and put City Hall on notice that REALTORS® are paying attention to all the housing and property rights policies coming to the table.

David Stark, Public Affairs Director of the 5,800-member association, explains that its philosophical stance on just-cause eviction stems from its belief that property owners should be able to do what they want with their property – including ending a lease. He notes that the members of the Hayward City Council had been under intense pressure from tenants-rights advocates, but, as he points out, the outcome has been short-sighted and detrimental to an already fraught housing situation. “Hayward is not far from Silicon Valley, and has a robust economy of its own, so the demand for housing is huge and spans a broad demographic — from tech executives to college students. Unfortunately, the city has a history of inhibiting development, and hasn’t adequately planned for the housing needs of its growing population. That failure to plan has created a crisis.”

“As a practical matter,” he continues, “we support affordable housing in many forms, but the just-cause eviction ordinance actually erodes the strength of rental housing. Property owners who own rental housing now must be concerned about this new limitation the city has imposed on their freedoms, and if they choose to sell or otherwise withdraw those units from the rental market, that will actually force rental prices up.” REALTORS® have to care about rental housing rules, he adds, because they directly affect families who are buying and selling homes, and the way REALTORS® do their jobs.

The Bay East Association of REALTORS®, together with the rest of the public, learned about Hayward’s proposed rental ordinance less than a week before it went to vote. Springing in to action, they designed a REALTOR® Party Mobile Alert text campaign, and a targeted email campaign: more than 175 messages of opposition were sent to the City Council in a 48-hour span.

Prior to the vote on the ordinance, 2019 Bay East Association President Nancie Allen testified before the City Council. In addition to citing the need for better planning and the additional burden of liability that the just-cause eviction requirement places on her members, she respectfully asked the Council to provide the public with more notice when such important issues come up in the future. Though the ordinance was passed, Stark points out that engaging members through Advocacy Everywhere was a big step in the right direction. “This has just been one chapter in a much longer story, in which the REALTOR® Party is going to be an important character,” he says. “I can’t say enough about working with the staff at the National Association of REALTORS®, and the incredible systems they’ve established. We were able to set up the robust campaign we needed in less than 90 minutes,” he adds, noting, “In the midst of these challenging issues, it’s nice to know we’ve got NAR behind us with resources and expertise.”

To learn more about how the Bay East Association of REALTORS® is protecting private property rights and safeguarding the region’s vulnerable rental housing market, contact Public Affairs Director David Stark at 925-730-4068.




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Sacramento and Pacific West REALTORS® Join Forces to Keep Rent Control off the Ballot

Campaign Mailer

Sometimes, you’ve got to spend money to save money. That was the strategy of two local associations in California, as they launched parallel campaigns to prevent rent-control ballot initiatives from qualifying for the November 6 election. One succeeded, and the other did not, but both agree that it was well worth the effort — and worth the REALTOR® Party’s Issues Mobilization resources that made the campaigns possible.

In the city of Long Beach, south of Los Angeles, a tenants’ rights organization was attempting to get a rent control initiative with a provision for just-cause eviction on the ballot. Christine Schachter, Government Affairs Director of the Pacific West Association of REALTORS®, explains that the measure ran completely counter to the REALTORS®’ stand on many issues, notably property rights. “With such a measure in place, new housing supply would be greatly discouraged. Not only would it have been debilitating for Long Beach, it would have been a damaging precedent for dozens of other cities in our region.” If enough signatures were gathered to qualify the initiative for the November ballot, when voter turnout is sure to be high for congressional elections, it would have stood a good chance of passing, says Phil Hawkins, Chief Executive Officer of the Pacific West REALTORS®. “I’m not sure there’s any amount of money that could have defeated it at that point, so it was necessary to invest up front and keep it off the ballot,” he states, adding, “Our directors told us to spare no expense, but even though we were ready to put all our eggs in this one basket, we still could not have succeeded without the National Association behind us.”

The “decline to sign” campaign was a largely educational effort, countering the signature-gathering with multiple social media platforms, including a website, and a video featuring firefighters, policemen, and other REALTOR® allies. Every day, teams of REALTOR® volunteers and paid advocates were deployed to oppose the petition effort at grocery stores and on door-to-door rounds. A tear-off mailer offered voters a postage-paid chance to oppose the petition: more than 1,000 were signed and sent to City Hall. The initiative failed to make it to the ballot, and Hawkins credits his REALTOR® volunteers with much of the success. “Our nearly 13,000 members understand the importance of advocacy and political action. More than 50% invest in the REALTOR® Action Fund every year, and this is exactly why they do.”

Meanwhile, REALTORS® up north in Sacramento were facing a very similar situation. Caylyn Wright, Government Affairs Director of the nearly 7,000-member Sacramento Association of REALTORS® (SAR), notes that despite its robust social media campaign against the rent control initiative in the capital city, the signature-gatherers were only collecting door-to-door, which forced SAR into an uphill battle, following behind in an attempt to change individual signatories’ minds. Although the initiative qualified for the ballot with the necessary 36,000 names, Wright says that the REALTORS® raised their profile as serious opponents to rent control, and know that the educational nature of their campaign has had lasting value. They are not giving up: when Sacramento’s mayor recently proposed setting a temporary rent cap, 175 REALTORS® showed up at the City Council Meeting wearing opposition t-shirts and convinced the Council otherwise. SAR is now working with the Vice Mayor and several council members on a Tenant Protection Act that will help stabilize housing without causing as much harm to future development. “We’re so grateful to both the National Association of REALTORS® and the California Association for their timely support,” says Wright. “Although our campaign didn’t work out as we’d hoped,” she says, “it has positioned us as leaders as we all work together to solve these complex housing issues.”

To learn more about how REALTORS® across California are working to solve housing access and affordability by other means than rent control, contact Caylyn Wright, Government Affairs Director of the Sacramento Association of REALTORS®, at 916-437-1227; Phil Hawkins, Chief Executive Officer of the Pacific West Association of REALTORS®, at 714-245-5522; or Christine Schachter, its Government Affairs Director, at 714-221-8474.

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Laguna REALTORS® Help Seniors Age-in-Place

‘Aging-in-Place’ is a concept that’s gaining traction across the country, but in Laguna Beach, Calif., where the quality of life is so attractive, it’s especially hard for many seniors to face leaving their beloved longtime homes in favor of safer options. The area’s steep topography and strict environmental zoning mean that building senior housing developments for residents who have contributed so much to the community’s appeal is out of the question. So, over the past two years, the Laguna Board of REALTORS® has used Housing Opportunity Grants to partner with the local agency for senior services, Laguna Beach Seniors, in addressing the challenge.

The Laguna Board of REALTORS® has a long history of community involvement and believes in giving back; in fact, it has supported Laguna Beach Seniors, a non-profit agency, for more than a decade. Says Association Executive Bobbie Jordan, “Securing the first grant in 2017 was part of our ongoing mission to lend a helping hand and be part of the solution to assist seniors with staying in their homes.” That initial Housing Opportunity Grant supported Lifelong Laguna, an aging-in-place program administered by Laguna Beach Seniors. This was augmented by a second grant earlier this year; all told, the funding has enabled Lifelong Laguna to conduct focus groups with numerous partners throughout the community, and to engage in outreach about the Lifelong Laguna Home Modification Assessment. More recently, it has supported workshops on Accessory Dwelling Units, which, once a revision of municipal ordinances is complete, could benefit seniors wanting to age-in-place.

The Home Modification Assessment, just emerging from its pilot stage, has been very effective on a fundamentally practical level, explains John Fay, Program Specialist at Lifelong Laguna. “We go out to a house and identify interior and exterior safety and accessibility issues that could be upgraded, often with slight modifications. Small fixes like installing handrails, improving lighting, even eliminating loose area rugs can all make a difference. Maybe a doorway needs to be widened to accommodate a wheelchair. Sometimes it’s a matter of behavior modification, and we can help with that, too,” he notes. “We have a team of retired contractors volunteering their time and their expertise, and seniors in the program can be matched with volunteers who provide support throughout the process, to build a sense of security and trust. Our volunteers are trained and guided by professional care managers. Our goal is to educate and empower our seniors, giving them the confidence to stay in their homes when it’s possible.”

“REALTOR® involvement brings so much value to what we do with Lifelong Laguna,” continues Fay. “Many folks who bought their homes decades ago worked with REALTORS® who are still active, and several REALTORS® are now volunteering with us at Lifelong Laguna,” he points out, adding, “The REALTORS® are the main funders and volunteers for this community model, and we really couldn’t do it without them!” Jordan adds, “In addition to our volunteer participation, we have many seniors among our REALTOR® members. This partnership between Laguna Board of REALTORS® and Laguna Beach Seniors/Lifelong Laguna is a wonderful way to stay connected with our seniors and to provide assistance where and when needed.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Laguna Beach are using REALTOR® Party resources to help local seniors age in place, contact Association Executive Bobbie Jordan at 949-497-2474 or John Fay, Program Specialist at Lifelong Laguna, at 949-715-8107.

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Palm Springs REALTORS® Defend Short-Term Rental Industry

The sunny resort city of Palm Springs, Calif., is such a popular tourist destination that when its thriving cottage industry of privately operated short-term vacation rental properties was threatened by a recent ballot initiative, even the hotel industry rallied against it. But it was the 1,200-member Palm Springs Regional Association of REALTORS® (PSRAR) that sprang to the defense of private property rights with a powerful campaign made possible by a REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization Grant. The proposal was defeated 70% to 30% at the June 5 primary.

“Any way you slice it, this was a huge win for us,” says PSRAR Government Affairs Director Jim Franklin. He explains that fairly strict regulations had just been imposed on the area’s short-term rentals in 2017, and they needed a chance to prove their efficacy. The new proposal, effectively banning all rentals shorter than 28 days, would have affected about 70% of the city’s short term rental properties; in turn, the value of these homes would decrease significantly as a direct result of the ban, says Franklin.

“We belong to a strong coalition of stakeholders that opposed the proposed measure, including the Chamber of Commerce, the City Council, and the mayor,” he continues. “Most of our partners were especially concerned about economic factors, but, as REALTORS®, we were in it to defend the right of property owners to rent their homes to whomever they wanted, whenever they wanted, at whatever price they set.” Initial polling by the coalition predicted that the initiative would be defeated 60-to-40, but the stakes were high, and PSRAR wasn’t taking any chances.

The association had received REALTOR® Party Independent Expenditures to support candidates in the past, notes Franklin, but this marked the first time it had ever applied for an Issues Mobilization Grant. “The team at the REALTOR® Party was on board immediately: on the case, with a plan.”  Because 70% of the ballots in the Palm Springs primary were cast by mail, and were sent out to voters 30 days in advance of the election, PSRAR had to act fast. “Within about a week, the Campaign Services team had everything ready to go: three mailers targeting households most likely to vote in the primary, and online and social media advertising,” says Franklin. “All we had to do was work with them on the message, and review and approve the final ads. They did a great job, which meant that we could stay focused on ours.”

The 10% ‘skin-in-the-game’ portion required by the Issues Mobilization Grant program was shared between PSRAR and the California Desert Association of REALTORS®, its neighboring board. REALTORS® loved seeing where their PAC investment was going: right back into their community, reports Franklin, who adds, “If you’ve got an issue that needs strong and savvy support, you’d be foolish not to use this program.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Palm Springs are working to protect private property rights and local property values, contact Government Affairs Director Jim Franklin at 760-485-0858.

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Calaveras County REALTORS® Force Repeal of High-Risk Energy Conservation Loan Program

The REALTORS® of Calaveras County in northern California have nothing against energy conservation or home improvements — far from it — but they were glad to be able to spearhead the repeal of authorization for a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program in their county, back in January. They did so with the help of a REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization Grant.

The PACE program in Calaveras County, like similar programs in other jurisdictions, provides homeowners with a means to finance conservation improvements from solar panels to electric vehicle plug-in stations, and pay for them through a tax assessment on the property. This lien would be senior to, and therefore have priority over, any other liens, including mortgages. Therefore, explains Kim Schaefer, who serves as a contract Government Affairs Director for the association of under one-hundred REALTORS®, if you can’t pay for that home improvement, you may just lose your home.

“PACE programs are not concerned about the borrower’s credit scores or employment history, making financing easier to obtain and less time consuming,” explains Schaefer, “but these loans are also unfairly expensive, and are often sold by high-pressure door-to-door sales people. And, although PACE loans are in a senior position, they carry interest rates higher than the first mortgage or a home equity loan.” The FHA announced earlier this year that it will no longer insure loans with PACE lines, she adds, noting that by approving the placement of PACE loans in a senior position to FHA first mortgages, HUD has placed homebuyers and tax payers at risk.

The county had authorized the program less than a year ago, and while there hadn’t been much participation yet, members of the Calaveras County Association of REALTORS® (CCAR) were becoming concerned because of problems that might be encountered during real estate transactions, says Schaefer. CCAR was also aware of negative issues that neighboring municipalities were having with such programs, and, in fact, elected officials in the county had been receiving complaints about the high-pressure tactics of some PACE loan sales forces.

Learning that the county Board of Supervisors had put the controversial issue on its agenda in mid-January, CCAR quickly applied for and received an Issues Mobilization Grant to launch a campaign opposing the program. The campaign mobilized grassroots efforts by CCAR members, targeting members of the Board of Supervisors with letters and patch-through calls. CCAR’s President met personally with several Board members to voice the association’s objections to PACE loans, and Schaefer delivered a substantial package of information to Supervisors and their staff, detailing the risks to homeowners.  The vote to repeal authorization was unanimous.

The members of CCAR are very happy with the outcome, reports Schaefer, who adds, “There are many alternative choices to support energy conservation and finance improvements that are more responsible and present less risk to homeowners and neighborhoods.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Calaveras County, California are protecting their clients, their communities, and their businesses, contact contract Government Affairs Director Kim Schaefer at 661-203-8500.


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North Bay Association Tackles Rent Control Ordinance in Santa Rosa, California

In the North Bay region of California, which counts Napa and Sonoma among its counties, agriculture and tourism are big—and so is the shortage of affordable and work force housing.

When Santa Rosa, the region’s largest city, recently attempted to pass rent control and just cause eviction legislation, the 3,200-member North Bay Association of REALTORS® (NorBAR) joined forces with a strong coalition of business alliances to protect the rights of property owners—and to encourage government to meet the demand for affordable housing.

NorBAR does not deny that there is a shortage of affordable and workforce housing in the region; rents in Sonoma County have risen nearly 40% in the past four years. But denying apartment owners the ability to charge full market value for the use of their property, and limiting circumstances under which owner can evict a problem tenant, undermines basic private property rights, says Tracy Huotari, NorBAR’s Chief Executive Officer. To solve the real problem, she notes, the city will have to allow development of more affordable housing.   

The issue had been brewing for several years, when in August 2016, the Santa Rosa City Council passed a permanent rent control and just cause eviction ordinance. The next day, NorBAR and a coalition it had formed with the California Apartment Association began collecting signatures to prevent it from being enforced. They were successful in halting the ordinance, only to have the Council place it on the ballot for voters to decide, in a special election in June 2017.

NorBAR turned to NAR’s Campaign Services Team for help; it had already contributed funds from its own Issues Mobilization fund, and secured a grant from the California Association of REALTORS®. In addition to a major grant, the REALTOR® Party’s Campaign Services Team provided focus groups and polling to determine the campaign’s viability, identify voters and craft the campaign messaging.  The “No on C” campaign was both a get-out-the-vote effort and an educational force. “Our REALTORS® were deeply involved,” says Huotari, “they were out knocking on doors, registering voters, putting up lawn signs and making a big push on social media. Our coalition, ‘Citizens for Fair and Equitable Housing,’ was amazing, uniting the chamber of commerce and groups from across many local industries. Its website,, remains a great resource.” In addition to four targeted postcard mailings, door-to-door canvassers and TV, radio and online advertising, the ‘No on C’ campaign benefitted from the support of the influential local newspaper, The Press Democrat

On June 6, the ordinance was defeated by 52% of the vote.

The next step, says Huotari, will be sitting down with legislators and getting them to solve the real problems. “The bottom line is that we need to fix the supply shortage,” she explains, noting that the REALTORS® will be working with local units of government to look at removing obstacles to affordable and workforce housing. “We’ve got a number of understanding legislators in office, and we’ll continue to work hard and use our PAC funds in the local elections process to support even more.”

Meanwhile, the success of the campaign is having an apparent impact beyond Santa Rosa.  For months, says Huotari, the rent control issue was being discussed in another nearby community, also within the North Bay Association’s jurisdiction; it now seems to have “fallen off the agenda” in the weeks since the voters in Santa Rosa defeated the measure.

To learn more about how the North Bay Association of REALTORS® is protecting private property rights in the counties north of San Francisco, while keeping the focus on solutions to increase affordable and work force housing, contact Chief Executive Officer Tracy A. Huotari at 707-522-8169.

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