help@borntogive.com

February 2019

Unveiling Our Vision for Housing Finance Reform

NAR CEO Bob Goldberg & 2019 President John Smaby

NAR CEO Bob Goldberg & 2019 President John Smaby

Last Thursday, February 7, REALTORS® had the chance to showcase their leadership on housing finance reform in front of more than 400 industry professionals, NAR members and a few current and former Congressmen.

With reform to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac on the minds of so many in Washington, NAR’s first-annual Policy Forum took an extensive dive into its work to ensure these Government Sponsored Entities can effectively serve the housing market and protect taxpayers in the years and decades to come.

At the conclusion of the Forum, those 400 attendees were given a first-hand, first-time look at detailed research outlining NAR’s vision for GSE reform. The whitepaper is already being referred to by both media outlets and industry trade groups as a critical building block for housing finance reform legislation. These discussions continue to gain traction on Capitol Hill.

The paper – and our vision – is true to our core. It offers policymakers a framework that leverages reforms and innovations implemented since the crisis while also promoting competition in the secondary market. Quite simply, our vision boils down to five key principles: protecting taxpayers by using private capital; minimizing costs to consumers; promoting housing accessibility and affordability; preserving the 30-year fixed rate mortgage; and maximizing access for creditworthy borrowers.

The housing crisis of 2007-2008 left Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac financially devastated, forcing the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) to move to place the GSEs into conservatorship.

While conservatorship remains more than a decade later, NAR has read the writing on the wall and is evolving to ensure our members and America’s housing industry are in the best possible situation should policymakers move to end conservatorship in the coming months or years.

Led by two of the best minds in the field, Dr. Susan Wachter, Professor of Real Estate and Finance at the University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Richard Cooperstein, head of Risk Management at Andrew Davison and Company, Inc., NAR has presented a pragmatic solution to these challenges – prioritizing and protecting a liquid mortgage market for Middle America and underserved borrowers alike.

Our hope is that this work will result in GSE reform legislation that secures a government guarantee, ensures equal access for lenders of all sizes, promotes consumer affordability, maintains broad consumer access and protects the 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

To read the full working paper and its executive summary, please visit https://www.nar.realtor/fannie-mae-freddie-mac-gses/nars-vision-for-housing-finance-reform.

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