Issue Mobilization Campaigns

Northwest Arkansas REALTORS® Fight Unreasonable Residential Driveway and Garage Zoning

Without warning or any clear rationale, this past October, the City Council of Fayetteville, Ark., proposed a zoning ordinance amendment aimed at restricting the width of residential driveways and thereby requiring garage entries to be to the side or rear of residential new construction. At the first reading of the proposed ‘driveway amendment’ several REALTORS® led by local board President-elect Don McNaughton attended the City Council meeting to speak in opposition to the amendment. When it became clear the City Council was unwilling to work together with stakeholders to craft a reasonable alternative, the REALTORS® took action with an Issues Mobilization Campaign.

Doyle Yates, a past-President of the 2,800-member Northwest Arkansas Board of REALTORS® and the , as well as a sitting member of the National Association of REALTORS®’ State & Local Issues Mobilization Support Committee, approached his local board offering to take the lead in requesting an NAR grant to launch a ‘public awareness campaign’ regarding the driveway ordinance. Yates had worked on a number of Independent Expenditure campaigns as well as a couple of Place Making grants, but had never been on the receiving end of an Issues Mobilization Grant. “It was a great experience,” he says. “The team was absolutely responsive and understanding that we only had about 30 days before the final vote to get the campaign off the ground. They lost no time in helping us do just that.”

To rally opposition to the restrictive driveway and garage zoning, the REALTORS® were able to build a coalition with their local counterparts in the homebuilding and mortgage banking industries. As Yates explains, the proposal had been drafted in a vacuum, apparently with no outside input; certainly none from REALTORS®or builders, who understand better than anyone what consumers want. So, it was necessary to alert the public, and educate them, and spur them to contact their councilmembers. The campaign had three parts: phone calls to voting property owners to raise awareness of the proposal; banner ads on news websites that led to a “Tell City Council to Keep Off Your Driveway” webpage leading to more detailed information; and a final push connecting patch-through calls directly to City Council members. On November 5, the vote failed in an even split (four in favor, four against,) with the mayor declining to break the tie.

Says Yates, “It’s now understood that citizens of Fayetteville have very little interest in these particular design elements for residential construction. Now, we’ll be picking up the ball and revisiting the idea of bringing together a group, including stakeholders this time, to find a way to move forward that makes more sense than imposing blanket restrictions on future housing in the community.”

On the subject of finding ways forward, he continues, “I know that, across the country, there are a number of local issues that can sometimes have a bigger impact on smaller communities than what’s going on at the state or national level. The REALTOR® Party has resources available to help with a wide range of these challenges, from zoning issues to affordable housing to placemaking. The committee I serve on, this year awarded a grant for $800, and I’m sure that it did as much good in the community that requested it, as other much larger grants accomplished in their respective communities.  I encourage all local boards to investigate what the REALTOR® Party has to offer.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Northwest Arkansas are minding the interests of local homebuyers and protecting the rights of local property owners, contact local board CEO, Rhonda Sims at 479-770-0241.

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Lincoln REALTORS® Mobilize Voters to Support Roadway Improvements

After substantial potholes caused massive damage to vehicles amounting to tens of thousands of dollars in claims, the city of Omaha, Neb., was recently forced to close two major thoroughfares. Fifty miles to the south, roads in the state capital were likewise crumbling.

Using an Issues Mobilization grant, the REALTORS® Association of Lincoln took the lead in supporting a ballot initiative to fund critical road repairs. Though it passed by a very slim margin, says Kyle Fischer, Executive Vice President of the 930-member board, the quarter-percent sales tax increase will help safeguard the city’s economic development, public safety, and quality of life for at least the next six years.

The new funding mechanism was first proposed by a bi-partisan group called the Lincoln Citizen’s Transportation Coalition, following a lengthy study of the city’s insufficient street-repair budget and possible solutions, explains Fischer. The Lincoln City Council voted six-to-one to put the initiative on the ballot, and the REALTORS® got right to work promoting the time-limited, quarter-percent tax increase to the voting public.

“We reached out to NAR about the process, and they walked us through the next steps,” says Fischer. First, the Lincoln REALTORS® received polling services through the REALTOR® Party’s trusted vendor. Initial polling indicated that the ballot measure was slightly favored by a margin of 57-41, with 2% undecided. Armed with that encouragement, the association submitted an application for an Issues Mobilization grant. “The application process wasn’t quick and easy, but it was incredibly user-friendly, he says. “I’d tell first-time applicants to give themselves plenty of time for collecting details and background information and planning a budget. It will take some time to put it all together, but once you have, you’ve got a good road map, and you’ll really know your stuff. In fact, NAR took our initial application and reached right back out to us about what we could do to enhance it, to make it even stronger,” he notes.

The REALTORS® were the largest donor to the campaign called Fix Lincoln Streets Now, which educated voters through a dedicated website and social media messaging. The REALTOR® Party grant funded phone banks that called voters in the last four days leading up to the election, and that, says Fischer, is what made the difference. Despite being supported by the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce, the Civil Engineers Association, and the Lincoln Independent Business Association, among others, the measure only passed by a difference of 368 votes. “Our members are so excited that we were able to play such a critical role in the outcome of the vote,” he adds. “It’s very gratifying to know that the REALTORS® have contributed to making the streets better.

Members on the ground and in the trenches are more aware than anyone that having functioning, passable streets affects every aspect of a community’s well-being, from emergency access, to reducing the necessity of expensive car repairs, to home values. Taking care of the infrastructure helps to ensure a strong economy.”

To learn more about how the REALTOR® Association of Lincoln, Nebraska is using REALTOR® Party resources to improve the condition of city streets, contact Executive Vice President Kyle Fischer at 402-441-3625.

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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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Issues Mobilization

The Issues Mobilization Grant provides financial assistance to state and local REALTOR® Associations to support effective advocacy campaigns on public policy issues. Issues Mobilization Grants may not be applied for, nor may any portion of an awarded grant be used for, any activities related directly or indirectly to candidate elections*or legal action, or for any campaign activities that have been completed.


Before submitting an application for an Issues Mobilization Grant, associations are encouraged to discuss issue campaigns with Campaign Services staff.  Staff can assist you in developing a campaign strategy and suggest tools to use, including: polling, direct mail, phone calls, grassroots mobilization, advertising (online, print, radio & TV), and websites/social media.  All of these services are provided by NAR through our contract consultants at a discounted cost.  Staff is also available to assist with legal compliance issues associated with Issues Mobilization Grant applications.

Review the campaigns funded by an Issues Mobilization Grant to get an idea of the type of campaigns funded in the past.

The Independent Expenditure Program provides each state with funds that they can use to support candidates for political office who support REALTORS® and the real estate industry.

Issues Mobilization Resources

Questions? Contact Joe Maheady at 202-383-1006.

Application Process & Criteria

State and local REALTOR® Associations must complete and submit an Issues Mobilization Grant Application.  Before submitting a draft application, review the Guidance Document detailing Application requirements and procedures. NAR staff will review the application, discuss it with you and request additional information if necessary. Applications that do not adhere to the Guidance Document or do not include the required information, including a budget, signatures, etc., will not be considered for review by the State and Local Issues Mobilization Support Committee.

Once an application is finalized, the Committee will review it during one of their scheduled meetings.  Monthly Committee meetings are held in-person during the two annual meetings and the REALTOR® Party Training Conference, and otherwise via teleconference.  Applicants must make a presentation and be available to answer questions from the Committee during the meeting.

Additional information is applicable to requests of $100,000 or less and to requests greater than $500,000:

Applications $100,000 or Less

A grant application of $100,000 or less that is submitted to NAR by Monday at 5:00pm Eastern Time is considered that week through a Consent Agenda process, first by the Advisory Group and then by the full Committee.  The Advisory Group votes on whether to recommend full Committee approval, and the full Committee votes on whether to award the requested grant. The Committee will make their decision on the grant application by 5:00pm Eastern Time on the Friday of that week. If any Advisory Group or full Committee member objects to approval of a grant application, that application is removed from the Consent Agenda and considered by the full Committee at the next scheduled monthly meeting.

Applications Greater than $500,000

A grant application greater than $500,000 approved by the Committee must also be reviewed and approved by: NAR’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors, when the application is considered at meetings held during NAR governance meetings; NAR’s Leadership Team, when the application is considered at a Committee teleconference meeting or at the meeting held during the REALTOR® Party Training Conference. NOTE: review of an application by NAR’s Leadership Team may take several weeks to schedule.

Grant Application Requirements

All grant applications must meet the following Contribution Standards that equate to a percentage of the amount requested from NAR:

  • Applications of $25,000 or less: Minimum 10% association contribution;
  • Applications between $25,000 and $250,000: Minimum 25% association contribution;
  • Applications between $250,000 and $750,000: Minimum 50% association contribution;
  • Applications between $750,000 and $2 million: Minimum 100% association contribution;
  • Applications greater than $2 million: Minimum 200% association contribution

Both financial and non-financial (in-kind) contributions may apply toward meeting the requirement. The Committee may waive the Contribution Standards on a case-by-case basis with a 2/3 majority vote, but such application approvals require subsequent approval by the NAR Leadership Team.

Committee Actions & Notification of Decisions

After reviewing and discussing an application, the Committeewill take one of the following actions:

  1. Approve the request in full.
  2. Grant a portion of the funding request.
  3. Approve all or a portion of the funding request provided special conditions are met.
  4. Postpone a decision until the Committee receives and evaluates additional information.
  5. Deny the request.

In making a decision, the Committee considers the following criteria:

  • Importance of the public policy issue
  • Scope of impact of the public policy issue
  • REALTOR®involvement in the public policy issue
  • Winnability of the public policy issue
  • Extent of community support for the REALTOR®position

Applicants are notified by NAR staff regarding the outcome of the Committee, Leadership Team or Board of Directors decision shortly after their decision is made.

Funding and Reporting

For approved requests, NAR staff will coordinate disbursement of funds with grant recipients. When legally permitted, NAR will disburse grant payments through submission of vendor invoices to NAR. Upon completion of the campaign, grant recipients must submit a Post-Campaign Report to NAR staff describing the issue campaign, support provided and outcome.

In situations where a payment-by-invoice approach is not possible or practical, NAR will make a lump-sum payment. Upon completion of campaigns in which lump-sum payments are made, grant recipients must submit, along with a Post-Campaign Report, an accounting of fund expenditures and return any unused funds to NAR staff.

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