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Issues Mobilization

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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Utah REALTORS® Think Ahead to Prevent Affordable Housing Shortage

The population of Utah is expected to double – yes, double – by the year 2040, and the matter of just where to house everyone is high on the state’s to-do list. Blocking the way are longstanding zoning restrictions at the local level across the state, as well as significant geographic constraints and, until recently, a misperception among the general public that denied a need for affordable housing. With the help of Utah REALTORS® over the past two years, public opinion has been swayed, and the state has found a way to incentivize solutions to the growing housing shortage, rather than strong-arming municipalities with mandates in 2019.

As Cate Klundt, Government Affairs Director of the Utah Association of REALTORS®, explains, the first step was joining a broad-based partnership of industry groups, homebuilders, non-profits, and the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Institute. This group, known as the Utah Housing Gap Coalition, commissioned an academic study detailing the nature of Utah’s demographics and housing needs, and conducted polling and focus groups on consumer attitudes. “The results of these inquiries in the first phase gave us what we needed to help craft effective legislation and formulate informed, targeted education campaigns in the second phase,” says Klundt. Two Issues Mobilization Grants and polling services strengthened the effort from start to finish.

Among the key issues revealed by the research was the prevailing misunderstanding among many Utah residents who rejected the notion of a housing shortage, despite the fact that Utah’s housing prices have increased at a higher rate than those of San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle in the past 20 years. Also significant, notes Klundt, is that the population boom putting pressure on the housing market was shown to be due to in-migration and natural household growth, rather than an influx of ‘outsiders.’ A notable age gap between aspiring home buyers in Utah and those opposing the development of affordable housing units pointed to the established generation being out of touch with the plight of the millennials. “We needed to make it clear to the baby boomers that the people being squeezed out of the housing market are not some nebulous threat, but their own children — and we had the data to prove it,” says Klundt.

The REALTORS® used this data in an internal campaign focused on protecting the American dream of homeownership, a theme that resonated at their REALTOR® Day at the state capitol, where about 400 members met with three-quarters of the legislature. The Utah Housing Gap Coalition directed a public campaign at Utah’s parental generation, with the message, ‘Your grown children want to remain close to home – let’s make this possible for them!’ says Klundt.

Members of the Housing Gap Coalition visited city councils around the state to hear their concerns before approaching the state legislature with an innovative plan: an Affordable Housing Modifications bill motivating municipalities to implement housing reform policies by tying their eligibility for state transportation funding to positive steps toward affordable housing planning and transit-oriented mixed-use development. By allowing local governments to choose from a list of measures including establishing community land trusts, permitting accessory dwelling units, lowering parking requirements, and allowing for higher density residential development in commercial zones, the legislation allows municipalities to retain some local control in solving their share of the state-wide problem. Passage of the bill was a triumph for the Housing Gap Coalition, which will continue its work with a focus on future legislation to meet funding needs.

“I don’t think we’re the only state that has to manage conservative homebuilders and more liberal housing advocates, and we were successful in creating a process that appeased both of those groups as well as local governments and the state legislature,” says Klundt. “Our whole coalition is grateful to the REALTOR® Party for the support that made it possible.”

To learn more about how Utah REALTORS® are working to help municipalities become part of the solution to their own affordable housing challenges, contact Government Affairs Director Cate Klundt at 702-767-3994.

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Washington REALTORS® Campaign for Affordable Housing Legislation

REALTORS® in Washington state knew that access to affordable housing at all income levels was being hampered by lack of inventory, and that not just one, but a whole slew of legislative hurdles was in the way of creating more. With the help of an Issues Mobilization Grant, they mounted a persuasive campaign called Unlock the Door for Affordable Homeownership, urging residents to contact their legislators in support of a bundle of bills aimed at increasing the state’s housing stock.

Unlock the Door was driven by a strong coalition of for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, with the REALTORS® at the forefront, explains Nathan Gorton, the Washington Association of REALTORS®’ (WAR) Government Affairs Director. Comprising groups from across the housing industry, the coalition is united in the belief that housing is all about supply-and-demand, and that a weak supply hurts everyone. “It affects people in all income levels, including homeowners trying to sell their houses – from move-up young families to empty-nesters to retirees,” says Gorton, “and part of our task was making sure the legislature understood that continuum, and what it means for the state’s economy. On the other side of the coin, building the campaign forced us to take a closer look at government subsidized housing, and its place in the puzzle. There was a lot of learning going on, on both sides,” he gamely admits.

“The fact is, there was no single silver-bullet bill that we could have brought to the legislature that would result in more homes coming on the marketplace,” he continues. “It was closer to twenty.  So, we bundled them together in four categories – Funding for Local Governments; Increased Housing Supply & Density for Market-Rate and Affordable Housing; Incentives for Affordable & Low-Income Housing; and Regulatory & Liability Reforms – and got to work seeking public support.”

Unlock the Door was a robust media campaign, including broadcast and cable TV, radio, and digital ads, featuring real-life stories submitted by members of WAR about the challenges and frustrations of Washington residents shut out of the housing market.

It was an absolute home-run of a campaign, reports Washington REALTORS® President, Dale Chumbley, who led a near-record crowd of just over 500 members to the state capitol in January for “WR Hill Day”. “The whole tone was positive, pro-active, and upbeat. We went into the legislature saying: ‘We all know this is a problem; here’s who the coalition is; here are our solutions.’” And the legislature was ready to listen. Polling showed significant public concern about the level of affordable housing in the state, and the coalition had done its homework, meeting issues of concern with draft legislation. Only one significant bill of 18 on the Unlock the Door docket failed to pass, a measure attempting to extend a tax exemption program for affordable multifamily housing. The coalition is already planning to try again next year.

A survey of WR members toward the end of the campaign revealed an 84% awareness of the effort, the sort of recognition that could normally take years to achieve, according to the consultant on the project. “Not only was it a huge success legislatively,” says Gorton, “it was a huge success for our members, and for homeowners and aspiring homeowners in Washington state: a real triumph, all around!”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Washington state have been taking a big-picture approach to overcoming the challenges of affordable housing, contact Nathan Gorton, Government Affairs Director of the Washington REALTORS® at 360-943-3100.

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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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Two Local Missouri Associations Help Communities Pass Much-Needed School Bonds

Earlier this spring, two communities on the eastern edge of Missouri found themselves in dire need of improvements to their school facilities, with multi-million-dollar bond measures on the April ballot, poised to provide the needed funding. The Mark Twain Association of REALTORS® and the Southeast Missouri REALTORS® stepped up to persuade the voting public to approve the bonds with vigorous campaigns funded by REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization Grants and additional funds from the Missouri REALTORS®.  Both efforts were successful, and the schools are getting the funding support they need.

“The Issues Mobilization grants are the best advocacy tool that the National Association provides local and state associations,” says Erin Hervey, Vice President, REALTOR® Party and Local Board Relations of Missouri REALTORS®.

In Cape Girardeau, Mo., which the Wall Street Journal cited last year as having the most concentrated poverty in the state, the school system is working in partnership with the city to create a Purpose-Built Community that has been successfully modeled in a formerly struggling Atlanta neighborhood; a $12-million no-tax-increase bond was placed on the ballot to renovate and expand schools, and to create a new aquatic center. Terry Baker, Association Executive of the 305-member Southeast Missouri REALTORS®, credits her Government Affairs Committee with having the vision to see that the REALTORS® needed to get behind the effort. The superintendent of schools came to speak with the committee, she explains, at the invitation of one of its members, who is also a member of the city’s school board. “For us, supporting the school bond campaign was a good way to engage in a true partnership alongside people where they work and live. It was clear that strengthening economic development on the south side of Cape Girardeau must begin with education.”  Southeast Missouri REALTORS® contributed $1,200 of its own funds to the campaign, which used polling, live phone calls, digital advertising, and yard signs to promote the school bond, passing with nearly 62% of the vote.  “All those who’ve been involved in supporting the bond are extremely grateful to Missouri REALTORS® and to NAR for their investment in the City of Cape Girardeau,” says Baker.

Further north, in the rural community of Monroe City, the Mark Twain Association of REALTORS® was working to convince voters to approve a property tax increase to raise $13.5 million in funding to improve deteriorating school facilities. REALTOR® Debbie Kendrick, Past President of the 108-member association, and chair of the Friends of Monroe City Schools committee, explains that the REALTORS® were already solidly behind the school bond. “But, when you’re running a campaign in a town of 2,500, you have to know who’s going to be walking in to the polling stations and casting ballots,” she says. So, in addition to the campaign of direct mail, yard signs, print media, advertising in local newspapers and social media, Kendrick and her committee supported the School Superintendent in an energetic speaking tour of local civic organizations, from the Knights of Columbus to the Garden Club. “We helped the Superintendent with talking points, and a member of the school board, as well as a member of the ‘Friends’ Committee, accompanied him on each visit,” she says, adding, “It really was a matter of getting our School District leadership in front of the voters, so they could put themselves on the line!” She notes that the application for the REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization grant was not just user-friendly, but helpful, in forcing the committee to get down on paper what they were doing and why. “We’re very blessed to be able to turn to NAR and the Missouri REALTORS® for funding and guidance; otherwise I don’t know that the bond would have passed.”

Erin Hervey, Vice President, REALTOR® Party and Local Board Relations of Missouri REALTORS®, worked closely with both boards on their respective efforts. “The Issues Mobilization grants are the best advocacy tool that the National Association provides local and state associations,” she says. “Individual REALTORS® and individual REALTOR® offices are active in their communities, but these grants show the power of the whole association and our dedication to the livelihood of the communities we serve. From a practical standpoint,” she adds, “they are a good way for local associations wanting to become more active politically, but are a bit worried about picking one candidate over another. Issues such as school bonds are usually not as controversial and really elevate the status of the association in the community.”

To learn more about how small communities in Missouri are being strengthened by Issues Mobilization grants, contact: Debbie Kendrick, Past President of the Mark Twain Association of REALTORS®; Terry Baker, Association Executive of Southeast Missouri REALTORS®, at 573-579-9586; or Erin Hervey, Vice President, REALTOR® Party and Local Board Relations.

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Successful Florida REALTORS® Campaign Leads to Property Tax Limits on Non-Homestead Properties

In Florida, where non-homestead properties represent a significant proportion of all real estate, a 10% tax cap on such properties was set to expire in 2019. For the state’s economy and real estate markets, the effect was likely to be devastating. For approximately 700,000 Florida property owners, it meant a projected $700 million-plus increase in additional property taxes annually. So, with the backing of NAR, Florida REALTORS® brought like-minded organizations around the state together to convince 60% (plus one) of the voting public to pass a constitutional amendment to make the tax cap permanent. More than 66% of the electorate agreed, and the measure passed.

Eric Sain, 2019 President of Florida REALTORS®, explains that REALTORS® had been working to limit the non-homestead property-tax cap for several years, and the “Amendment 2” campaign was the last of a four-phase effort. “Our Office of Public Policy worked closely with the Florida Legislature to help educate them on the need for the 10% cap. When the state legislature passed the ballot measure for the 2018 ballot, we spun into action and formed a campaign team to educate the public. It was critical to avoid massive tax increases on business owners, investors, snowbirds, and renters. It would certainly have made the affordable housing crisis that Florida is experiencing even worse.”

One of the most important aspects of the campaign was an active Ambassador program, which identified, trained, and organized more than 100 REALTOR® members to be the industry’s “voice on the ground,” says Sain. “Because our association staff and volunteer leaders can’t be everywhere, we needed informed members across the state who were willing to speak to the media, and to fellow members, colleagues, neighbors, and community groups to spread the word and explain the importance of Amendment 2.”

“Our biggest challenge was the issue of public awareness,” he continues, “and helping voters understand that this tax cap affects everyone in the state, not just owners and renters, and that passing the amendment would keep our economy strong. This is where our REALTOR® members made all the difference.”

The Amendment 2 campaign relied on direct mail; television, radio, and social media advertising; and print collateral branded with the campaign logo in its messaging. Polling and focus groups also played a significant role throughout the campaign, notes Sain. “We continually evaluated the mood of the voting public,” he explains. “This helped us determine how best to allocate our limited resources most effectively, in response to what we learned.”

 Amendment 2 is now in effect. Looking forward, Sain says that the experience, perspective, and preparation that the REALTORS® gained from the campaign is invaluable. Although there’s no comparable effort on the immediate horizon, the campaign staff in the association’s Office of Public Policy is ready for the upcoming 2019 legislative session. “We’re especially proud of the success and hard work of our Ambassador program. With this in place, we can accomplish anything,” he adds.

To learn more about how Florida REALTORS® has protected Florida property owners and prevented increased pressure on the state’s economy and affordable housing situation, contact Florida REALTORS® Public Policy Office at 850-224-1400.

 

 

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Arizona REALTORS® Lead the Charge against a Tax on Services

Last fall in Arizona, a superhero named “PAT” swooped in to town, enlightened the voting public, and saved the day: it was the cartoon personification of the Protect Arizona Taxpayers Act, a ballot measure that prevailed in the state’s November 2018 General Election, resulting in a constitutional amendment to prevent any new sales taxes on services. A REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization Grant gave PAT a big boost, together with substantial backing from the Arizona REALTORS®’ Issues Mobilization Fund.

It was an issue that spoke right to the heart of the REALTORS®’ mission to protect home ownership, says Nicole LaSlavic, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Arizona Association of REALTORS®. “When a governmental body institutes sales taxes on services, the resulting increase in taxes impacts citizen’s pocketbooks and could ultimately affect their ability to own a home,” she explains, noting that numerous services directly related to the real estate industry were at risk of taxation, including construction, plumbing, lawn care, heating and air conditioning, appraisals and inspections. “It was in the REALTORS®’ best interests to act to prohibit sales taxes on services for once and for all.” While the REALTORS® provided the lion’s share of funding for the campaign, they were joined in the effort by other industry groups representing services such as childcare, certified public accountants, bankers, attorneys, and the healthcare sector.

The comprehensive statewide campaign to ban taxes on services involved REALTOR® members at the grassroots level, collecting signatures to get the measure on the ballot. Following that success, mailers, a website, rounds of live phone calls, and newspaper, radio, and television ads were all developed and put into play. “The biggest response was to the television ads, with the animated superhero, ‘PAT,’ coming to ‘save the day from the evil politicians who want to take your money!’” says LaSlavic. “It really got people’s attention and gave the fairly dry tax issue a colorful and memorable treatment.” The REALTORS® decided to maintain the website as a helpful resource.

The Protect Arizona Taxpayers Act ultimately passed with 64% of the vote, well over the required 50% plus one, but that margin represents a big leap from where prospects stood before the campaign got started. “We conducted polling throughout,” explains LaSlavic, “and while our initial numbers prior to any campaigning were not great, once we began educating voters, the indicators turned right around.”

The Arizona REALTORS® are grateful for the support of the National Association, and LaSlavic notes that she encourages the state’s local associations, large and small, to apply for REALTOR® Party grants of their own when they face issues that could benefit from the support and expertise of the REALTOR® Party. “The team at NAR is very helpful in navigating the application process, so that by the time it goes forward, it’s in the best possible shape.” Regarding the Issues Mobilization Grant that helped secure the passage of the Protect Arizona Taxpayers Act, she says, “Arizona’s more than 50,000 members are very happy – and those who were directly involved are extraordinarily pleased!”

To learn more about how the Arizona Association of REALTORS® has protected the state’s taxpayers from a tax on services, contact Vice President for Government Affairs Nicole LaSlavic at 602-248-7787.

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Hawai’i REALTORS® Improve Public Education without Property Tax Surcharges

The REALTORS® of Hawai’i want high quality public education throughout their island state. But they oppose the notion of achieving it by amending the state constitution to allow for the creation of a state property tax surcharge on investment properties, as proposed by a ballot initiative in the November 2018 election. Polling services and an Issues Mobilization Grant helped them mount a major effort to counter the proposed measure, leading a coalition of more than 150 organizations.

Ken Hiraki, Government Affairs Director of the 9,700-member state association, explains that although initial polling by the REALTOR® Party showed the troubling ballot proposal was favored among the state’s voters, the National Association of REALTORS® believed it was worth attempting to reverse those numbers with a major public awareness campaign. The grant application was very user-friendly, says Hiraki, noting that NAR’s Issues Mobilization team provided invaluable encouragement, insight, and recommendations throughout the process. “NAR’s support and belief in our cause, even when the initial polling showed us as behind, was what secured the confidence of our coalition partners. We began with four organizations and grew it to well over a hundred. It was a great model of success.”

The campaign featured a two-pronged approach: first, an aggressive education, training, and get-out-the-vote effort among the REALTORS®, who spread the word effectively through their extensive local networks; and second, a coalition-led public media campaign that included television, radio, and newspaper ads, and at least 50 local grassroots events. One of the television spots featured four former state governors discussing the potential detriment to the state and its property and small-business owners. “Once the spots hit, voters finally realized that proponents of the amendment had misled them on the facts,” says Hiraki, adding, “The media also began to report the true facts and the unintended consequences that would result if the measure passed.”

Shortly before the election, the Hawaii Supreme Court issued an order invalidating the ballot question on the grounds that the language was vague and ambiguous. This legal injunction was triggered by a lawsuit brought by the office of Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell, who noted that he might have not challenged the proposed amendment but for the coalition, which he felt was a credible organization raising legitimate concerns. “Although we were pleased by the ruling, we also knew that we would have won at the ballot box thanks to the support and encouragement of NAR!” states Hiraki. This was proven by the early mail-in ballots printed prior to the court decision and returned by more than 65% of Hawaii voters: the mail-in results showed a 74% opposition to the contested ballot measure.

In addition to the legal failure of the proposed amendment allowing for property tax surcharges, one especially positive outcome for the REALTORS® was that the campaign unified the organization, and strengthened the bonds between REALTORS® on the islands, says Chief Executive Officer Nancy Donahue-Jones. She also notes, “We gained respect from the community as a viable political force, and more than 100 coalition partner-organizations learned that we’re able to deliver.”

Having protected property owners from this particular tax threat, the REALTORS® are actively seeking creative solutions to the problem of inadequate public education: they are looking to partner with the state Department of Education on building rental housing on unused school properties, three of which have already been identified on Oahu. They are also exploring the possibility of adapting existing affordable housing law to give public school teachers first dibs when units become available in new developments.

To learn more about how Hawai’i REALTORS® are working to protect property rights and support public education, contact Ken Hiraki, Government Affairs Director of the Hawai’i Association of REALTORS®, at 808-733-7060.

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Greater Nashville Regional Council Recognizes Williamson County REALTORS®

The Marshall S. Stuart Memorial Award for Intergovernmental Cooperation was presented to the Williamson County Association of REALTORS® (WCAR) among other entities for their support of a successful referendum for funding to facilitate school construction/renovation projects.

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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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