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Issues Mobilization Grant

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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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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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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Boise Regional REALTORS® Boost School District with Issues Mobilization Grant

In the fastest growing region of the fastest growing state in the nation, four out of five schools are well over student capacity, and all are looking at significant enrollment increases in the immediate future. The school district of West Ada County, Idaho, which receives funding for expansion and infrastructure improvement only through bond measures approved by a supermajority of voters, proposed such a bond in March: $95 million to build new schools, expand and improve others, and buy land for future school sites before property values rise much further. The Boise Regional REALTORS® (BRR) launched an energetic campaign to convince voters to approve the proposal.  It passed narrowly with about 1% margin of the vote.

According to BRR President Gary Salisbury, the need was urgent for the community, and therefore, the industry: “Keeping up with our region’s rapid growth is an important issue for our association. We are enjoying an era of great economic expansion, but we must take care to foster it so that young families and big companies will continue to be attracted here. The strain on our schools caused by the booming population is a situation that needed immediate attention and long-term vision; passing this bond was an important step in accommodating our clients’ needs and ensuring we have safe and state-of-the-art learning facilities.”

BRR was joined in the effort by local mayors, chambers of commerce, the school district itself, and several private businesses.  Soren Dorius, BRR’s Director of Government Affairs, says that the REALTOR® Party’s support of the campaign was invaluable.  As the bond issue was the only item on the ballot, it was largely a push to get-out-the-vote. “The required supermajority meant that for every ‘no’ vote, we needed two ‘yes-es’,” he explains. The Issues Mobilization Grant that BRR received helped to fund a persuasive “Get out the Vote” mail piece targeting thousands of households with a strong voting history, and live persuasion phone calls in the final weeks leading up to the vote. The local REALTORS®’ 10% match contribution was funded through their investments into the Corporate Ally Program, which allows for ‘soft money’ from affiliate members and others in the community to be used for issues campaigns.

BRR CEO Breanna Vanstrom recently spoke as a guest panelist at the 2018 Association Executive Institute, highlighting the importance of NAR’s resources in this bond campaign. “We greatly appreciate the financial commitment of our association members and industry partners, allowing us to tackle important issues related to sustainable growth,” she says.  “Their active investment in RPAC and the Corporate Ally Program enables us to demonstrate our ‘skin in the game,’ for critical grants from the REALTOR® Party.”

With the bond approved, construction is expected to begin on the new schools and additions later this year, and the future school sites are secured.  Looking ahead, BRR will be focused on other concerns of a growing population, such as improvements to transportation infrastructure, affordable work force housing, and Smart Growth. Meanwhile, things are looking up for the students and staff of the West Ada County school district, their communities, families shopping for housing in the area, and the REALTORS® who help them.

To learn more about how Boise Regional REALTORS® are using REALTOR® Party resources to help local school districts meet the demands of a growing student population, contact Soren Dorius, Director of Government Affairs, at 208-800-8823.

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Thanks to Alabama REALTORS®, First-time Homebuyers Can Now Save for Down Payments and Closing Costs

When the National Association of REALTORS® announced model legislation for First-Time Homebuyer Savings Account (FHSA) programs, Alabama REALTORS® was right there with them. Using resources from the REALTOR® Party, the association had a bill drafted, and commissioned polling and economic research to help convince legislators of its merit. On March 28, when Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed that bill into law, Alabama joined seven other states in the nation offering this progressive tax benefit. Allowing $5,000 in tax-free annual savings ($10,000 for couples) in accounts designated for first-time down payments and closing costs, the law requires contributions and interest deductibles not exceeding $25,000 ($50,000 for couples) to be used within five years towards the purchase of a home.

“Homeownership is the foundation of strong families and healthy communities,” says Stacey Sanders, AAR’s Public Policy Committee Chair. “Alabama REALTORS® is wholeheartedly committed to preserving and enhancing homeownership as a fundamental component of the American Dream, and we know that the First-Time Homebuyer Savings Accounts will incentivize people to stay and live here in Alabama, in homes that they own.”

Just over a month before the 2018 legislative session began in January, AAR sought polling from the REALTOR® Party using an Issues Mobilization Grant. The results were clear: 90% of Alabamians believe that buying a home is a good financial decision; 79% of Alabama voters see the down payment as the biggest obstacle to buying a home; and 77% of Alabama voters favor the FHSA program. The economic research conducted by NAR showed that an estimated 590 to 3,675 eligible households would use an FHSA, which would result in a positive net economic impact on the state ranging from $2.4 million to $26.8 million in annual economic activity, including the creation of up to 245 jobs in numerous sectors of the economy affected by homeownership. These numbers shaped the talking points that AAR brought to the State House to persuade legislators to support the bill, which had been drafted, and was sponsored by State Representative Kyle South in the House and Senator Greg Reed in the Senate.

AAR created a website resource for the proposed First-time and Second-chance Homebuyer Savings Account program, but the polling and economic data were so strong that there was no need for the association to activate the rest of its planned campaign to drum up public support.

Jeremy Walker, AAR CEO said, “Legislators in both chambers were supportive of the concept of helping a new generation of first-time buyers overcome obstacles such as student loans and create a path to responsible homeownership. We were able to work through concerns raised and reach a final bill with great consensus on the positive impact it will make in Alabama.”

With the legislation enacted and due to go into effect in January 2019, AAR is planning to develop a consumer campaign to increase public awareness of the new benefit, which also includes a “Second Chance” provision for would-be buyers who have not owned a home in the past ten years. It is planning to create marketing packages that will be available to brokerages and local REALTOR® Associations to share with members and clients across the state. “We’ve had an overwhelming positive response from our members, who are excited about the program and bringing new opportunities to help first-time buyers,” says Walker, adding, “We definitely recommend taking advantage of REALTOR® Party resources to pursue this kind of legislation.”

A five-year sunset provision in the final legislation means that the benefit will have to be renewed down the road, but AAR is optimistic that the success of the Alabama FHSA program will speak for itself by that point, and that legislators will continue to see the advantages it brings to the state and its residents.

To learn more about how Alabama REALTORS® is helping to ease the way for first-time homebuyers, bolster the housing market, and strengthen the state economy, contact Emily Marsh, Political Representative, at 334-386-5345.

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Oklahoma City REALTORS® Help Shore Up Their City and Secure Property Values

Oklahoma City is experiencing a huge downtown boom, but its infrastructure has not kept up: roads, sewers, and parks are in dire need of improvement, and growth on the outer edges of the metropolis has been stretching available funds away from the city center. As a major General Obligation (GO) Bond and a temporary penny-sales tax approached a renewal vote this year, the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Association of REALTORS® (OCKMAR) joined the city in promoting meetings to help craft new bond proposals to shore up critical infrastructure and provide a much-needed infusion of support for the police and fire departments. With a REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization Grant, OCKMAR helped get voters to the polls for the special election, and those voters overwhelmingly supported the bonds that would strengthen their city and protect its future property values.

While Oklahoma City voters have traditionally renewed their support of the GO bond and the more recent penny sales tax extension every decade or so, what made this round of municipal funding so successful was a completely new approach by the City Council, explains Gary Jones, OKCMAR’s Government Affairs Manager.  “In the past, major players on the council staff would put together their best guess at a proposal that would win public support.  What was so smart this time,” he reveals, “was that the council put a lot of effort in to finding out what the community wanted and needed, before the proposal was put on the ballot.”  Between town hall events, a city-wide survey and numerous exploratory meetings, he says, by election day, there was already a high level of community buy-in, and no serious opposition to the fifteen line items proposed. 

As a member of the Board of Advisors of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, OKCMAR had been involved since the early stages, over a year ago, when the city began figuring out where to make its investments in infrastructure.  Several OKCMAR members worked closely with their council members to develop the ballot proposals, and two testified in support before the Council.  On behalf of the coalition called Citizens for a Better OKC, created to support the ballot proposals, OKCMAR secured an Issues Mobilization Grant to fund a direct mailing to targeted voters; OKCMAR also opted to add its entire annual Corporate Ally Program allotment to the cause.  Because this was a special election, says Jones, the concern was that people might not bother to vote.

But, vote they did:  On September 12, in addition to renewing the GO Bond and the temporary penny-sales tax that were up for renewal, Oklahoma City voters authorized the city to collect an additional quarter-cent tax on every $100 in purchases, to be used to enhance the municipal police force and fire department.  The three bond initiatives approved by the voters will go a long way toward improving infrastructure and the viability of neighborhoods throughout the city, says Jones.  “It goes without saying that not just the quality of life, but the future of property values are directly tied to those improvements,” he notes.  “We are very proud of the REALTORS®‘ role in this success for the city, and grateful for the overwhelming support from the REALTOR® Party that made it possible.”

To learn more about how the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Association of REALTORS® has forged a role for itself in crafting municipal funding priorities and getting them approved at the polls, contact Gary Jones, Government Affairs Manager, at 405-841-5322.

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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.

STATE & LOCAL ISSUE POLLING REQUEST FORM
 ISSUES MOBILIZATION APPLICATION
ISSUES MOBILIZATION GUIDANCE DOCUMENT

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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Beverly Hills/Greater Los Angeles Association REALTORS

When an extreme and aggressive anti-development measure landed on the ballot in Los Angeles early last year, the Beverly Hills/Greater Los Angeles Association of REALTORS® took action.  It requested a Land Use Initiative review through the REALTOR® Party.  The association also secured an Issues Mobilization Grant for a strong opposition campaign.  Then it joined forces with an unlikely ally: the LA Labor Federation.  Together, Labor and the REALTORS® led a coalition to defeat the measure—one which sought to hold development in one of the nation’s largest cities to a standard established just after WWII. 

Measure S, explains James Litz, Government Affairs Director of the BHGLAAR, would have had a disastrous impact on the city, and set a dangerous precedent for years to come.  Proposed by a deep-pocketed organization seeking to protect its own view of an attractive landmark, the draconian measure would have stopped development completely for two years, and disallowed zone changes in perpetuity, effectively preserving an antiquated piecemeal code dating back to 1946. Beyond the obvious threat to the housing needs of contemporary Los Angeles, notes Litz, there were businesses to consider: “There’s a good chance we’ll be hosting the Olympics in 2024, and we’ve got to prepare.  Imagine restaurants being denied sidewalk seating by our paralyzed zoning code!”  

A counter-initiative called “Build a Better LA” was launched, and while not as restrictive as Measure S, it would have created further barriers to construction by raising labor costs on every development.  BHGLAAR submitted the text of both Measure S and Build a Better LA to the REALTOR® Party to review Land Use ordinances.  The report received back, says Litz, confirmed the REALTORS®‘ deepest concerns about the future of development in Los Angeles, and provided spot-on analysis in support of the opposition campaign that had already been mounted—by the Labor industry.

“Such an extreme proposition required an unconventional coalition,” says Rusty Hicks, Executive Secretary Treasurer of the LA Labor Federation.  Acknowledging that Labor and Business historically don’t see eye-to-eye, he adds, “In this case, the REALTORS®, having a foot in both camps, so to speak, served as an important bridge, and helped us to form an especially strong and effective coalition.  Their facilitation in bringing together other unlikely partners was key to our success.”

The resources the REALTORS® brought to the effort were also invaluable, he says.  Beyond the legal analysis, they supported the campaign with major funding from the REALTOR® Party, and the active involvement of many BHGLAAR members.  “Our membership was clearly concerned about the high profile ‘Yes on S’ campaign, which had the benefit of a huge inventory of billboards across the city,” reports Litz.  “If they were at all skeptical of teaming up with Labor, they still threw themselves into the coalition’s campaign to defeat the measure.  They participated in phone banks, and put signs outside their homes and offices.  Above all, they engaged in an energetic grassroots social media campaign.”  Television ads, an extensive door-knocking effort, and an educational website called GoesTooFar.com also boosted the opposition effort.

“We found that voter awareness was the key,” says Litz.  “When we could reach people about the truth behind Measure S, their vote turned against it.”  At the end of the day, the measure was defeated by 69% of the vote.

Says Hicks, “I’ve long argued that you don’t ever know someone until you’ve fought with him.  As tried-and-true ‘battle buddies,’ Labor and the REALTORS® are now working together to establish policy that will create more housing and job opportunities in Los Angeles.  Who’d have thought?  In the end, it’s a positive outcome from a dire threat to both our industries.”

Litz adds, “Beyond eliminating the immediate threat, we’ve also been able to leverage our win, politically.  We’ve just bailed the City Council out of a serious situation, and now it’s up to them to be responsive to the needs of the city.  They’re on notice that they must establish a viable new Zoning Plan, and make progress on affordable housing and housing for the homeless.  It’s still an uphill battle, but I think we’re already seeing a glimmer of progress.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Beverly Hills and Greater Los Angeles are forging strong partnerships to protect and promote housing and business opportunities in their metropolis, contact Government Affairs Director James Litz at 310-704-2767.

 

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