Leadership Letter

Taking the Lead in Housing Affordability

Last week, we had our second successful Policy Forum at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Focused on one our top strategic priorities – housing affordability, this event was another step in our efforts to collaborate with a broad coalition of organizations, including multicultural real estate groups, lenders, builders, economists, and law and policy makers, to amplify our advocacy voice and discuss was to positively impact and broaden housing opportunities.

As America confronts low housing inventory and a persistent lack of affordable housing options, we were excited to bring together some of the brightest minds in our industry in front of more than 300 registered attendees. Housing affordability is set to be one of the defining policy issues of this decade, it is imperative for REALTORS® to lead discussions that will generate solutions to these far-reaching problems.

Also highlighted was the gap in homeownership rates between white and black Americans recorded at the end of 2019, which is larger than it was more than 50 years ago. During a session led by Director of Fair Housing Policy Bryan Greene, panelists highlighted proposals that would tackle housing supply constraints; improve access to credit for mortgage-ready Americans; and increase post-purchase support and counseling programs, among others.

Earlier this year, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun released a report showing that major U.S. metro areas where housing affordability has worsened over the last five years have seen a corresponding drop in job growth. Specifically, housing affordability rankings have declined in 81 of 174 U.S. metro areas, while 34 regions are seeing job growth fall faster than the national average over the past five years. Additional research conducted by Lawrence’s team found that, from 1989 to 2019, 87% of home purchases in all major metro markets resulted in a positive housing equity gain for owners who held the property for 7–10 years.

  • Stockton Williams, executive director of the National Council of State Housing Finance Agencies
    “I really appreciate everyone at the National Association of Realtors® using this forum this year to talk about housing affordability. I think everybody knows that when NAR’s members get organized and focused on a policy issue, things in Washington happen.”
  •  Steve Francks, CEO of Washington REALTORS®
    “Rather than focusing on just one area of this massive problem, [the Washington Realtors®] decided to group together a range of legislation that addressed housing, from [serving] the most vulnerable populations, to addressing the infrastructure, to condo reform, to incentives to increase density and supply. We wanted to… deliver a message of reform and market-based solutions that addressed the housing shortage over the entire spectrum.”
  • Julia Gordon, president of the National Community Stabilization Trust
    “This is such an important conversation, and what I see today is a lot of creativity out there, as well as some big and very, very wide coalitions working together… So, thanks to everyone at the Realtors® for being such a great partner on so many projects right now.”
  • Muriel Bowser, District of Columbia Mayor
    “You mentioned our commitment to local funding and funding gaps for building new units. We’ve had a tool in the District [for about 15 years], our Housing Production Trust Fund, where we [dedicate] a portion of our deed and recordation taxes to the Housing Production Trust Fund – so thank you, Realtors®, for making sure that part of our economy continues to churn… Because we’ve been consistent, our development partners tell us they are ready to build more units because they know the city is going to be there. We have created more demand for HPTF, which means more units.” 
  • Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors®
    “Home sales – even with record low unemployment and high job creation – are not breaking higher. We need to ensure there is an adequate [tax] incentive to bring more new homes to the market… If homeownership isn’t rising, the wealth divide will expand between the haves and have-nots. [And If the homeownership rate continues to lag behind historical norms] one has to wonder: Are we turning into a renter nation?”

Earlier this year, NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun released a report showing that major U.S. metro areas where housing affordability has worsened over the last five years have seen a corresponding drop in job growth. Specifically, housing affordability rankings have declined in 81 of 174 U.S. metro areas, while 34 regions are seeing job growth fall faster than the national average over the past five years. Additional research conducted by Lawrence’s team found that, from 1989 to 2019, 87% of home purchases in all major metro markets resulted in a positive housing equity gain for owners who held the property for 7–10 years.

While barriers inhibiting development remain, we support policies that we believe could bring relief to the market. In response to HUD’s Request for Information on policies that “raise the costs of affordable housing and contribute to… low housing inventory,” NAR penned a letter arguing for improved FHA underwriting criteria that is more equitable for first-time homebuyers; incentivization of “Yes in My Backyard” markets to encourage states and localities receiving federal dollars to reform high-density zoning; and for additional Community Development Block Grants that encourage localities to update development plans and address barriers to housing affordability.

Additional NAR research unveiled during the Policy Forum projected that $220 to $400 billion would be added to the economy if the pace of homebuilding and for-sale housing activity returned to a more normalized level, translating to 0.25% to 0.50% in added annual GDP growth over the next four years. We encourage you to watch the recorded session and read the conference materials, including reports examining inclusionary zoning, accessory dwelling units and, most notably, a White Paper reiterating the case for homeownership while calling on Congress to restore homeownership incentives in the U.S. tax code.

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#FairHousingMakesUSStronger: Fair Housing Action Plan Announced

The 2020 NAR Leadership Team with HUD Secretary Ben Carson

The 2020 NAR Leadership Team with HUD Secretary Ben Carson

Yesterday, we, along with other members of NAR’s Leadership Team, met with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, HUD’s Assistant Secretary of Fair Housing Anna Maria Farias, HUD General Counsel Paul Compton, and FHA Commissioner Brian Montgomery and other senior officials to discuss fair housing just hours after unanimously passing a new plan to tackle the issue.

The meeting allowed us to reiterate our commitment to partnering with HUD to advance fair housing protections, and we agreed to work jointly on public service announcements and other proactive initiatives to communicate the importance of housing access for all Americans.

We have been active in our pursuit of innovative new policies and partnerships that will help us preserve the fundamental right of housing in America. While we have long been a champion of the Fair Housing Act, recent incidents have underscored the progress our nation must still make. That’s why we are proud to announce that the Leadership Team has unanimously voted today to approve an action that will directly ramp up and reinvigorate NAR’s fair housing commitment, which we encourage you to read.

NAR leads meeting with HUD officials to discuss Fair Housing Action Plan

The new NAR initiative, abbreviated ‘ACT,’ will emphasize Accountability, Culture Change and Training in order to ensure REALTORS® are doing everything possible to protect housing rights in America. Specifically, we will take new actions to ensure members uphold the fair housing standards incorporated in NAR’s Code of Ethics; begin integrating fair housing into all conferences and engagements; and form partnerships with fair housing advocates to pursue shared goals around accountability and training, among countless other initiatives.

Our Code of Ethics and its adherence to fair housing are the cornerstones of our commitment as REALTORS®. With this new plan, we will see more robust education focusing on core fair housing criteria, unconscious bias, and how the actions of our members impact communities. A partnership with government officials and fair housing advocates will allow us to further promote equality as we continue to work to diversify our industry.

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REALTOR® Party Leaders Plan for 2020

Last week, more than 500 REALTOR® Party leaders gathered in Austin, Texas, for the 2020 REALTOR® Party Training Conference. This conference was special for a number of reasons. While it was a great opportunity to connect and network, this annual conference is also an opportunity for us to understand the vital role that each of us plays in shaping the future of the real estate industry and making homeownership a reality for all. One of the key takeaways from this event was out Three Pillars document.

As we close out our celebration of the 50th anniversary of RPAC, these three pillars — REALTORS® are champions of homeownership; fight to protect private property rights; and are community leaders — outline our advocacy focus to ensure 50-plus more years of future success.

REALTORS® are champions of home and property ownership.

No one knows how home and property ownership can change lives and communities like REALTORS®. That’s why it is crucial that we work to ensure that consumers understand that REALTORS® are their best allies in fulfilling the American dream of property ownership, and that owning a home is more in reach than they think.

As a key to facilitating real estate transactions, we will continue to protect the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage, and ensure mortgage availability for responsible, creditworthy Americans nationwide, particularly first-time buyers.

REALTORS® fight to protect private property rights.

Rent control…short-term rentals…fair housing…environmental changes… and a host of real estate and income tax issue, these are just of the few the issues facing the real estate industry and private property owners. One of our 2020 strategic priorities is to implement new strategies and approaches to protect private property rights. NAR, REALTOR® associations, and REALTORS® should be working with like-minded organizations, lawmakers, and regulatory agencies on all levels of government to safeguard against threats to private property rights and address housing affordability and supply.

Not all of us will be asked to participate on the same level, but it’s equally important that each of us own who we are by telling our story to state and local lawmakers and regulators. We all have a role in participating in the process.

Whether that’s responding to calls for action or participating in a community planning meeting, it is up to us all to help cultivate politically engaged and knowledgeable REALTORS® who are ready to mobilize and amplify our voice when needed, elect REALTOR® Champions to office, and help pass legislation.

REALTORS® are community leaders.

We have a vested interest in creating better places to live and improving the quality of life for residents. We also drive community and economic development by advocating for smart policies at the local, state, and national level.

Economic development stimulates business and housing, which benefits us all. Our friend Tracy Kasper has long said, “REALTORS® know everyone!” In our personal lives we leverage our relationships for better outcomes for our clients and our businesses.

Beyond being a partner in our communities, sometimes the biggest step is coming to the table and initiating the conversation. We truly believe that only by asking the tough questions and having the sometimes uncomfortable conversations are we going to find common solutions. This is also going require hard work, but I know we are up for the challenge.

Our message is simple – and you know it: Vote, Act, and Invest.

That’s what the REALTOR® Party is about — 1.4 million members and staff working together nationwide, advancing public policies and candidates that build strong communities, protecting property interests, and promoting a vibrant business environment. No doubt, our ability to articulate the REALTOR® narrative effectively will play a huge role in the future of our businesses and our associations.

On behalf of the 2020 Leadership Team — Charlie Oppler, Leslie Rouda-Smith, John Flor, John Smaby, Christine Hansen, and Mabél Guzmán — We hope you have a wonderful and safe holiday season.

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A Clear Direction for Navigating Change in 2020

Fresh off Election Day, it was great to see nearly 20,000 people attending the 2019 REALTORS® Conference & Expo in San Francisco. With a new Leadership Team in place, we can’t think of a better place to get started on the hard work ahead of us. San Francisco is a city at the center of a technological revolution that is changing the way we live, work, and play. Our industry is no exception.

We are witnesses to a massive shift in the real estate field in today’s consumer-driven, on-demand economy. Of course, we already know this! We also know that change and opportunity walk hand-in-hand.

In the 1990s, technology companies were pouring millions into real estate while REALTORS® relied on printed listings with black-and-white photos. Today’s listings are in the cloud, and you can pull them up on your phone.

In the 2000s, when big banks threatened to create an anti-consumer, anti-competitive industry, REALTORS fought and won in 2009 when Congress passed a law preventing big banks from engaging in real estate brokerage.

Read and Download NAR’s 2020 Strategic Priorities

Of course we know how to manage change. Our business is change. You’ve changed the lives of the families you helped buy their first home, or the entrepreneur their first business. You’ve changed your communities through your generosity because REALTORS® reinvest in our neighborhoods. We know that giving enriches the giver as well as the recipient.

Times are changing—and opportunity is knocking. Now is the right time to focus on our industry and the communities we serve. From rent control and short-term rentals to housing supply and affordability, the issues facing our industry are unprecedented. By forging a new contract between NAR, REALTORS® , and our industry, I believe we can realized unprecedented success for ourselves as business owners, the communities where we work and live, and homeowners.

We invite you to review our 2020 priorities to get a better understanding of our strategic focus. You’ll be hearing a lot of the two specifically related to advocacy: Collaborating for positive impacts on housing equality and affordability and driving community development.

The changing times may change the way we do our work. But nothing can change one crucial element—the human element—that only REALTORS® can provide.

In the coming week, we’ll gather with state presidents, association executives, government affairs directors, and committee chairs and members at the REALTOR Party Training Conference in Austin, Texas, to further discuss the REALTOR® Party and advocacy objectives for success in 2020 during an intensive two days. We look forward to providing you an update and working together to inspire you to find your own story to tell and to help show the world “That’s Who We R.”

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Long-Awaited FHA Condo Rule Goes into Effect Oct. 15

On August 14, 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released the long-awaited final rule on project approval for single-family condominiums insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). For many years, NAR urged HUD to finalize changes to the previous rule that would ease restrictions on FHA financing for condominiums, thus enabling more first-time buyers, older adults, and low to moderate-income families to achieve the dream of homeownership. We will continue to work with FHA and Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to insure that people who wish to purchase a condominium have safe affordable access to mortgage credit. The final rule goes into effect on Oct. 15.

Due to technical difficulties, we were unable to take your questions live on this important issue, but watch the video below and type your questions in the comment section for NAR staff experts to answer.

Resources

Check out the resources below to assist you in understanding the FHA Condo Rules and in serving your clients.

 NAR’s Condominium Page

FHA Condominium Rule Assessment

HUD Condo Project Look Up

VA Condo Project Look Up

FHA Single Family Housing Policy Handbook – Condo Project Approval

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Safety & Disaster Preparedness Dominate September

As the end of summer nears, our advocacy efforts are back in full swing! This month we celebrate REALTOR® Safety Month and National Preparedness Month. Throughout September, we are reminded of how these play out in our advocacy outreach efforts.

REALTORS® face job-related risks every day — working alone, meeting with strangers in unfamiliar places, and sharing personal contact information. While independence is one of the perks of our industry, it can leave us open to vulnerabilities. While we designate September as REALTOR® Safety Month to raise awareness of safety issues, it’s important for real estate professionals to stay focused on safety year-round. That why, more than a decade ago, we launched the REALTOR® Safety Program. The program provides members with safety education, tips, and countless other resources and tools at no cost, including the NEW REALTOR® Safety Network. The program covers a range of topics, including cybersecurity and data privacy — two hot topics for advocacy. The aim: Help REALTORS® make it home safely to their family every night. Learn more at nar.realtor/Safety.

We’ve also partnered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for National Preparedness Month. When natural disasters like Hurricane Dorian strike, it’s essential that real estate professionals remain safe, but also to look out for their clients and their families so that they have the resources they need. This year’s theme: Be Prepared, Not Scared is an excellent reminder for us to ready ourselves and our clients for natural disasters, and help families in the wake of a tragedy by raising awareness about disaster risks and the simple, proactive steps everyone can take. Visit ready.gov/september for shareable content, graphics, and videos throughout the month. The resources also offered on NAR’s Disaster Preparedness Resources are a valuable asset that can help build a culture of preparedness and ready the nation for catastrophic disasters.

According to FEMA, just one inch of water can cause $25,000 of damage to your home. As floodwaters rise, so do the costs of repairing your home and replacing the things inside of it. Heavy rains or hurricanes that lead to flash flooding highlight the need for the National Flood Insurance Program. Learn more at realtorparty.realtor/nfip.

As with every natural disaster, we encourage you to make a donation to the REALTORS® Relief Foundation. Over the past 18 years, the foundation has collected and distributed more than $32 million in aid for some 80 disasters in 39 states and territories since it launched after the September 11 terrorist attacks. It’s helped more than 13,000 families. Every dollar goes directly to victims of disaster, and NAR covers 100% of administrative expenses. Donate today.

Resources

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July Brings Summer Fun and Advocacy

July is the time for baseball, summer fun, relaxation, and family vacations. But rest assured that we are continuing to work hard on your behalf! Here are a few hot topics of note:

Affordability & Supply

President Trump created a Housing Affordability Council, and recently signed an Executive Order that will eliminate barriers that limit access to affordable housing — namely zoning laws, environmental regulations, building codes and lengthy building permit processes. We anticipate there will be opportunities to provide information and input to this Council and will distribute information on an on-going basis as the work process of the Council is fleshed out.

Led by Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, the Council will consist of members from eight Federal agencies. Members will engage with government leaders, elected officials, the private sector, and other stakeholders from across the country in the effort to identify and eliminate the “obstacles that impede the production of affordable homes.”

NAR was a Hall of Fame sponsor of the annual Congressional Baseball Game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Association Health Plans

It’s more than a year since 12 attorney generals filed suit against the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), challenging the agency’s final rule which opened the door for small employers and self-employed individuals, including real estate professionals, to participate in Association Health Plans (AHPs). NAR is invested in efforts to pursue AHPs, and more than 200 state and local associations have agreed to support our latest work to secure affordable, high-quality health care options for members and their families. We joined in amicus brief in support of DOL’s rule through the Coalition to Protect and Promote Association Health Plans. In addition, we created the AHP Toolkit is a resource for Associations to use as they investigate and seek to implement an AHP in their area.

Flood Insurance

On February 20, 2019, five federal regulatory agencies published final regulations clarifying lender acceptance of private flood insurance. These rules went into effect on July 1. NAR has been working as part of a coalition to make it easier for lenders to accept private flood insurance, which often offers better coverage at lower cost than the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). We will continue working with Congress and the administration to clarify any remaining issues of continuous private flood insurance coverage and address these issues as part of NFIP reauthorization and reform legislation.

Housing Finance Reform

We are continuing to push for a resolution to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae conservatorship. NAR’s plan would retain the government guarantee and the 30-year fixed rate mortgage, and ensure the availability and affordability of mortgage credit for credit-worthy borrowers. We met with representatives from HUD and the Department of Treasury as well as the new FHFA Director about to discuss our Vision for Housing Finance Reform.

While we are busy working on your behalf, we ask you to be ready to take action at a moment’s notice on these or other important issues at the federal, state, and local levels of government. Sign up for the REALTOR® Party Mobile Alerts. Simply text the word REALTOR to 30644 or subscribe online before July 31 and you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a $250 Amazon gift card.

 

 

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Celebrating National Homeownership Month with Pride

June is National Homeownership and LGBT Pride Month. While we are recognizing the important relationship between homeownership and achieving the American Dream, and encouraging people around the country to learn more about homeownership opportunities and financial management plans.

June is also LGBT Pride Month. In 2009, more than a decade before the House of Representatives passed the Equality Act, NAR embraced the significance of the protections secured by the Fair Housing Act, and encouraged efforts to extend them by amending our Code of Ethics in 2009 to prohibit discriminations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

REALTORS® attending the 75th anniversary of the GI Bill event with Army Sgt. 1 st Class William Kopf

On June 5, we joined the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of  Housing and Urban Development to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the GI Bill along with the 24 millionth home loan backed by the VA loan program. The recipient was Army Sgt. 1 st Class William Kopf (pictured third from the left), an Active Guard Reserve Soldier who turned to his home loan benefit for the third time after service requirements necessitated a move from Utah to Northeastern Pennsylvania. REALTORS® Marilou Saar and Joni McKenna were in attendance Wednesday as the agents who helped make the 24 millionth transaction possible.

We are a key voice in promoting and educating consumers on homeownership. Through the HomeOwnershipMatters.realtor website, we offer an ideal platform for current and prospective homeowners to have their voice heard at the local, state, and national levels of government on core tax and property issues, joining REALTORS® in protecting homeownership now – and for generations to come. With proposed policy changes happening in communities across the country, it is more important than ever to stand-up for homeowner rights.

Be sure to visit Home Ownership Matters’ National Homeownership Month page for shareable videos, infographics, and other content throughout June.

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Homeownership Advocates: That’s Who We R

Hopefully by now you’ve seen our consumer ad campaign – That’s Who We R. The campaign has been a success that with the 2019 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo next week, we have tied our Hill Visit messages to Congress directly to the campaign – That’s Who We R – featuring both commercial and residential real estate. Why? Well with more than 100 new members serving in Congress, thousands of new Hill staffers, this is the perfect opportunity to reintroduce REALTORS® to the 116th Congress. REALTORS® will remind Congress of the value they bring to their communities, discussing the impact of real estate on the economy, consumers, and the vital role homeownership plays in building generational wealth for consumers.

We have an important story, namely:

  1. Who We Are and Why We Care
    REALTORS® adhere to the code of ethics, and 70% actively volunteer in their communities.
  1. How Real Estate Benefits Consumers and the Economy
    Real estate accounts for one-fifth of the gross domestic product, and commercial real estate supported 8.3 million American jobs in 2018.
  1. What We Care About
    NAR is following range of issues before Congress. For example, the National Flood Insurance Program needs to be extended by May 31, and Opportunity Zone tax incentives, which we are working to implement.

If you haven’t already, watch the recording of the yesterday’s town hall featuring Shannon McGahn, senior vice president of government affairs, and Tracy Kasper, vice president of advocacy.

For those of you attending next week’s meetings, be sure to check out the following events:

Federal Legislative & Political Forum: Behind-the-Scenes in Today’s Political Environment featuring Terry McAuliffe and Haley Barbour
Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 8:00–9:30 AM
Marriott Wardman Park, Marriott Ballroom, Lobby Level
Regulatory Issues Forum featuring Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria
Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 12:30 PM–2:00 PM
Marriott Wardman Park, Marriott Ballroom, Lobby Level
NAR 360
Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 4:00–5:00 PM
Marriott Wardman Park, Marriott Ballroom, Lobby Level
Federal Priority Issues Briefing
Wednesday, May 15, 2019, 7:30–8:30 AM
Marriott Wardman Park, Marriott Ballroom, Lobby Level

RPAC Awards Ceremony, RPAC Hall of Fame Induction, and 50th Anniversary White and Gold Celebration
(Be sure to wear white and gold)
Wednesday, May 15, 2019, 5:00–8:00 PM
Marriott Wardman Park, Marriott Ballroom, Lobby Level

 

And don’t forget to visit the NAR Booth #1707. Throughout the week, we’ll be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the REALTORS® Political Action Committee, culminating in the special sold out celebration at the National Building Museum.

If you are unable to attend follow along on social media using the hashtag #NARLegislative, and stay tuned to www.legislative.realtor for additional content.

We look forward to seeing you in Washington, D.C., and safe travels.

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April Highlights Fair Housing and Tax Day

April is Fair Housing Month. As stewards of the right to own, use, and transfer private property, REALTORS® understand that fair housing protects the real estate industry and our businesses. We depend on a free, open market that embraces equal opportunity. In short, fair housing makes us stronger. This year, we will commemorate this important and historic milestone by highlighting four key issue areas that will set the tone for the future of fair housing.

On March 13, 2019, Rep. David Cicillini (D-PA) introduced HR 5, the Equality Act, in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Equality Act would amend the Fair Housing Act to provide protections for LGBTQ people in key areas of life, such as housing, employment, credit, public accommodations, and voting rights, and is aligned to NAR’s Code of Ethics. As we monitor this bill through the legislative process, we will continue to express our support. If the bill passes, we will work to address our policy issues as any regulations implementing it are developed.

We’ll also continue to work with and support our multicultural partners — the National Association for Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP), the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA), and the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) — to address immigration housing rights, improving language access to financial materials, and gaps in African-American homeownership.

Don’t forget there are only four days until Tax Day! This is the first filing season that the impact of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will be seen as you are preparing your tax returns. If you still haven’t filed, we encourage you to review What REALTORS® Need to Know About the New Tax Law. There you’ll find helpful videos and other resources available to you. And as always, consult a tax professional if you have more detailed questions.

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