Smart Growth

Santa Fe REALTORS® Help Spur Re-Development of Central Urban Corridor

It hasn’t been quick, and it hasn’t been easy, but over the course of the past decade the Santa Fe Association of REALTORS® has spearheaded a movement that will transform an under-developed 1.5-mile stretch of highway that runs through the heart of its city. Using two Smart Growth Action Grants, SFAR has helped spur the Midtown redevelopment with an emphasis on form-based zoning and affordable housing.

The thoroughfare is St. Michael’s Drive, and the segment in question, now a seven-lane highway, is anchored at one end by a hospital and associated medical businesses, and at the other by a now-defunct college campus owned by the city. In between, the corridor features significant excess road capacity in addition to 1960s and 1970s-era commercial-strip development that supports a somewhat marginal business climate. Santa Fe, like many communities across the country, is experiencing a serious workforce housing crunch, says Donna Reynolds, SFAR’s Government Affairs Director, and the St. Michael’s Drive redevelopment project presents a real opportunity to address the shortage.

Ten years ago, when the City of Santa Fe identified the St. Michael’s highway segment for redevelopment, it was only natural that the REALTORS® would see the possibilities for workforce housing and mixed-use development – and act on them; SFAR has long championed programs and initiatives supporting affordable housing throughout the city, notes Reynolds. In 2011, the association secured a $15,000 Smart Growth Action Grant to create a housing study to determine the numbers of affordable rental and for-sale units that could be developed; the study also made policy recommendations to help incentivize housing construction along the corridor.

Reynolds credits the city’s former Asset Development Director, who was well-versed in forward-thinking land use issues, with developing the progressive new Midtown Local Innovation Corridor (LINC) Overlay District. This district, portions of which have since been designated as an Opportunity Zone, embraces a forms-based land use code, encourages multi-family housing, and lifts barriers to development by eliminating city-land development fees; granting certain projects the ability to purchase water rights from the city at cost; and allowing certain types of preferred development projects to bypass the lengthy permitting process with by-right staff approval. “This is a very unusual overlay district, in that it is less, not more, restrictive, and actually removes many of the hurdles that had made development of affordable housing a lengthy, uncertain, and unrewarding process,” says Reynolds. “We were extremely lucky in having an advocate inside City Hall who could make the fiscal case for lighter restrictions, and demonstrated that there was greater economic benefit to be had in promoting development, than revenue from permits could ever bring in.”

A second Smart Growth Action Grant in 2014 helped SFAR to build on the momentum created by the creation of the Midtown LINC. It established an active stakeholder alliance of roughly 120 property owners and businesses who support redevelopment within the St. Michael’s corridor. It also supported a multi-family housing conference that attracted more than 130 attendees, expert speakers, and several major industry sponsors. And finally, it helped to launch a vibrant new website for Midtown LINC, to promote the corridor and its redevelopment.

The City of Santa Fe is actively soliciting development proposals for city-owned land, and is considering establishing similar progressive overlay districts elsewhere in the city. The Midtown LINC is now trying to engage the state of New Mexico, which owns the actual street, to form a partnership with the city to transform the streetscape itself into an attractive bike-and-pedestrian friendly boulevard.

“Our experience here in Santa Fe shows that the REALTOR® Party’s Smart Growth Grants can make a very big difference,” says Reynolds. “They amounted to $30,000 over a decade, and we sure got a lot out of them; in fact, we now have a model that can be replicated in other areas of our city and beyond, so the eventual impact is probably even greater than we realize.  We’re so grateful for the support from the REALTOR® Party that makes this kind of progress possible.”

To learn more about how the Santa Fe Association of REALTORS®  is improving its communities with help from the REALTOR® Party, contact Donna Reynolds, Government Affairs Director, at 505-982-8385.

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Selkirk REALTORS® Protect Quality of Life in Bonners Ferry

The scenic city of Bonners Ferry, Idaho,is taking careful steps to avoid becoming a victim of its own success. To preserve the high quality of life that attracts many visitors and would-be residents, it has spent several years developing a Comprehensive Plan and Transportation Plan that will foster the compact growth of its community, while encouraging walking and biking in and around town. Coming to the table with Smart Growth Action Grants, together with considerable knowledge and understanding of its own, the Selkirk Association of REALTORS® has become an important partner in the creation of a robust pedestrian/bicycle mobility plan for the area.

The plan, explains Stephanie Rief, Association Executive of the 246-member association, is for a pedestrian/bicycle network providing safe and convenient routes that both meet current demand and encourage even more usage. Idaho Smart Growth was the organization commissioned to create the plan, which integrates walking and biking routes into the master plan for roadway transportation. “The walk/bike plan includes routes in all parts of town, connections and safe crossings and access to destinations, as well as clear network branding and directional signage,” says Rief. “This will improve access to active transportation options, and help stimulate economic development related to bike tourism,” she adds. “By increasing the walkability and bike-ability within Bonners Ferry, we are also creating opportunity and purpose for improved housing in the city.”

The Selkirk Association of REALTORS® has actually received three Smart Growth Action Grants for the complex project, one for each of the three preparatory phases of the plan. The first two grants supported initial planning, drafting, and a site visit. This most recent grant helped to fund Phase 3, which included branding, wrap-up, and a kick-off, seeing the plan through initial stages of implementation. Although Rief has completed many grant applications on behalf of her association, she reached out to the state association, Idaho REALTORS®, for guidance applying for the grant: “Because of its importance, and because it was the first large Smart Growth grant our association had applied for, I felt that it would be nice to have that added expertise of their staff grant writer,” she explains. “The application process was actually fairly simple,” she notes, adding that the Selkirk Association of REALTORS® encourages its fellow small associations to take advantage of the REALTOR® Party’s grant programs. “The support of the REALTOR® Party has helped us to build the relationships that build our community!”

REALTOR® members were actively involved at many levels of the plan’s development, from being interviewed about existing conditions, to attending public meetings, to serving on a pedestrian bicycle advisory group.

“Being a part of this project has helped the REALTOR® community establish itself as a trusted, knowledgeable, and caring partner,” says Rief. “It’s allowed us to work more closely with the Mayor of Bonners Ferry, the City Administrator, and the Boundary County Economic Developer. They are all grateful for the help of the National Association of REALTORS®, as well as the Selkirk Association of REALTORS®, towards this amazing accomplishment. REALTORS® are now often involved in city and county economic projects that they wouldn’t necessarily have been invited to engage in before. It has been a turning point for everyone involved and we look forward to future civic collaboration.”

To learn more about how the Selkirk Association of REALTORS® is making sure walking and biking is built into the fabric of the Bonners Ferry community, contact Association Executive Stephanie Rief at 208-265-2227.

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Haywood REALTORS® Supports Smart Growth and Affordable Housing in Waynesville, NC

In some respects, the western North Carolina Town of Waynesville doesn’t have much choice but to embrace Smart Growth: bounded by the Great Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains, as well as a flood plain, sprawl isn’t necessarily an option. Still, as it updates the regulatory twenty-year Comprehensive Land Use Plan that serves as its critical ‘road map’ for future land use and zoning decisions, Waynesville needed as much public input as possible as it tackles issues from insufficient affordable housing to the contemporary appeal of living close to the business core. With a REALTOR® Party Smart Growth Action Grant, the Haywood REALTOR® Association sponsored a Visioning Workshop on a weekday afternoon in June, to gather ideas and opinions from local stakeholders.

Lisa Brown, Association Executive of the 280-member board, says that when her Government Affairs Co-Chair, Ellen Sither, approached her with the idea of using a REALTOR® Party grant to fund the event, “My first thought was ‘Yay!’…. And then, as a staff of one, I thought, ‘Oh Lord.  How am I going to do this?’ It was our first major grant application, and had I known it would be as easy as it was, we would have started long ago!” She gives credit for the heavy lifting to Sither and Elizabeth Teague, the Town of Waynesville Development Services Director, who put together the application; they, in turn, note that the team at the National Association of REALTORS® was helpful and responsive every step of the way.

The Visioning Workshop, which was held in the town’s Recreation Center, met a critical need for the planning process, says Teague. “With our consultants, we had accomplished a lot of technical work, but what was missing was public input. And while the town has a reasonable budget, we certainly couldn’t have held such an event without the REALTORS®. They provided food, and marketing, and worked side-by-side with the professional consultants. It was wonderful!” The event drew just shy of 400 participants, and generated valuable responses and ideas for the steering committee. Through the workshops, local support was affirmed for exploring redevelopment opportunities for older properties, for smaller area planning, and for maximizing density through infill; it was also made abundantly clear that Waynesville residents don’t want development to spread up their beloved mountainsides. Over the course of the day, notes Sither about 25 REALTORS® donated their time to the event, participating in a morning training session, then helping to bring in lunch for the team, and working in sessions with members of the public from 3-7pm. “For some, it meant closing a one-person office for the day. It was a lot to give!”

Although the Visioning Workshop was deliberately planned to coincide with pick-up time from the Recreation Center day camp, it didn’t attract as many young people as the planners had hoped. “We had more higher-income retirees than younger residents providing input,” remarks Sither, “but still, every bit was useful as we considered the big picture.” Brown and Teague are also members of the Haywood County Affordable Housing Council, which focuses on making it possible for younger generations to return to live in the rural community. “This is a key issue for the well-being of the town,” says Brown, “and it dovetails neatly with the visioning process for the Comprehensive Plan. So, while the younger folks may not have been directly represented – and, of course, they’re busy! – there were others of us advocating for the housing needs of their generation and beyond.”

Teague expresses the town’s great appreciation for the leadership of the REALTORS®, not just in sponsoring the Visioning Workshop, but in volunteering their time and expertise to the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee, and in communicating the town’s efforts to a larger audience. “We’ve created a truly productive partnership, which is not always the case between towns and the real estate industry. As we go forward, we know it’s critical for the REALTORS® to be our partners in Smart Growth planning: together, we can protect the town and create growth.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Haywood County, North Carolina, are helping the Town of Waynesville plan for future land use and zoning decisions with an eye to Smart Growth and affordable housing, contact Lisa M. Brown, Association Executive, at 828-452-5096; Government Affairs Co-Chair Ellen Sither, at 828-452-5809; or Elizabeth Teague, Development Services Director for the Town of Waynesville, at 828-476-9645.

 

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Is Smart Growth the Key to Preserving Montana’s ‘Big Sky?’ Gallatin REALTORS® Funds Study to Find Answers.

In a land known as ‘Big Sky,’ it should come as no surprise that there’s a certain cultural resistance to development density. Yet in Gallatin County, Montana, which has been topping best-places-to-live and best-places-to-retire lists in recent years, tremendous growth is forcing a closer look at the best ways to accommodate the burgeoning population. A Smart Growth Action Grant recently funded a comparative analysis study that will inform the ongoing development debates by clearly quantifying the fiscal implications of dense development versus sprawl.

In fact, the 1,100-member Gallatin Association of REALTORS® (GAR) received two grants to contribute to the complex process of developing a growth plan for the greater Bozeman region: a $15,000 Smart Growth Action Grant supported the study by an Asheville, NC-based urban planning consulting firm called Urban3; and a $1,500 Housing Opportunity Grant helped to fund an Affordable Housing Summit that brought stakeholders together to begin discussing goals for Bozeman.

“I have a handwritten note of thanks from the mayor on my desk right now,” says Ellen Beck, GAR’s Government Affairs Director. Between the in-depth analysis that was provided by the Urban3 study and the data collected at the Housing Summit, she says, the REALTORS® have earned not only the gratitude of City Hall, but also recognition as a serious partner in discussions about the region’s future growth.

The comparative analysis study, which was completed in July, highlighted the significant return of property tax per acre that would be realized by reinvesting in urban centers and historic commercial corridors; the findings were illustrated by a series of colorful 3-D images that convey relative land value, tax value, and value-per-acre at a glance. On July 11, Joe Minicozzi, principal of Urban3, presented the study results to three different Bozeman audiences: at a breakfast for the REALTORS®; at a City Hall luncheon for city staff, the local homebuilders association, and developers; and once more in the evening for the general public. Beck, who attended all three sessions, says “The primary goal was to educate the public with this very clearly reasoned analysis. I think a lot of minds that had been skeptical were opened, when presented with the tax implications of building up the urban core, as opposed to on the outskirts, or way out in the country. The graphics made a very compelling argument for Smart Growth.”

Two weeks later, GAR joined the city in hosting an Affordable Housing Summit that gathered representatives from the university and the local hospital, the region’s largest housing consumers; AARP; the Department of Transportation; the school district; the local land trust; and, of course, REALTORS®. A facilitator from the university had small groups work together to answer a series of questions ultimately seeking to determine an acceptable definition of ‘affordable housing’ beyond the HUD standard. “It was a fascinating and highly effective exercise,” says Beck, “and by having teams from such different sectors working together, it really made us all think in broader terms.” City Hall was so thrilled with the results, she says, that it asked the REALTORS® to follow up with an even more comprehensive summit.

“We could not have achieved all this without the support of the National Association of REALTORS®,” notes Beck. “Our goal, going in to these programs, was to inform the growth policy planning process, which will promote Smart Growth development standards and spur an uptick in compact, walkable neighborhoods,” she says. “Another really positive outcome is that the city is looking to us as partners with valuable resources, expertise, and information.”

To learn more about how the Gallatin Association of REALTORS® is working as a valued partner of City Hall to plan the region’s Smart Growth, contact Government Affairs Director Ellen Beck at 406-585-0033.

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Southern Minnesota REALTORS® Jump-start Walkability in Mankato

As the concept of walkability becomes more prominent in municipal planning throughout the country, and in greater demand in real estate markets, REALTORS® are on it. In Mankato, Minn., the local REALTORS® sponsored a WalkShop event in Old Town, a district with lots of old charm and a new public amphitheater, but lacking a pedestrian-friendly infrastructure to link the two. A Smart Growth Action Grant helped them make it happen.

Deb Hansen, Chief Executive Officer of the 350-member REALTOR® Association of Southern Minnesota (RASM) explains that the idea for the program was the result of a lot of brainstorming by a REALTOR® committee exploring the Walkscore concept in the context of Mankato, a riverfront community that is perceived as a ‘driving community.’ “Once we discovered the availability of this grant, we decided to focus our efforts on the Old Town district,” she says, citing the advantages of the neighborhood’s vintage main street architecture and an exciting new amphitheater for live performances in the city’s new Riverfront Park, just a block behind the commercial street. The neighborhood came with unique challenges, too: it was heavily industrial, including quarries and a metal scrapyard, and lacked visibility from one point to the next. It also lacked parking. “Our goal was to make this area more accessible, more functional, and more welcoming,” says Hansen.

The grant application process was smooth and easy. “It helped that we’d done our due diligence, and were able to communicate our goals and vision to the REALTOR® Party team,” says Hansen. RASM President Elect Jason Beal, a lifelong Mankato resident, issued personal invitations to numerous local stakeholders to participate in the early June event. The day began with an informal breakfast at a local bakery, where participants could meet and mingle. They included representatives from the City Center Partnership and the Old Town district, the Mankato Council for the Arts, public safety officials, neighboring towns, and a handful of REALTORS®. Then Samantha Thomas, a professional walkability consultant, delivered a presentation on the goals and successes of walkability efforts elsewhere in the country.

“It was fantastic,” says Beal. “Samantha’s presentation broke down the concept of walkability, and showed us what could be done, from huge capital improvements to just striping the streets.” Then the group headed out and toured the area on foot, returning to the bakery to brainstorm ideas in small groups over lunch; Thomas took notes, which informed her written report, delivered a few weeks later. Beal praises Thomas’ positive, can-do tone, and her expertise as she led the walk, measured sidewalks, and pointed out impediments: “It was all about ‘What do we have, and how can we work with it?’ with an emphasis on quality, rather than rushing in to anything.”

For weeks following the event, Hansen received numerous requests for copies of Thomas’ PowerPoint presentation and the report, as well as glowing thanks, like this from a transportation planner from a neighboring jurisdiction:

I really appreciate you hosting the REALTOR® Walkability Event on June 6. That was a great opportunity to gain some perspective on how Mankato could benefit from changes to the pedestrian realm.

According to Beal, the notion of walkability improvements has gained traction in the community: several local organizations are collaborating to create a “Vitality Fund” with a goal to raise $10 million to support local projects over the next 10 to 15 years; the WalkShop report outlines just the kind of improvement they are looking to fund. Meanwhile, the Mankato Council for the Arts is talking about painting alleyway walls in the Old Town corridor with fanciful designs, and RASM is looking into the possibility of securing a REALTOR® Party Placemaking Grant to help the community envision some of the ideas that emerged from the event. “This has generated so much excitement,” says Beal, “and we’re grateful to the REALTOR® Party for providing us with such tremendous practical resources.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Southern Minnesota are using REALTOR® Party resources to help communities work toward improving walkability, contact Chief Executive Officer Deb Hansen at 507-345-6018; or President Elect Jason Beal at 507-381-1060.

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With Better Block Event, Longleaf Pine REALTORS® Demonstrate Just How Pedestrian-Friendly Haymount Can Be

The Haymount district of Fayetteville, North Carolina is blessed with neat neighborhoods of cottage-style homes and proximity to downtown. Its vibrant commercial district is currently cursed, however, by an environment hostile to pedestrian traffic.  Armed with a vision, a Smart Growth Action Grant, and a whole lot of duct tape, the local Longleaf Pine REALTORS® (LPR) set out to change that.

Partnering with the North Carolina chapter of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals, the Haymount business community, and other local organizations, the 1,600-member association mounted a Better Block Event on a weekend in March to reveal how basic improvements such as bike lanes, crosswalks, reduced traffic lanes, and widened sidewalks could transform the area for the better.

“It was beyond great,” says LPR Government Affairs Director Angie Hedgepeth, of the half-day event that drew more than 3,000 visitors and earned a commitment from the City Council to allocate funding for pedestrian safety measures. It was a city staff member who first approached the REALTORS® about the possibility of securing a Smart Growth Action Grant for a Better Block Event, says Hedgepeth. She, in turn, worked on the project with a county transportation planner and a committee of about 70 REALTORS®.

Using its community relationships, ingenuity, and only slightly more money than the $5,000 grant, LPR effectively transformed a central block of Haymount that had already been the site of one pedestrian fatality. “Beyond the immediate issue of pedestrian safety,” says Hedgepeth, “this effort should benefit property values, business activity, and community connectedness, and could set a positive precedent for the entire region.”

For all its potential, the project came with a steep learning curve: the permits alone, from the North Carolina Department of Treansportation as well as the city of Fayetteville, took months to secure. Then, there was insurance for the event, and a stage to rent, musicians to hire, vendors and artists and food trucks to arrange, and dozens and dozens of orange traffic cones. There was a website to create, and a big publicity campaign, and video coverage involving overhead drones.  Hedgepeth and her team experimented with various temporary crosswalk application methods after-hours in the LPR parking lot.  Two local nurseries and a landscaping company contributed a row of mature potted trees, several park benches, and additional greenery.  The night before the event, the REALTORS® pre-marked the roads.  At 8 a.m., day-of, they were out stenciling bike-lane markers and applying eight critical crosswalks with architectural drafting paper and duct tape.

Despite the significant alteration of the traffic access, Hedgepeth reports, “there was no honking of horns, no screaming; drivers were just easing down the road, giving all the pedestrian activity the time and space it needed.  It was wonderful, and a big relief, because of course, we had no idea what to expect.”

Local youngsters circulating through the event collected surveys from more than 300 attendees, which have been complied in a report for the City Council. At the end of the day, the REALTORS® interviewed all the businesses in the Better Block zone; all were excited, and one, a new coffee shop, was thrilled to report doing triple its usual trade that day, says Hedgepeth. “People came to our tent and said, ‘Please, can you help make this happen for real?’ and ‘How can we help get this done?!’”

The REALTORS® are on it. The City Councilman representing Haymount has assured them that he’ll find funding for at least the painting of the new crosswalks in the next budget cycle, as a start. Communities beyond Haymount stand to benefit from all the effort, too: an official from a nearby city called the REALTORS® directly, after she’d seen reports in the media, to ask how they’d done it. “It’ll be a while before we’re ready to do something like this again,” laughs Hedgepeth, “but we’re happy to share our new expertise! In so many ways, the grant from NAR is being leveraged in to far greater gains.”

To learn more about how the Longleaf Pine REALTORS® are working to make the communities of Fayetteville, North Carolina,more desirable, livable, workable, and walkable, contact Government Affairs Director Angie Hedgepeth at 910-323-1421.  To visit the event website, see https://www.betterblockfaync.com/home.

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New Hampshire REALTORS® Envision Smart Growth for White Mountains

In the White Mountains region of New Hampshire, one of the nation’s earliest tourist destinations and a favored second-home location, the pronounced lack of affordable housing limits service industry opportunities for a would-be workforce. The drain on the economic sustainability of the broader community is already being felt: two of the region’s most popular tourist attractions have been forced to partially and temporarily close in high season, due to lack of staff. Looking ahead, a recent report projects that first-time home purchases will be down in New Hampshire in the next five to ten years. But, with a REALTOR® Party Smart Growth Action Grant, the 150-member White Mountain Board of REALTORS® (WMBR) has helped communities to envision solutions and begin to remove barriers to affordable housing by sponsoring design and planning charrettes in partnership with the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition (MWVHC.)

“To me, it’s a no-brainer!” states 2018 WMBR President Theresa Bernhardt, explaining that Victoria Laracy, the executive director of MWVHC, had reached out to the REALTORS® for help funding the charrettes. “We have access to these REALTOR® Party funds, and this is what we do: provide housing.” Two charrettes held in October 2017 were the third such project that WMBR has sponsored since 2013, each one building on the work of the previous charrettes. A charrette is an intensive design and planning exercise that brings together representatives of all stakeholder groups; in the towns of Bartlett and Conway last fall, that meant hard-working teams of planning officials, bankers, property representatives, REALTORS®, architects, engineers, site planners, construction estimators, neighbors, local businesses and workers in need of housing.

Laracy, whose organization has planned and hosted each of the programs, cuts to the chase: “These charrettes demonstrate how the economics of development need for zoning to be in place in order to achieve adequate affordable housing in a free market. In both Bartlett, where there is a 0% vacancy rate, and Conway, where the rate is 1%, our teams demonstrated that significant affordable housing could be created, with a reasonable rate of return for the developer, if zoning restrictions were changed, even slightly.” The official report from the October charrettes has been shared with the communities and local legislators, as a first step to address zoning updates. “This wouldn’t have been possible without the support from the REALTORS®,” she says.

Bernhardt, who was one of two REALTOR®-members of the Conway team, says, “It’s a fascinating process, watching completely well thought-out, viable plans being presented at 6:00 PM on what was a blank piece of paper at 9:00 AM. To have all these experts at the same table working on a given project involving real, available parcels of land, was an incredibly efficient and productive way to go about finding options and eliminating others.” She reiterates Laracy’s assertion that zoning was the stumbling block to affordable housing for both town teams: “Under current zoning, we discovered that the seven-acre parcel of land we were working with could only support 28 total units of housing, which was not an economically viable project for any developer. But if zoning were to allow for increased density, then 70 units could be built on the same parcel, twenty of which would be offered as affordable housing, with a near 8% annual return to the developer. Those are the kinds of numbers that make projects like this feasible.  They clearly demonstrate why we need to work with our planning boards to change the zoning ordinances that are restricting affordable housing.”  She adds that, in addition to an open community discussion at the outset of the process, the final charrette presentations were attended by over sixty local residents.  “There is real concern, and real engagement.  The REALTORS® are proud to be part of the group that is seeking solutions and moving them forward.”

An Overview of the October Charrette

The Design Reveal

To learn more about how the White Mountain Board of REALTORS® has been helping to pave the way for more affordable housing in its communities, contact 2018 WMBR President Theresa Bernhardt at 603-986-5286; or Victoria Laracy, Executive Director of the Mount Washington Valley Housing Coalition, at 603-662-5482.

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Data from Traverse REALTORS® Proves Invaluable to Downtown Development Planning for Affordable Housing

In the highly desirable downtown neighborhoods of Traverse City, Michigan, affordable housing is scarce. Bounded by a beautiful bay of Lake Michigan on one side, and Boardman Lake on the other, the city’s land base is already largely built, and development is further limited by zoning that restricts building height to 65′.  According to Kim Pontius, CEO of the 900-member Traverse Area Association of REALTORS® (TAAR), this presents challenges for the economy of the city, whose largest employers are located downtown; for the surrounding counties, which rely on the urban property tax revenue; and for the REALTORS®, who aren’t able to respond to the demand for affordable housing where it is needed.

Data from Traverse REALTORS® Proves Invaluable to Downtown Development Planning for Affordable Housing

FishPass is an innovative project to enhance fish passage and connectivity between the Boardman (Ottaway) River and Lake Michigan, while removing invasive or non-desirable fishes through controlled sorting. FishPass will replace the deteriorating Union Street Dam in downtown Traverse City, Michigan with an improved barrier featuring a fish-sorting channel and a nature-like river channel.

With a REALTOR® Party Smart Growth Action Grant, TAAR helped the city engage a specialized consulting firm to create a 3D economic model demonstrating the potential tax revenue from various possible development configurations. “This is just the information needed to assist developers and the City Commission in making good decisions for the community,” says Pontius, noting that the municipal budget didn’t allow for this level of analysis. In fact, it was the City Manager and the head of the city Planning Department who brought the project to TAAR’s attention, and asked for funding assistance: the REALTORS® of the Traverse City region have earned a strong local reputation, when it comes to Smart Growth projects. The $15,000 grant covered about half the cost of the analysis, and the balance was funded by the city and county.

The report itself was dramatic and clear. “I’ve been involved in economic development and transportation planning long enough to know that the whole world changes when you begin looking at situations in 3D, instead of 2D,” says Pontius. Urban 3, the firm we hired, has tremendous expertise in addressing all the issues and conveying results with powerful visuals.” The Asheville, NC-based firm spent several months collecting data, then developed its report, using colorful three-dimensional graphics that revealed beyond question where the highest tax-value development could occur. Joe Minicozzi, principal of Urban 3—and a very engaging speaker—presented his findings to a broad audience on four separate occasions, all of which TAAR helped promote: at a downtown theatre, at a local school auditorium, at the opera house and at a Rotary Club meeting.

The report, called “Building Potent, Lasting Value in Traverse City,” is posted on the city website, and that of TAAR, as is a link to Minicozzi’s presentation.

“It was no surprise that the highest taxable value by far is in the heart of the city,” explains Pontius. “What Joe did was to show just how much higher, while attempting to enlighten the audience that going vertical is the only way to capture ample tax revenue for the city and county to prosper.” Using examples of other cities that have limited building heights, Urban 3 showed how such restrictions will ultimately defeat the prosperity goal.  The report drills down and reveals that 52% the land in Traverse City is actually un-taxable, and therefore not part of the revenue stream, and shows the critical difference between a parcel’s true cash value and assessed taxable value.

Pontius reports that TAAR’s support of the project has only strengthened the association’s healthy working relationship with the municipal and county governments. “The head of the Planning Department and the City Manager can’t say enough good things about the help the REALTORS® have provided,” he says, adding, “It’s clear we’re continuing to serve the best possible future of the city. Now that the report exists, the data will be an ongoing critical reference. Meanwhile, it’s planted seeds, and gotten people thinking.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of greater Traverse City, Michigan are helping to educate planning commissions at the city, county, and township level, contact Kimberly R. Pontius, CEO of the Traverse Area Association of REALTORS®, at 231-947-2050.

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REALTORS® in Ottumwa, Iowa Help Bring Life Back to Their Downtown

“The vision became real – if only for a short time – and we saw what it would be like to bring our Main Street back to life.” 

Those were the words of Steve Campbell, an Ottumwa, Iowa, REALTOR® from who spearheaded his board’s involvement in a highly successful Better Block Project in his home town.

  • One of the giant “wheatpastings” of an image from renowned Ottumwa Photographer Michael Lemberger’s collection of more than 1.5 million photographs.
  • Ottumwa Better Block Poster
    Ottumwa Better Block Poster
  • Sign outside the old theatre announcing the upcoming Better Block Party in Downtown Ottumwa
    Sign outside the old theatre announcing the upcoming Better Block Party in Downtown Ottumwa
  • The block party concluded with a live concert in the abandoned Ottumwa Theater.

With a $15,000 REALTOR® Party Smart Growth Action Grant, money of their own, elbow grease and lots of enthusiasm, the South East Iowa Regional Board of REALTORS® partnered with the Better Block Foundation and other community leaders to host the Main Street Ottumwa Better Block Party, October 12-15.

“Overnight, our quiet and struggling downtown commercial area became what it was always meant to be,” Campbell says.  “It became a place to come together to shop, eat, play games, enjoy some music and even dance!

He says that one of the highlights is to see the old Ottumwa Theatre that had been abandoned for years come to life with a live concert on the final evening of the block party.  Watch this video of the concert in the old Ottumwa Theatre:

The weekend event in this hilly city straddling the Des Moines River, included pop-up shops, food trucks, a temporary bike lane from downtown to the river, outdoor dining and games.  It ended with a live concert in the long-abandoned Ottumwa Theater.

The day before the event, more than 120 volunteers, including REALTORS®, got to work setting up, stringing lights, painting the bike lane, installing landscaping, building signs and more.

The event even included a tribute to the late Michael Lemberger, a renowned photographer from Ottumwa, whose collection of 1.5 million photographs was recently donated to the University of Iowa.  Several of the buildings along Main Street were adorned with giant “wheatpastings” of his black-and-white photos featuring everyday life in rural America.

The Start of Something Good

“It’s just the beginning, but it’s a good one,” explains Campbell, who recently finished serving his second term as president of the 400-member regional board, which was organized in 2015 by consolidating eight smaller boards.

“The great thing about the Better Block Team is that they help you see what could be in a tangible way,” Campbell says.  “Yes, the block party is over, but the inspiration to continue rebuilding our downtown area is alive and well.

This year’s President Carla McEntee adds, “We are so proud to be a part of this wonderful downtown revitalization project in Ottumwa. Our members understand the importance of volunteerism, and this effort is extremely gratifying for all of us.”

The Process

Jamie Rix, the Government Affairs Director for the Iowa Association of REALTORS®, worked with the board to obtain the Smart Growth Action Grant, which helped to pay for event expenses; as well as consulting and guidance from the Better Block Team to help transform the weekend experience into an actual planning tool.

The Better Block team visited Ottumwa last July and met with more than 50 local groups and individuals to discuss how best to apply the Better Block process to the 300 block of Downtown Ottumwa. The focus from the start was on public art, health, transportation and economic development. Better Block also conducted a survey of community members on how to improve Downtown Ottumwa quickly and from the ground-up.

“It was just a good fit to bring the REALTOR® Party funding and the Better Block Project together in Ottumwa,” Rix says.  “That city has so much potential, and the weekend event made that clear to so many people.

The Better Block project is building on what the “Main Street Iowa Program” has been doing in Ottumwa for the last 10 years.

“Main Street Iowa is a program dedicated to preserving and revitalizing the unique identity, assets and character of historic commercial districts in more than 50 towns across Iowa,” explains Main Street Ottumwa Executive Director Fred Zesiger.

Ottumwa’s Main Street District has 134 buildings, of which 41 are vacant on the first floor. There also are 57 historic buildings along three blocks of Main Street, 26 of which are vacant on the first floor.

Revitalization by Main Street Ottumwa so far has included rehabbing alleyways, putting on new building facades and restoring 49 apartments over the street level shops—all of which are occupied today.

Zesiger says the effort in Ottumwa is successful because it’s a collaborative effort.  The Smart Growth Action Grant was a match for a National Endowment for the Arts Grant received by Main Street Ottumwa. “When we can put our money, skills and dedication together, great things happen.”

More than Just Good for Business

Campbell stresses that the whole project has been especially uplifting for his board.  “I am convinced this project has “REALTORS®” written all over it! Being a part of the grassroots movement to breathe life back into a depreciated commercial/residential area is a challenge worth the effort…and the best part is yet to come!” Campbell says.

“As real estate professionals,” he continues, “we care deeply about bringing our downtown back.  It’s not only good for business, it’s just plain good for everyone.”

For more information about the South East Iowa Regional Board of REALTORS® work with the community to revitalize Ottumwa’s Main Street District, contact Jamie Rix, REALTOR® Party Advocacy Coordinator for the Iowa Association of REALTORS® at 515-309-9348 (ext. 348).

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On Common Ground: Spring 2019

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Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the REALTORS® Political Action Committee

2019 REALTOR® Party Resource Guide Now Available

Resources, tools and funding information to help state and local REALTOR® Associations create, implement and sustain successful advocacy and community outreach programs.

The REALTOR® Party is a powerful alliance of REALTORS® and REALTOR® Associations working to advance public policies and candidates that build strong communities, protect property interests and promote a vibrant business environment.

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SUCCESS STORIES

Maryland’s Coastal Association of REALTORS® Battles Restrictions on Short-Term Rentals

Short-term rentals are naturally a major issue in coastal communities. When Worcester County, Maryland proposed severe restrictions in its rental code overhaul, the local REALTOR® association got to work with a Land Use Initiative review and a call for action. The County Commission heard the message loud and clear, and sent its proposal back to the drawing board.
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North Carolina REALTORS®’ Advocacy Spurs New Legislation for Small Business and Association Health Care Coverage

North Carolina REALTORS® staff knew that finding adequate, affordable health insurance was a challenge for the state’s small businesses and associations; discovering that as many as 6,000 of the state’s REALTORS® were not covered lent a real sense of urgency to their advocacy efforts.
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Santa Fe REALTORS® Help Spur Re-Development of Central Urban Corridor

Santa Fe, like many communities across the country, is experiencing a serious workforce housing crunch. Using two Smart Growth Action Grants over the past ten years, the Santa Fe Association of REALTORS® is helping to spur the redevelopment of a central thoroughfare with an emphasis on form-based zoning and affordable housing.
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Delaware REALTORS® Win Legislative Victory with Advocacy and Research

REALTORS® in Delaware were unfairly subjected to business licensing fees at the municipal level, as well as by the state. Using research to determine how much revenue was at stake, the state association took the results to the legislature via Advocacy Everywhere and face-to-face advocacy. HB 235 was signed into law in July 2019, eliminating municipal licensing for REALTORS®.
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Nebraska REALTOR® Association Takes REALTOR® Party Show on the Road

REALTOR® associations of large, less populous states like Nebraska often undertake ‘road shows’ to connect with members of distant local boards. This summer, the Nebraska REALTOR® Association took the REALTOR® Party on the road to acquaint members with all its efforts, accomplishments, and opportunities, receiving warm welcomes from North Platte to Scottsbluff.
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Consumer Advocacy Outreach Program helps Seattle King County REALTORS® Share Advocacy Success

After years of stagnant condominium construction in the Seattle region, a coalition led by the Washington Association of REALTORS® was finally able to convince the state legislature to ease the legal restrictions that have discouraged development of this key “missing middle” housing. The National Association’s Consumer Advocacy Outreach Program helped the Seattle King County Association give credit where credit was due – to REALTORS®.
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New Jersey REALTORS® Combat Last-Minute Tax Threats to Property- and Business-Owners

In a last-minute scramble to balance the state budget last year, New Jersey lawmakers set their sights on two real estate tax-targets that propelled the state REALTOR® Association into action: seasonal rental properties, and homes valued at more than $1 million. Calls for action got the message out to REALTORS®, who made their feelings known to their elected officials.
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Wisconsin REALTORS® Urge State Senate to ‘Hold the Line’ on Property Taxes

With a full-on campaign called ‘Hold the Line on Property Taxes,’ the Wisconsin REALTORS® organized a powerful response to the governor’s plan to lift a freeze on municipal and country property taxes. An Issues Mobilization grant helped them convince the state senate that the move lacked tax-payer support.
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Texas REALTORS® Achieve Tax Reform for Texas Property Owners

In Texas, where there’s no state income tax or a state-levied property tax, it’s the tax bills from your county, your municipality, your school district, and various other special districts that’ll get you. Texas REALTORS® have been battling the ‘Hidden Property Tax’ inherent in the system for years, and this summer, with a boost from a sweeping Issues Mobilization campaign, the Texas Property Tax Reform and Transparency Act was signed into law.
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Miami REALTORS® Celebrate Mega Success with Mega-Grant Program Pilot

With more than 47,000 members spanning roughly 70 different municipalities, the Miami Association of REALTORS® is the nation’s largest – a distinction that can be unwieldy and impractical when it comes to taking advantage of REALTOR® Party resources. A scaled-up program designed for “mega-boards,” piloted by the Miami REALTORS®, has proven to be a mega-success.
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Greater Los Angeles and Southland Regional Association REALTORS® Join Forces to Defeat Parcel Tax

Fresh off a win with a highly publicized teachers’ strike earlier this year, the Los Angeles Unified School District called for a 16-cent/square foot parcel tax on all residential and commercial buildings, claiming that it would support students. But the REALTORS® of the Greater Los Angeles and the Southland Regional Associations begged to differ.
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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 state is already feeling a housing crunch. With the help of Utah REALTORS® and the support of Issues Mobilization Grants, Utah has found a way to incentivize solutions to its growing shortage rather than strong-arming municipalities with mandates.
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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. Using an Issues Mobilization Grant, they’ve convinced lawmakers to tackle challenges ranging from zoning to builder-liability to spur the creation of more housing stock.
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Pacific Southwest REALTORS® Helps Create Homeless Resources Website

Using a Housing Opportunity Grant, the Pacific Southwest Association of REALTORS® has sponsored the development of a website serving as a one-stop resource for those experiencing homelessness – or near-homelessness – in the San Diego area. The project honors the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.
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Advocacy Everywhere Helps DC Association of REALTORS® Keep Property Taxes at Bay

When the D.C. Association of REALTORS® learned on the eve of a budget vote that a City Council member was planning to introduce an “emergency amendment” taxing homes valued at more than $1 million, it dropped everything and called in the REALTOR® Party. A timely Call for Action got a strong message through to council members, and the proposal was shelved – for the time being.
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Lincoln REALTORS® Mobilize Voters to Support Roadway Improvements

Many of Lincoln, Nebraska’s streets were in disrepair, some to the point of impassability. Using polling services and an Issues Mobilization grant, local REALTORS® took a leading role in getting them fixed.
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Two Local Missouri Associations Help Communities Pass Much-Needed School Bonds

In the spring election season, Southeast Missouri REALTORS® and the Mark Twain Association of REALTORS® both used Issues Mobilization grants to improve neighborhoods by improving school facilities. Through energetic campaigns, they convinced the public to approve ballot initiatives that will fund major school improvements in the coming years.
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Mississippi REALTORS® Maximize Returns with RPAC Fundraising Grant

As RPAC celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, Mississippi REALTORS® raises the bar for RPAC investment. During its Winter Meetings this year, the small state association hosted a lively Drawdown and Lip Sync event supported by a REALTOR® Party grant — and collected more than $83,000 for RPAC.
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Charlotte REALTORS®Dive Deep into Regional State of Housing

Like so many U.S. urban centers, Charlotte, N.C., is facing an affordable housing crisis. To help housing stakeholders understand the full scope of the complex issue as it affects the whole region, the Charlotte Regional REALTOR® Association used a Housing Opportunity Grant to commission a State of Housing study that analyzed factors like jobs, housing supply, and affordability.
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Royal Palm Coast REALTOR® Association Keeps Redundant, Burdensome Zoning at Bay

In the last three years, more than 45 municipalities across Florida have modified their vacation rental ordinances to be more restrictive. In Cape Coral, a seasonal residence for many homeowners, REALTORS® aided by a Land Use Initiative led a successful charge to keep additional restrictions off the books.
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Bay East REALTORS® Mobilize on Short Notice to Fight Just-Cause Evictions

With an important rental housing regulation hanging in the balance, the Bay East Association of REALTORS® launched a REALTOR® Party Mobile Alert campaign using the Advocacy Everywhere program, mobilizing more than 175 recipients to contact the City Council in a span of less than 48 hours.With an important rental housing regulation hanging in the balance, the Bay East Association of REALTORS® launched a REALTOR® Party Mobile Alert campaign using the Advocacy Everywhere program, mobilizing more than 175 recipients to contact the City Council in a span of less than 48 hours.
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Selkirk REALTORS® Protect Quality of Life in Bonners Ferry

With a series of Smart Growth Action Grants, Selkirk REALTORS® supported a multi-year planning process for an integrated network of pedestrian and bicycle routes in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Complete with graphic branding and signage, the plan will enhance the local active transport scene for residents, and contribute to the region’s growing appeal to bike tourism.
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Mississippi REALTORS® Secure Broader Broadband Access

REALTORS® know better than anyone that expanded internet access is the only way to increase economic opportunity and connect communities in rural and underserved areas. Harnessing the power of Advocacy Everywhere, Mississippi REALTORS® rallied voters to support the Mississippi Broadband Enabling Act, which finally permits electric cooperatives to provide broadband services in addition to electric power.
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Columbus REALTORS® Joined Forces to Celebrate Fair Housing

Joining forces with colleagues from the local NAREB chapter and the National Association of Gay & Lesbian Real Estate Professionals, Columbus REALTORS® hosted a Cost of Poverty Experience and dramatized a mock trial to highlight issues addressed by the Fair Housing Act that are still at play in their communities.
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Successful Florida REALTORS® Campaign Leads to Property Tax Limits on Non-Homestead Properties

In the fourth and final phase of a ten-year effort, the Florida REALTORS® were able to secure a permanent 10% cap on non-homestead property tax through an Issues Mobilization campaign supported by the REALTOR® Party. Had the limit not been approved by voters, 700,000 Florida property owners stood to be hit by a projected $627 million increase in additional property taxes annually.
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Arizona REALTORS® Lead the Charge against a Tax on Services

A statewide campaign featuring a superhero named “PAT”, short for Protect Arizona Taxpayers, helped convince Arizona voters to amend the state constitution to prohibit sales taxes on services. Thanks to an Issues Mobilization Grant, the effort was able to achieve its goal in a single bound.
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REALTORS® Reverse FEMA Flood Insurance Suspension Within Days of Dubious Shutdown

Bringing its considerable resources, skill, and depth of knowledge to bear on FEMA’s surprising declaration that the National Flood Insurance Program would not be renewed in light of the federal shutdown, the policy team at the National Association of REALTORS® effected a swift reversal of the damaging decision.
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Local Maryland Association Takes Bold, Successful Step into Politics

This past election cycle, the Bay Area Association of REALTORS® decided it was time to take a more active role in choosing their politicians. With the help of the REALTOR® Party, it developed a savvy selection committee that interviewed dozens of candidates, endorsed several, and achieved a whopping success rate.
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Greater Greenville REALTORS® Promote “Missing Middle” Housing

Greenville, S.C., faces significant shortages of affordable housing, and the existing supply is diminishing rapidly. Using a Housing Opportunity Grant, the local REALTORS® co-hosted a Housing Forum to show policy makers how they could break down barriers to developing housing in the essential “missing middle” range.
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With Advocacy Everywhere, Illinois REALTORS® Rally Peoria Voters against New “Parcel Tax” on Property Owners

The city of Peoria, Ill., was attempting to bridge a budget gap by imposing a new tax on property owners. With help from the state association, the REALTORS® used Advocacy Everywhere to call voters’ attention to the threat, and encourage calls of opposition to the City Council. Overwhelmed by the volume, the Council agreed to a compromise.
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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 state, which suffers from extremely high teacher-turnover. This fall, they led the charge against a ballot measure that would allow for the creation of a property tax surcharge on residential investment properties to fund the Department of Education. And then they redoubled their focus on affordable housing.
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Greensboro REALTORS® Tackle Additions to City Zoning Code

When a fatal apartment fire triggered a knee-jerk reaction from the City Council to amend the municipal zoning code, the Greensboro Regional Association of REALTORS® used the REALTOR® Party’s Land Use Initiative to commission a thorough analysis of the changes. The report informed significant changes to the language, and the REALTORS® continue to work with the lawmakers to refine and improve it.
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St. Louis REALTORS® Channel History, Community to Celebrate Fair Housing Anniversary

In St. Louis, Missouri, REALTORS® have a profound reminder of past prejudicial real estate practices in the Shelley House, the property at the center of the landmark Supreme Court case of Shelley vs. Kraemer, which gave way to the Fair Housing Act 20 years later. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of that breakthrough legislation, St. Louis REALTORS® engaged into local projects benefiting underserved communities with grants from the REALTOR® Party and Missouri REALTORS®.
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South Carolina REALTORS® Commission Analysis of Questionable Proposed Legislation

In South Carolina’s 2018 legislative session, three separate pieces of legislation raised red flags to the South Carolina REALTORS® as matters requiring close scrutiny. With the REALTOR® Party’s Land Use Initiative program, the REALTORS® requested an analysis of all three, and got the answers they needed to act and plan for the future.
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Sacramento and Pacific West REALTORS® Join Forces to Keep Rent Control off the Ballot

Two local associations in California launched “decline to sign” campaigns to prevent rent-control ballot initiatives from garnering the necessary signatures to qualify for the November 6 election. While one succeeded and the other did not, both agree that it was well worth the effort.
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Haywood REALTORS® Supports Smart Growth and Affordable Housing in Waynesville, NC

Bounded by the Great Smoky Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and a flood plain, sprawl isn’t necessarily an option for the Town of Waynesville, North Carolina; but using a REALTOR® Party Smart Growth Action Grant, the REALTORS® of Haywood County helped to inform its 2020 Comprehensive Land Use Plan by sponsoring a public Visioning Workshop.
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TREPAC Gets a Fun-filled Boost from Dallas-area Diversity Groups

What would you pay to dunk a director of your local REALTOR® board? How about the chance to throw pies at colleagues? Five diversity organizations across the Texas real estate industry joined together to host “Fair Play for TREPAC,” a fun-filled evening that honored the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act, and raised more than $6,600 for the Texas Real Estate Political Action Committee.
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Post-Hurricane Harvey, Houston REALTORS® are focused on Flood Impact – and How to Keep it from Happening Again

One year to the day after Hurricane Harvey hit Harris County, Texas, citizens were called to the polls to vote on the region’s largest bond proposal ever: $2.5 billion for flood-control projects and flood mitigation. The measure passed with 85% support; the Houston REALTORS® helped get out the vote.
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Placemaking and Puppy Love Go Hand-in-Hand for Kenai Peninsula REALTORS®

In the city of Soldotna in Southcentral Alaska, dogs are having their day in a spacious new dog park. With the help of a Placemaking Grant and a lot of elbow grease, volunteers from the Kenai Peninsula Association worked alongside the Rotary Club and Parks and Rec Department to build a large shelter, with benches, for dogs and owners alike.
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District of Columbia REALTORS® Get Legislative Results Protecting Property Owners and Housing Providers

Thanks to the REALTOR® Party’s Advocacy Everywhere program, the District of Columbia Association of REALTORS® was able to spur members to contact City Council members about two important issues affecting property owners in the Nation’s Capital. The sophisticated system of REALTOR® Party Mobile Alert texts and emails made communication swift and simple.
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Greater Nashville REALTORS® Put Placemaking Grant to Work for Pedestrian Plaza

With vision, elbow grease, and a Placemaking Grant, Greater Nashville REALTORS® partnered with a local civic design organization to transform a dismal traffic triangle into a cheerful, safer pedestrian refuge.
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Is Smart Growth the Key to Preserving Montana’s ‘Big Sky?’ Gallatin REALTORS® Funds Study to Find Answers.

A REALTOR® Party Smart Growth Action Grant enabled the Gallatin Association of REALTORS® to support an in-depth analysis of property tax value-per-acre in Bozeman, Montana. The resulting 3-D economic model clearly demonstrated the fiscal efficiency of concentrating growth in urban centers, rather than allowing sprawl, and will inform the development of the city’s Growth Plan.
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Prince George’s County Mounts Winning Campaigns for County Council Candidates — Times Three!

With three new REALTOR® Champions on the County Council, and a favorable relationship with the County Executive-elect, the REALTORS® of Prince George’s County, Md., can be assured that the issues that matter to them are in good hands. Three Independent Expenditure Campaign grants from the REALTOR® Party helped strengthen the odds.
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Southern Minnesota REALTORS® Jump-start Walkability in Mankato

Using REALTOR® Party resources, the REALTOR® Association of Southern Minnesota hosted a WalkShop event to determine how the revival of Mankato’s Old Town section could be even more vibrant and pedestrian-friendly. The half-day program included a walking tour with an expert consultant, and a whole lot of brainstorming.
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Laguna REALTORS® Help Seniors Age-in-Place

The seaside municipality of Laguna Beach is not the sort of place anyone likes to leave – least of all the growing number of seniors who are deeply attached to the community in which they’ve made their homes. Now, with a REALTOR® Party grant, the local REALTORS® are partnering with a community non-profit to get seniors the help they need to remain where they want to be.
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Sun Valley Board Help Veterans with a Housing Opportunity Grant

The pride that comes with having served in the armed forces makes it hard for many veterans to seek help securing and maintaining housing. “If anyone’s going to do something about their housing needs, it’s going to be the REALTORS®,” says the Executive Officer of Idaho’s Sun Valley Board of REALTORS®. But first, they have to find them.
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Maine Association Facilitates Smart Growth for Once-thriving Mill Town

To help the once-prosperous mill town of Sanford envision a future with walkable affordable housing and fresh economic contributors, the Maine Association of REALTORS® used a Smart Growth Action Grant to support a three-day charrette, in which all stakeholders had an opportunity to contribute ideas to a new downtown development.
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Palm Springs REALTORS® Defend Short-Term Rental Industry

When the thriving cottage industry of privately operated short-term vacation rental properties was threatened by a recent ballot initiative in Palm Springs, California, the REALTORS® secured an Issues Mobilization Grant. The success of their campaign to defeat the proposal was a victory for private property rights.
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With Better Block Event, Longleaf Pine REALTORS® Demonstrate Just How Pedestrian-Friendly Haymount Can Be

Within Fayetteville, North Carolina, the Haymount district is blessed with neat neighborhoods of cottage-style homes and proximity to downtown, but its commercial district is cursed by an environment that is distinctly unfriendly to pedestrians. Armed with a vision, a Smart Growth Action Grant, and a whole lot of duct tape, the local Longleaf Pine REALTORS® set out to change that.
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Kaua`i REALTORS® Use Grant to Engage More Brokers in Advocacy

The 584-member Kaua’i Board of REALTORS® knew that the best way to involve members in advocacy and RPAC would be to show them what exactly it does for them. At the conclusion of an informative breakfast presentation supported by a Broker Involvement Program Grant, 15 brokerages gladly signed on.
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Residential Real Estate Council Invests in RPAC at Record Levels in 2017

The Residential Real Estate Council (formerly the Council of Residential Specialists) was already a powerful fundraising body for RPAC, but in 2017, its investing was supercharged; its Major Investors and President’s Circle membership went up, too.
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Boise Regional REALTORS® Boost School District with Issues Mobilization Grant

In the fastest growing region in the fastest growing state in the nation, the public school facilities could not keep up with the booming student population. An Issues Mobilization campaign helped get a $95 million bond measure approved for new schools, school expansions, and the purchase of future school sites.
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Memphis Area Association of REALTORS® Uses Diversity Grant to Commemorate Historic 50th Anniversaries

In remembering the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in their own city 50 years ago this spring, the REALTORS® of Memphis, Tenn. marched two miles to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. But that was just the beginning of a strategic plan that shines a bright light on cultural diversity, fair housing, and anti-blight initiatives.
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Thanks to Alabama REALTORS®, First-time Homebuyers Can Now Save for Down Payments and Closing Costs

Armed with polling results and economic research provided by the REALTOR® Party’s Issue Mobilization Grant and legislative language based on an existing model, Alabama REALTORS® convinced the state legislature to create a First-time and Second-chance Homebuyer Savings Account program.
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Calaveras County REALTORS® Force Repeal of High-Risk Energy Conservation Loan Program

Thanks to a timely Issues Mobilization campaign, northern California’s Calaveras County Association of REALTORS® was able to reverse authorization for a loan program that the FHA no longer insures. When it comes to financing energy conservation improvements, they stand behind more responsible, less risky options.
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Louisiana REALTORS® Defeat a Proposed Tax on Services

Every couple of years, the Louisiana legislature discusses a tax on services to help close the budget deficit, and every time, the Louisiana REALTORS® fight back to protect consumers from a huge increase in costs to get in to a new home or business property. This year, they had help from the REALTOR® Party's new Advocacy Everywhere program.
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Miami REALTORS® Create Better Block in West Coconut Grove

Teams of both YPNs and "Old PNs" (as they're affectionately known in Miami) came together with the University of Miami’s School of Architecture to revive a vacant lot in West Coconut Grove with a new weekly marketplace and a vibrant landmark mural celebrating the area's Bahamian immigrant culture.
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Cape Fear REALTORS® Top the Broker Involvement Chart with 99% Coverage

“We knew that enrollment drives response rates to Calls for Action,” said Johnson. “So, we set a goal of 50% enrollment for multi-agent offices.” Flash forward, after consistent effort, last fall CFR achieved 94% enrollment of all multi-office brokers, which covers 99% of all agent members. “We thought maintaining that level of involvement would be difficult, but by adding enrollment as part of the Designated REALTOR® Application Form, it’s been easy. We’ve had 100% enrollment with new brokers.”
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Phoenix REALTORS®’ Creativity Leads to Sweeping RPAC Investments

With more than 9,200 members, the only sure-fire way for a mega-board like the Phoenix Association of REALTORS® (PAR) to get the attention of its full membership is to tie information to its dues renewal mailing. Several years ago, PAR launched a sweepstakes to encourage investment in RPAC during the December-January dues-renewal season; three years in, the event has gained such momentum that an RPAC Fundraising Grant recently earned back more than nine-times its value in RPAC investment.
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Wisconsin REALTORS® Help Lower Property Taxes, Strengthen School Budgets, and Protect Property Rights

The Wisconsin REALTORS® Association launched two successful Issues Mobilization campaigns: the first convinced the legislature to eliminate a minor property tax dating back to the Great Depression; the other supported a new law that overturned an existing one that had been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
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West Central Minnesota REALTORS® Help to House the Homeless

When the regional Continuum of Care program serving the same 18 counties as Minnesota's West Central Association of REALTORS® created a more streamlined entry system to bring assistance to those in dire need of housing, the REALTORS® used a REALTOR® Party Housing Opportunity Grant to get the word out.
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Greater Boston Board Works toward Zoning Reform

Antiquated zoning and a mire of case law stands in the way of the development of housing necessary for economic growth in the Boston region. Using the REALTOR® Party's Land Use Initiative, the Greater Boston Real Estate Board is tackling the complexities of zoning reform in City Hall and at the State House.
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Partnership Spurs Diversity for the Grosse Pointe REALTORS®

In Grosse Pointe, Michigan, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "The Other America" speech 50 years ago this March, the local REALTOR® board makes all its decisions through an internalized lens of diversification. Partnering with the public school system recently, the REALTORS® recently created a calendar illustrated with student visions of diversity; proceeds from calendar sales support diversity efforts in the schools.
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Creativity Help Associations Keep RPAC Investments at an All-time High

With 35% of the national membership investing in RPAC in 2017, state and local REALTOR® Associations have made RPAC stronger than ever when it comes to advancing its public policy agenda. From a strong team of volunteer leaders to technology platforms that help small associations get big results, the REALTOR® Party is getting the word out that investment matters.
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Houston Association Gathers and Shares Hurricane Harvey Recovery Resources with Multicultural Associations

Using a Diversity Initiative Grant, The Houston Association of REALTORS® put together a program for members, including the multicultural real estate associations in town, providing information on topics from mold remediation to tax relief to dealing with the emotional aftermath. Grocery story gift cards and a positive housing market outlook made the supportive event even cheerier.
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New Hampshire REALTORS® Envision Smart Growth for White Mountains

The White Mountains of New Hampshire are a popular tourist region, but affordable housing for would-be service industry staff is not meeting demand. The 150-member White Mountain Board of REALTORS® used a Smart Growth Action Grant to explore possible zoning changes that would permit higher density development—and more affordable housing.
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Telluride REALTORS® Elect Three REALTOR® Champions to Town Council

Last fall, with four seats on the Town Council up for grabs, the Telluride Association of REALTORS® (TAR) made the most of the opportunity to promote candidates who espoused the values of affordable housing; sustainable growth and development; and economic vitality and vibrancy. With an Independent Expenditure, TAR conducted a campaign that helped elect three REALTOR® Champions.
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REALTOR® PARTY MOBILE ALERT SUBSCRIBERS 202,086

COMMUNITY OUTREACH GRANTS $1,247,133

CANDIDATES SUPPORTED FOR PUBLIC OFFICE (2017)105

RPAC MAJOR INVESTORS 8,433

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