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Success-Stories

Wisconsin REALTORS® Help Lower Property Taxes, Strengthen School Budgets, and Protect Property Rights

2017 was a year full of issues campaigns for the REALTORS® of Wisconsin, resulting in success on all fronts:  a new state budget with substantial increases for school and university funding; the permanent elimination of a property tax that’s been on the books since the Great Depression; and the creation of a new law overturning an old one, severely detrimental to property rights, that had recently been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The victories were achieved through two issues mobilization campaigns, both of which had a strong grassroots component, explains Joe Murray, Director of Political Affairs of the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association (WRA). In each case, a generous REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization Grant provided WRA with the voter profiling expertise of NAR consultants, and funding for an advocacy campaign involving billboards, bumper stickers, extensive mailings, phone banks, radio and online advertising, and a website.

The first two triumphs, the elimination of a decades-old property tax and the increase in education spending, were the result of the passage of the 2017 state budget proposed by Governor Scott Walker. WRA had advocated with the governor to get rid of the old tax, which only amounted to an average of about $27 per year for most property owners, but which went a long way to supporting the state’s Forestry Division; the budget transferred responsibility for the forestry programs to the general fund of income and sales taxes.  The governor’s budget also proposed a record amount of spending for K-12 public schools, as well Wisconsin’s university system. “We strongly supported the budget, as great schools are important to homeowners with kids, and because high property taxes hurt affordability. Both issues are vitally important to the Wisconsin real estate market, so mounting a campaign to persuade the legislature to pass it was really a no-brainer,” states Murray. The new budget passed in September, and a replica of one of WRA’s colorful billboards from its successful campaign now graces the governor’s desk.

The second effort effectively reversed a local ordinance in effect in 52 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties that sapped the value of adjacent parcels of lakefront properties belonging to a single owner.  In a state of more than 15,000 lakes, notes Murray, “that’s a lot of property owners affected!” In the case known as Murr v. Wisconsin, a property owner supported by the Pacific Legal Foundation argued that because the ordinance took away her family’s right to sell an adjacent property, it amounted to an unconstitutional taking. The Wisconsin Supreme  Court denied her claim, and its decision was then upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.  “Not only did the ordinance deprive her of her property rights,” says Murray, “it deprived her of her property’s value. We had submitted an amicus brief to the high court on her behalf, and when her case was denied, we set to work changing the law.” A second Issues Mobilization Grant in July funded a campaign that convinced lawmakers to create a new ordinance that returned rights to Wisconsin’s lakefront property owners. WRA named it ‘The Homeowner Bill of Rights.’  “Property rights are the very core of what we exist for,” asserts Murray. “We’re very proud to have achieved this result for Wisconsin.”

They couldn’t have done it alone, he says: “The tools that the National Association of REALTORS® provides for grassroots issues campaigns are invaluable. Where else would we be able to get such sophisticated voter-household models, and tracking technology for calls and mailings, and expert campaign guidance?  The REALTOR® Party is what makes these successes possible — for property owners across the state.”

To learn more about how Wisconsin REALTORS® are using Issues Mobilization Grants to protect property rights, support school funding, and help reduce property taxes throughout the state, contact Joe Murray, Director of Political Affairs, at 608-575-0023.

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West Central Minnesota REALTORS® Help to House the Homeless

The REALTORS® of West Central Minnesota believe it’s important for everyone to have a home, and that doesn’t always mean homeownership. Late in 2016, the 398-member board received a Housing Opportunity Grant that it used to partner with the Southwest Minnesota Continuum of Care (CoC), a clearinghouse of resources and aid for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Thanks to a new system the grant has been promoting, a total of 72 new households have been established in the region, including at least 16 with school-age children.

It all began, says Sue Blumhoefer, Chief Executive Officer of the West Central Association of REALTORS® (WCAR), when one of its members, who serves on the board of the Southwest Minnesota Continuum of Care (CoC), wondered if there was a REALTOR® Party grant that could help support the work of the regional aid organization. Blumhoefer investigated, and met with the CoC to determine how possible funding assistance from the REALTORS® could best meet its needs. With guidance from Christine Berger, the Minnesota REALTORS®‘ Vice President of Political Affairs, and the staff at NAR, WCAR applied for and received a Housing Opportunity Grant to promote and help implement the CoC’s new Coordinated Entry System.

This initiative, explains Blumhoefer, streamlines, standardizes, and shares information among the 20 separate agencies within the Southwest Minnesota CoC, which spans 18 different counties. “When a person or family is homeless or about to become homeless, they receive an intake assessment to be considered for all potential housing assistance from all CoC agencies. This will keep clients from having to go from agency to agency seeking help and having to go through a different assessment at each one. It also helps to match clients with the most appropriate assistance based on their level of need.”

The Housing Opportunity Grant, together with a contribution from WCAR, was put to work informing the public in the region about the new Coordinated Entry System. A new website, posters, and brochures in four languages, newspaper and billboard advertising, and a radio spot recorded by WCAR’s President Ann Anderson, got the word out:  to date, the combined efforts of WCAR and the Southwest Continuum of Care have helped create 72 stable households for clients in a previous state of homelessness. The funding from the REALTORS® also supported a training event for those performing the new assessments, and provided starter kits for clients, containing Walmart gift cards for basic household supplies.

“This means stability for those housed, which means better school outcomes for the kids, better chances at finding work, and generally better health outcomes,” says Blumhoefer, noting that, “Ultimately, the goal is the get them to a point where they will be strong enough to move to homeownership.”

One 19-year old who was assessed by the new program had been couch-hopping, spending nights in Walmart and Cashwise, and was housed in a hotel a couple of times.   He recently received keys to his own apartment, and with his gift card, was able to buy a shower curtain, garbage can, dish soap, broom/dustpan, bathroom rug, cooking pot, paper goods, and an oven mitt.  “How awesome is it to know we helped from day one with the program used to qualify him, and then, made sure he had some basics to set up a home,” says Blumhoefer.

Now that it’s in place, the system the Housing Opportunity Grant helped fund will continue to help those in need in the 18-county area, and the REALTORS® are maintaining an ongoing partnership with the CoC, sponsoring community immunization fairs and a cell phone drive for senior clients.  Says Blumhoefer, “We definitely couldn’t have done this without the grant from NAR!”

To learn more about how the West Central Association of REALTORS® is working to get all its neighbors into stable housing situations, contact Chief Executive Officer Sue Blumhoefer at 320-235-6881.

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Greater Boston Board Works toward Zoning Reform

The Greater Boston Real Estate Board (GBREB) may technically be a local association, but as it serves the capital city, what it does at City Hall often sets precedent for the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts. For the past few decades, in partnership with the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, GBREB has been wrestling with the complicated and often thorny issue of zoning, with a goal of removing barriers to housing production and economic development. With them all the way was NAR consultant Robinson & Cole, LLC, the law firm retained to provide expert analysis of land-use proposals.

Patricia Baumer, GBREB Director of Government Affairs, explains the tremendous value that this Land Use Initiative brings to her board’s efforts to reform the antiquated zoning act governing the region. “It’s a difficult issue to begin with, made more so by the fact that it’s largely a matter of case law, at this point. There’s a lot of apprehension in the REALTOR® community about opening it up to change, as that could invite considerable political risk,” she observes. “But developers require predictability when it comes to zoning. So, it’s a delicate issue, and we’re very lucky to have NAR’s team of consultants navigating the necessary reforms with us, step-by-step. They’re nationally respected, smart, responsive and very hard-working; over the years, I’ve known them to work late to get us answers, and more than once, they’ve held our hands through tough negotiations in the State House. Hands-down, they are the single most indispensable tool in our toolbox.”

Last session, with Robinson & Cole facilitating, a joint GBREB/Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® working group dlooked at how existing zoning regulations contribute to the housing crisis by impeding the production of the quantity and variety of housing types; it became an omnibus bill sponsored in January 2015 by State Senator Michael Rodrigues, a REALTOR® Champion from the Boston suburb of Westport. From allowing multifamily housing construction by right and promoting smart growth with cluster development to reducing red tape on existing permits and reducing costs and permit denials by applying established federal law, the bill sought to dissolve obstacles to the development of much-needed housing stock, the lack of which hinders economic development in the region. While portions of the HOME bill were incorporated into an omnibus bill in the Senate, REALTORS® opposed the final version that came up for a vote, because of some other, highly objectionable, sections of the bill.  “On balance, it would have done more harm than good,” says Baumer.

“We are so grateful that the National Association of REALTORS® understands that this is such a complicated, nuanced issue, and one that we’re not going to resolve overnight,” says Baumer. The fact that they provide this invaluable resource, and that they stick with us with this continued support, will make the difference between Massachusetts achieving zoning reform or not.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of the Greater Boston Area are using the REALTOR® Party’s Land Use Initiative to address barriers to housing production across the Massachusetts, contact Patricia Baumer, GBREB Director of Government Affairs, at (617) 423-8700.

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Partnership Spurs Diversity for the Grosse Pointe REALTORS®

Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at a high school in the affluent, nearly all-white Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe, Michigan. At the anniversary event this March memorializing King’s “The Other America” speech, the Grosse Pointe Board of REALTORS® (GPBR) will be among many in the community marking Grosse Pointe’s progress toward diversification and social equality. It will also be a time to provide thinking about what remains to be done.

According to Bob Taylor, Chief Executive Officer of the almost 1,000-member board, this is not an interest that gets dusted off for special occasions, just as Fair Housing is not something that the board saves for the month of April. “Promoting diversity and equal opportunity is a mindset. We’ve internalized it, so that it impacts all our decisions and  thinking,” he says.  He credits an exceptionally engaged and focused Fair Housing & Diversity Committee, led for four years by Ursel Mayo, with bringing about this change.  Supported by a Board of Directors led this year by Lori Jaglois and last year by Mario Como, Fair Housing & Diversity are part of the board’s daily consciousness.

“We wanted to have constructive conversation, provide insight, and eliminate ‘if we’re talking about Fair Housing it must be April’ thinking,” explains Jaglois. “Consequently, we no longer have ‘Fair Housing Month’ recognition. Instead, there’s a dedicated “Fair Housing” component at each of our four yearly membership meetings.” GPBR offers the NAR’s “At Home With Diversity” certification class annually, in the past using REALTOR® Party Diversity Initiative Grants to keep the cost down. Jaglois is proud to note that attendance is always robust: the last class, taught by Mayo, had upwards of 40 participants. Twice in the last four years, GPBR also offered the REALTOR® Party’s “Leading With Diversity” program. Most recently, the Detroit Association of REALTORS® was a co-host, with Fred Underwood from the National Association of REALTORS® and Dr. Agustin V. Arbulu, the Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, co- presenting.

A new GPBR initiative called “All in for Diversity” available to members for a small contribution, allows those who want to bolster funding specifically for diversity projects to do so. In 2017, the board partnered with the Grosse Pointe Public School System to produce a calendar celebrating diversity as seen through the eyes of the community’s K-12 school children. The project generated more than sixty submissions, thirteen of which the GPBR jury selected to feature on the handsomely produced calendar. It was offered for sale to the membership and to families in the school system, with all proceeds going to the schools for further diversity efforts.

Rebecca Fannon, a representative of the Grosse Pointe Public School System, can’t say enough about the REALTORS®‘ involvement in strengthening the community: “The Grosse Pointe Board of REALTORS® has been an amazing partner with the school system over the years, promoting the area with community open houses, and assisting in projects coordinated by the local Chamber of Commerce. The Diversity Calendar project took this partnership one step further. Our school system was honored to participate, and so grateful that the proceeds from the calendar sales were donated to continued implementation of the district’s diversity initiatives outlined in our Strategic Plan.”

GPBR has close ties with the Detroit chapter of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers, and plans to begin working with them, and other diversity groups in the area, to strengthen efforts that support diversity and inclusion. “If we can share resources like Placemaking Grants and Housing Opportunity training with groups that share our interests, then that moves everybody forward,” says Taylor.

In 2017, Ursel Mayo, a long time member of the GPBR’s Board of Directors, was selected to be President-elect for 2018, the first African American to hold that position.  Is that because the Board wanted a person of color at the forefront?  “I don’t believe color had anything to do with the decision” says Taylor.  “The Board of Directors felt she was the very best person for the job, and she happens to be African-American.” Our goal is to seek those who are most passionate about serving our members, and encourage them to be in leadership.  President Jaglois, herself a tremendous leader, urged Ursel to consider the role.  We are extremely fortunate to have this kind of thoughtful and focused leadership.  It’s the reason this board is making a difference in Grosse Pointe — and beyond.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Grosse Pointe, Michigan are taking a leadership role in promoting diversity in their community, contact Chief Executive Officer Bob Taylor, at 313-882-8000 x3.

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Creativity Help Associations Keep RPAC Investments at an All-time High

“Vote. Act. Invest.”  It’s the rallying cry of the REALTOR® Party, and REALTORS® are increasingly taking it to heart, investing in record numbers in 2017.  With 35% of the membership investing in RPAC in the past year, NAR’s ability to support REALTOR® Champions in campaigns at the local, state, and federal levels is stronger than ever.

This record-level investment, from the $15 investors (whose ranks have grown 11% in the past year) to the Major Investors (who’ve increased by 14%,) yielded a national fundraising total for RPAC that represents a whopping 108% of its goal for 2017.  Beyond RPAC investments, last year saw the President’s Circle, which contributes directly to REALTOR® Champions who support NAR’s public policy agenda, had a record 1,207 participants in the program.

According to Lauren Facemire, NAR’s Managing Director for RPAC & Political Fundraising, the key to the steady growth of the REALTOR® Party’s political fundraising is the ongoing effort by state and local associations to promote a culture of investment.  “It’s tried and true” she says: “when associations demonstrate the value of investing in RPAC, they inevitably see a rise in member participation.”

This might mean arranging visits from the dedicated volunteer leaders on NAR’s various RPAC Committees, who are especially effective with its peer-to-peer appeals. Many smaller associations are beginning to use the PAC Management System, a user-friendly platform that helps them to create online fundraising campaigns that are designed by NAR and allow for custom messaging. Facemire adds that RPAC Fundraising Grants are being used at an all-time high, as associations across the country discover that events that bring members together for professional camaraderie and networking can also be a good way to engage them in RPAC investing.  According to the RPAC team chili cook-offs and raffles are perennially popular, too, but less conventional event ideas are also gaining a foothold among many fun-loving boards:

In Hampton Roads, Virginia, the 3,400-member board hosted an outdoor RPAC ‘Yappy Hour’ raising $3,722 in investments from its dog-loving members and affiliates.  Held on the association’s own property, and featuring a splash pool, obedience contests, games of canine skill, and a dog-food donation drive for the local animal shelter, the event targeted first-time investors and was underwritten by more than seventeen affiliate sponsors.

In Scottsdale, Arizona, an ‘Epic Water Battle’ brought in $11,550 for RPAC from the local mega-association’s Young Professional Network (YPN). It was a sporting day in the desert, where higher investments meant larger water-weapons, and spectators could support players with investments in gear ranging from ponchos to water balloon ammunition.

The Ohio Association of REALTORS® transformed an existing event into an RPAC fundraiser when incoming President Tiffany Myer hosted a riverboat cruise to celebrate her inauguration. The $100-ticket event was the high point of the annual state convention, and featured a presentation by national RPAC volunteer Charlie Oppler, together with the state leadership, encouraging guests to step up to Major Investor status.  All proceeds from the $39,100 raised went to RPAC.

To learn more about the increasing success of RPAC fundraising, contact Lauren Facemire, NAR’s Managing Director for RPAC Fundraising, at 202-383-1080.

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Illinois REALTORS® Use Broker Involvement Program to Meet REALTOR® Party Mobile Alert Text Goals

When the Illinois REALTORS® identified the President’s Cup as a goal for 2017, manager of Grassroots and Political Programs Neil Malone knew it would be a steep challenge. The trophy, presented annually to state associations that accomplish four significant advocacy goals and meet five additional RPAC goals, is an especially ambitious reach for larger states, he notes.  “It’s a pretty hefty list, and some of those percentage goals are really big numbers.  Even though we’re not actually competing against our fellow state associations, we’re always competing with ourselves.  So we’ve made a concerted effort to do our best—with some help from the REALTOR® Party.”  

One of the President’s Cup goals is using the REALTOR® Party’s Broker Involvement Program for a state Call for Action.  Illinois, the state with the largest number of brokers and the forth-largest number of agents enrolled in the Broker Involvement Program, understood its power; they had had great success in the past when they used it for voter registration efforts. “We’ve learned that when members get an email from their broker, they’re going to open it, and what’s more, they’ll typically respond,” says Malone. So he and his team decided to kill two birds with one stone:  they would use the Broker Involvement Program to stimulate an increase in the number of REALTOR® Party Mobile Alert subscribers, another goal of the President’s Cup.

“The national association made it super-easy for us,” reports Malone, explaining that, in addition to sending out the Call for Action, NAR’s Online Advocacy team bounced ideas about messaging back and forth with the Illinois REALTORS®.  They tested two: one was an informational, big picture message, and the other was tighter, more concise, and asked directly for help; the latter was overwhelmingly more effective. “That test spoke to how well-informed our members are,” says Malone, adding, “they don’t need much baseline information, and they’re ready to respond when asked!”

When Illinois’ latest State Broker Call for Action was launched, respond they did.  Nearly 500 new subscribers signed up for the REALTOR® Party Mobile Alerts texting program, pushing the state goal over the top at 105%.

Malone is quick to credit others with the success:  “Our REALTORS® and our leadership have seen the value of this program, and are committed to it.”  The culture of the state association is completely supportive of the REALTOR® advocacy goals, as well, he says:  “Gary Clayton, our CEO, and Greg St. Aubin, our Senior Vice President of Governmental Affairs, have always made it clear that advocacy is a real priority.  They’ve put together a great team and given us the tools we need to be successful.”  One such tool is the Illinois REALTORS®‘ State Legislative Contact program, modeled on NAR’s Federal Political Coordinator system, which matches a REALTOR® with each of Illinois’ 118 representatives and 59 state senators. Another organizational advantage is that all of the local government affairs staff in Illinois field offices are employees of the state association.  “I’m in touch with them on a daily basis,” says Malone. “With an organization this size, sometimes progress feels like turning an oil tanker, so it’s good that we’re a tight ship.”   

Another recent Call for Action to which Illinois REALTOR® members responded at a rate of over 22%, making their voices heard regarding the National Flood Insurance Program, checked yet another box for the President’s Cup.  “One of our local associations got a response rate of more than 40%,” says Malone, with pride.  “We’re doing well, but that’s where I’d like to get them all!”

To learn more about how Illinois REALTORS® are using REALTOR® Party tools to meet and exceed their advocacy goals, contact Neil Malone, Manager of Grassroots and Political Programs, at 217-529-2600.

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Scottsdale Area REALTORS® Fight Restrictive Proposed Sign Ordinance, Gain Respect and Goodwill

When a Supreme Court decision denied the constitutionality of a sign ordinance in Gilbert, Arizona, two years ago, a number of other municipalities throughout the country began nervously reviewing their own.  In a climate in which some cities were even receiving threatening letters from the Goldwater Institute over the issue, says Suzanne Brown, Director of Community & Government Affairs for the Scottsdale Area Association of REALTORS® (SAAR), the city of Scottsdale hurriedly drafted a new one-size-fits-all ordinance that lumped signs for real estate listings in together with those advertising yard sales and political campaigns.  With a well-timed Call for Action, and a Land Use Initiative review provided by the REALTOR® Party, the REALTORS® helped the city see reason.

The reactive draft proposed by the city’s Planning and Zoning department simply didn’t work for the real estate industry, explains SAAR CEO Rebecca Grossman.  For one thing, it sought to restrict the number of post-and-panel sign ‘occurrences’ and ‘activities’ permitted at any given property in a calendar year; it would also have imposed problematic setback requirements for all yard signs.  “Here in Scottsdale, where many of our structures were built right up along the original dirt roads, a 15′-setback from the curb would put ‘For Sale’ signs in many people’s living rooms!” she points out. 

Although the threat didn’t show up on the radar of most Scottsdale citizens, or even that of City Council members, Grossman notes that, “When we hear the City Council say, ‘We’re looking at sign ordinances,’ REALTORS® need to pay attention.  We needed to be part of the process, and, in fact, we needed to be insistent about it.” 

The REALTORS® reviewed the first draft of the ordinance, and then requested revisions.  The City Council met them half-way.  Refusing to budge any further, the council added the slightly revised language to an upcoming agenda for a vote.  SAAR immediately issued a Call for Action to its 8,000 members; the nearly 500 resulting letters got the attention of the City Council.  The proposal was pulled from the agenda and returned to the Planning and Zoning department for further review. Followed by council members and city staff reaching out to the REALTORS® to discuss the ongoing concerns.

Within days, SAAR had applied for and received a REALTOR® Party Land Use Initiative Grant, and within about two weeks, the analysis provided by Robinson & Cole, the firm retained by NAR to review land use legislation, became a key resource as the city reconsidered the draft ordinance.  The process had evolved into a productive collaboration, explains Grossman, in which the REALTORS®‘ contribution was clearly valued by the city.  “The Robinson & Cole report, citing existing case law protecting signage, clearly substantiated the REALTORS®‘ position.  At the end of the day, we were able to give the city the information it needed to protect homeownership rights.”  The analysis was also a powerful defense of the broader Scottsdale economy, adds Brown:  “We received grateful feedback from the city’s own Economic Development department, which conceded that it hadn’t understood the full impact of the proposed ordinance on local economic growth.” 

Within short order, a new ordinance governing temporary signs was passed unanimously by the Scottsdale City Council, reflecting all that the REALTORS® had requested.  Grossman and Brown can’t say enough about the level of service that SAAR received from the team at the REALTOR® Party and at Robinson & Cole.  “The respect that a report like this commands is incredible,” says Brown, “and I don’t know how else a local association would be able to gain this kind of expertise, especially within the tight time frames we often face.  In Arizona, in particular, this issue is bound to be coming up in other municipalities.  With this REALTOR® Party resource available, they have nothing to fear.” 

To learn more about how the Scottsdale Area Association of REALTORS® is working with its municipal government to guide the best possible legislation for real estate professionals, the community, and the local economy, contact CEO Rebecca Grossman or Suzanne Brown, Director of Community & Government Affairs, at 480-945-2651.

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North Bay Association Tackles Rent Control Ordinance in Santa Rosa, California

In the North Bay region of California, which counts Napa and Sonoma among its counties, agriculture and tourism are big—and so is the shortage of affordable and work force housing.

When Santa Rosa, the region’s largest city, recently attempted to pass rent control and just cause eviction legislation, the 3,200-member North Bay Association of REALTORS® (NorBAR) joined forces with a strong coalition of business alliances to protect the rights of property owners—and to encourage government to meet the demand for affordable housing.

NorBAR does not deny that there is a shortage of affordable and workforce housing in the region; rents in Sonoma County have risen nearly 40% in the past four years. But denying apartment owners the ability to charge full market value for the use of their property, and limiting circumstances under which owner can evict a problem tenant, undermines basic private property rights, says Tracy Huotari, NorBAR’s Chief Executive Officer. To solve the real problem, she notes, the city will have to allow development of more affordable housing.   

The issue had been brewing for several years, when in August 2016, the Santa Rosa City Council passed a permanent rent control and just cause eviction ordinance. The next day, NorBAR and a coalition it had formed with the California Apartment Association began collecting signatures to prevent it from being enforced. They were successful in halting the ordinance, only to have the Council place it on the ballot for voters to decide, in a special election in June 2017.

NorBAR turned to NAR’s Campaign Services Team for help; it had already contributed funds from its own Issues Mobilization fund, and secured a grant from the California Association of REALTORS®. In addition to a major grant, the REALTOR® Party’s Campaign Services Team provided focus groups and polling to determine the campaign’s viability, identify voters and craft the campaign messaging.  The “No on C” campaign was both a get-out-the-vote effort and an educational force. “Our REALTORS® were deeply involved,” says Huotari, “they were out knocking on doors, registering voters, putting up lawn signs and making a big push on social media. Our coalition, ‘Citizens for Fair and Equitable Housing,’ was amazing, uniting the chamber of commerce and groups from across many local industries. Its website, FairHousingForAll.com, remains a great resource.” In addition to four targeted postcard mailings, door-to-door canvassers and TV, radio and online advertising, the ‘No on C’ campaign benefitted from the support of the influential local newspaper, The Press Democrat

On June 6, the ordinance was defeated by 52% of the vote.

The next step, says Huotari, will be sitting down with legislators and getting them to solve the real problems. “The bottom line is that we need to fix the supply shortage,” she explains, noting that the REALTORS® will be working with local units of government to look at removing obstacles to affordable and workforce housing. “We’ve got a number of understanding legislators in office, and we’ll continue to work hard and use our PAC funds in the local elections process to support even more.”

Meanwhile, the success of the campaign is having an apparent impact beyond Santa Rosa.  For months, says Huotari, the rent control issue was being discussed in another nearby community, also within the North Bay Association’s jurisdiction; it now seems to have “fallen off the agenda” in the weeks since the voters in Santa Rosa defeated the measure.

To learn more about how the North Bay Association of REALTORS® is protecting private property rights in the counties north of San Francisco, while keeping the focus on solutions to increase affordable and work force housing, contact Chief Executive Officer Tracy A. Huotari at 707-522-8169.

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Medina County Ohio REALTORS® Improve, Invest in Community with REALTOR® Party Grants

With nearly 800 members keeping their ears to the ground, the Medina County Board of REALTORS® (MCBOR) never has to wonder what the needs of the community might be. In 2016, it met three such needs with funding assistance from the REALTOR® Party’s Housing Opportunity Grants and a Placemaking Grant. Ranging from housing for disabled veterans, to vegetable gardens for low-income citizens, to improving a bike path for the public, these projects demonstrate the deep level of investment these MCBOR REALTOR® professionals have in their community. 

Sherry Stell, MCBOR’s Association Executive, explains that her organization has strong Housing Opportunity and Legislative Committees, but that its community service issues emerge organically, without any systematic approach. “If the need is there, members will call it to our attention, and we’ll try to find out if it is possible to obtain a grant within the REALTOR® Party program,” said Stell. For example, a MCBOR committee member who serves as a trustee of one of Medina County’s townships recognized an opportunity for the REALTORS® to contribute to public fitness when a former golf course in his township was being converted to a public park and required funding to transform golf cart paths to mountain bike paths.  The Placemaking Grant program does not fund repair work on existing paths, but this fall, MCBOR succeeded in securing a $1,300 grant for a park map and information display case branded with the Medina County Board of REALTOR®S name and REALTOR® logo, along with a “Saddle Buddy” mountain bike repair and cleaning station.

Another significant community service project for MCBOR came about when one of its members handled the sale of a property to an organization that planned to convert the home to housing for disabled veterans requiring round-the-clock care. “That’s how we found out about Newbridge Veterans Place,” says Stell. “Our membership is more than happy to support our veterans.  Newbridge Veterans Place became the beneficiary of our Annual Charity Bowl-a-Thon, which attracted more than 140 participants and raised more than $3,000.” Along with a $5,000 NAR Housing Opportunity Grant and three REALTOR® Care Days, MCBOR volunteers donated their time and skill to help the organization get the property up and running. “So much was needed in this seven-bedroom home to get it ready to house low income/homeless and disabled veterans,” notes Stell. “Our members helped with painting, hanging blinds and setting up the kitchen, in addition to purchasing and moving furniture into the home.” 

Yet another project arose because of MCBOR’s longstanding support of Medina Creative Housing, an organization that promotes the development and management of permanent affordable housing for people with disabilities. In the past, the REALTORS® have received a REALTOR® Party Housing Opportunity Grant to support the programmatic goals of the charity’s Life Skills Lodge as a comprehensive occupational therapy environment. “This year,” reports Stell, “they wanted help installing raised garden beds, to help residents to grow their own produce and sell the excess at the farmers’ market for income. Our community is so fortunate to have this amazing organization, and this project, in particular, helps the broader population by providing fresh locally grown vegetables. It’s a real win-win.” On a hot day this summer, a team of MCBOR members got together and met at the site to build the garden beds, with materials paid for by a Placemaking Grant. As always, Stell put the word out among her affiliate members, who not only pitched in to help, but provided coffee, donuts and pizza. “Our members are very supportive of each other in these efforts,” she adds, “whether it’s with hard labor or coffee service.  Knowing that the REALTOR® Party is behind them with all its resources, makes all of us feel like we really can make a difference when these needs arise.”    

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Medina County, Ohio are making an impact on their community with the help of the REALTOR® Party, contact Sherry Stell, Association Executive of the Medina County Board of REALTORS®, at 330-722-1000.

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Central Oregon Restores Balance to City Council with IE Program

The city of Bend, Central Oregon’s principal metropolis, was already growing at a rapid rate when Men’s Journal singled it out in 20

15 as one of the “Ten Best Places to Live Now.” The latest projection is that Bend will gain approximately 30,000 residents in the next twenty years, a statistic supported by the current reality of about five people arriving to live in Bend every day.  Yet, responsible growth in Bend has been deterred by one of the more restrictive land use systems in the country, and by a City Council that was largely anti-growth and out of touch with issues affecting its citizens. The recent election presented an opportunity for much-needed change, and the Central Oregon Association of REALTORS® (COAR) threw all its weight behind a REALTOR® Champion who would bring balance and sound judgment to the governing body. 

Tyler Neese, COAR’s Government Affairs Director, explains why the association backed candidate Justin Livingston with funds from its own PAC as well as a substantial Independent Expenditure grant from the REALTOR® Party. “With this type of growth taking place—and a further boom in population on the horizon—it’s critical for us to have leadership in the community that understands key issues like land use, transportation and affordable housing.  Justin is passionate about making Bend an affordable place to live and raise a family. He’s had successful careers in real estate, manufacturing and construction. He has served on several municipal committees, focused on matters from street maintenance to affordable housing. His depth of understanding and his connection to the community are just what Bend needs.”

Oregon is one of the few states that allows independent expenditure campaigns to be coordinated with the candidate, which, Neese points out, enabled COAR to make the most efficient use of the support it received from the REALTOR® Party. “We were able to provide resources and support where Justin’s campaign needed it most,” says Neese, listing radio ads, Facebook and pre-roll video as the big budget items funded by the grant. 

The National Association of REALTORS® identified target sites for the online advertising.  It also advised COAR on strategic timing for some of the campaign’s communications, which Neese notes is especially important in a state like Oregon, where voting is all conducted by mail. “You want to get your message in front of your target universe at the critical moment, but about one-third of voters send in their ballots on the first day, another third sometime mid-cycle, and the last third drop them off at the last minute. NAR’s strategists had the sophistication it takes to understand these complexities of voter behavior, and helped us plan accordingly.”  

When the ballots were counted, Justin Livingston had handily won a four-year term on the Bend City Council, receiving 76% of the vote.  COAR had also backed another candidate for the City Council with funds from its RPAC and a more modest Independent Expenditure campaign, as well as RPAC support for the re-election of one incumbent. Both candidates also won their races.  “We’re optimistic,” says Neese. “It was critical to restore balance to City Council. We’re proud to have helped that happen, with the support of the REALTOR® Party. We look forward to smart growth, fiscal responsibility, and sound solutions to the challenges our growing city faces.  It’s a tall order, but the right people will be at the table to make it happen.”

To learn more about how REALTORS® in Central Oregon are strengthening the city of Bend and helping to achieve balance on its City Council, contact Tyler Neese, Government Affairs Director, at 541-382-6027.

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