Success Story

Louisiana REALTORS® Defeat a Proposed Tax on Services

The Louisiana REALTORS® weren’t exactly surprised when the state legislature recently started talking about implementing a tax on services to help close a major budget deficit.  “It’s something that comes up every couple of years,” says Kim Callaway, the REALTORS®’ Director of Legal and Governmental Affairs, who cites the economy and chronic structural budget problems as the chief reasons for the threat, which has always been defeated, but which her organization can’t afford to ignore.

“A tax on services would not just effect our members, as service providers,” Callaway points out, “it would have a huge impact on consumers paying for the services of home inspectors, termite inspectors, attorneys, mortgage brokers, and so on.  It would significantly increase the cost of getting in to a new home or business property, and we have a mandate to protect these consumers as best we can.”

While some of the REALTORS®’ legislative contacts assured them that the tax proposal wouldn’t pass, and that they were just reviewing all their options, the REALTORS® weren’t taking any chances. “It was happening fast, and we had to act, just in case it grew legs,” recalls Callaway. “The bill was filed on a Friday, the session started on Monday, and the House Ways and Means Committee heard the bill on Tuesday. Up at the National Association of REALTORS®, thank goodness, the REALTOR® Party team was able to spin on a dime.” She had seen the emails about the new Advocacy Everywhere program, and knew that was what the Louisiana REALTORS® needed, pronto. “We contacted them as soon as the issue came up, and asked, ‘How do we do this? We need it to happen now!’ ”

While Callaway and her team were on the ground in Baton Rouge engaged in essential lobbying at the statehouse, the Advocacy Everywhere professionals at NAR were setting up text mobile alerts and email Calls for Action to REALTOR® constituents of the Louisiana House Ways and Means Committee members. REALTOR® recipients responded at a click-through rate of 38%, and the bill was killed in committee. “We like to think that the number would have been even higher,” notes Callaway, “but it all happened so fast. We’re just grateful for those of our members who had a chance to respond, and did so.”

The legislators have still not been able to reach a consensus on how to resolve the budget deficit, and Callaway anticipates that they’ll have to hold another special session to address the matter prior to the start of the coming fiscal year. While the REALTORS® aren’t actively supporting any other revenue-generating solutions, she says, they’re not opposing any, either. Meanwhile, thanks to their vigilance, and to the REALTOR® Party, issues important to the real estate industry are being protected.

To learn more about how the Louisiana REALTORS® are using REALTOR® Party resources to protect its members and prospective home and commercial property buyers in their state, contact Kim Callaway, Director of Legal and Governmental Affairs, at 225-923-2210.

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Miami REALTORS® Create Better Block in West Coconut Grove

 

In Miami’s West Coconut Grove, the need was great, the timing was right, and the partnerships were in perfect alignment: the Miami REALTORS® were seeking a neighborhood in which to conduct a Better Block project with funding from the REALTOR® Party; the University of Miami School of Architecture was planning to create a marketplace for local vendors; and the residents, while lacking resources, had plenty of entrepreneurial zeal and neighborhood pride.

Miami REALTORS®’ 2018 Chairman George Jalil identified West Coconut Grove as an area in need. Known for its colorful, deep-rooted Bahamian heritage, the area had fallen on hard times. In fact, Miami’s downtown Business Improvement District fell just one block short of the once-vibrant area, and adverse gentrification issues were also in play, says Danielle Blake, Miami REALTORS®’ Senior Vice President of Housing & Government Affairs. A team from Miami REALTORS® walked through the area with a staff member of the local city commissioner; going door-to-door, they talked with local business owners and residents and listened to what they wanted for West Coconut Grove. The answer? A strong return of Bahamian culture.

Scouting prospective locations, the REALTORS® came across an abandoned building with a blank wall overlooking an overgrown green space that seemed ripe with potential. Investigating the property, they discovered that the University of Miami’s School of Architecture was already developing a plan for it, with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The two groups joined forces. Sharing their information and resources, the University focused on creating the marketplace for both established vendors and incubator spaces, and the REALTORS® took the lead on developing a landmark mural and launching the vibrant new market with a Better Block celebration.  The REALTORS® also provided considerable volunteer manpower, assembling Bahamian-inspired market structures designed by the School of Architecture.

Early on, YPN Chair Jorge Fernandez had suggested a mural as a feature for the Better Block project. “The mural design was a way for us to bring the community together, most especially the kids,” says Fernandez. As a local vendor served a group of neighborhood children a Bahamian lunch, a team of YPN volunteers had them draw representations of the flavors they were tasting. The artist, Wendell McShine, then adapted elements from these crayoned pictures into his final design for the bright and colorful mural. “It feels true to the neighborhood, celebrating its heritage, its flavors, and its children,” says Fernandez. A plaque on the painted wall recognizes the Miami REALTORS® and its partners in the project.

On February 3, 2018, Miami REALTORS® hosted a festive Better Block celebration launching the new ‘MKTPlace at Goombay Plaza.’ From 4:00 to 7:30 p.m., locals, visitors, and elected officials enjoyed Bahamian food, reggae music, dancing, and a dramatic light show on the new site, where every Saturday, local vendors now have a place to sell their wares and perpetuate the beloved local Bahamian culture.

Associate Professor and Director Chuck Bohl of The University of Miami School of Architecture says, “There’s really a thousand things that have to happen to get a simple market like this up and running, and there’s never enough hands, so to have a group as resourceful as the REALTORS® Association to come in and help us has been really instrumental.” Forging a strong relationship with Bohl’s department has been a great benefit for the REALTORS®, notes Blake. New partnerships with the local community and strengthened connections with elected officials will also be invaluable moving forward.

“Here at Miami REALTORS®, we are very excited about our community outreach program,” says Chairman George Jalil. “The West Coconut Grove neighborhood is rich in history and the residents are very welcoming. The Goombay Plaza project, a great success, raised critical awareness that REALTORS® care, and are very involved in the growth of their communities. We look forward to many more such projects in the future.”

To learn more about how the Miami REALTORS® are serving their communities with REALTOR® Party resources and a strong culture of volunteer man-power, contact Danielle Blake, Senior Vice President of Housing & Government Affairs, at 305-468-7015.

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Cape Fear REALTORS® Top the Broker Involvement Chart with 99% Coverage

Cape Fear REALTORS®’ Shane Johnson

Working to increase Broker Involvement Program (BIP) enrollment from 19 brokers in 2013, Cape Fear REALTORS® (CFR) COO Shane Johnson set a goal.

“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.”

CFR was awarded a Broker Involvement Grant in 2017, and hosted a broker reception on September 5, 2017, keynoted by Susie Helm, NAR’s Vice President of State and Local Services and Advocacy Operations. At the event, speaking to the gathered brokers, she said, “based on the information I’ve seen, Cape Fear REALTORS® has one of the highest level of participation in the Broker Involvement Program nationwide I’ve seen. Great job!”

“Best of all, we’ve proven that BIP works,” said Johnson. “Due to high broker enrollment, CFR had a 41% response rate to the Tax Reform Call for Action at the end of 2017—no other association with more than 1,000 members came close to that level.”

Today, CFR has 200 brokers enrolled in BIP, which encompasses more than 29 states and U.S. territories. Anyone interested in getting a copy of the campaign and strategies used by CFR can contact Shane Johnson.

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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.

PAR Vice President of Government Affairs Marc Scher explains the necessity of having such a ‘sweeping’ effort. “We never have the opportunity of seeing the whole membership at any given meeting, and we understand that not everyone’s paying attention to each and every newsletter we issue. Our billing statement, emailed December 1, is the only universally viewed vehicle we have. It’s our best opportunity to reach our members, educate them, and encourage investment in RPAC.” It’s in the best interest of RPAC to make that opportunity interesting, exciting, and completely convenient, he notes, adding that members now look forward to the annual RPAC sweepstakes, making the whole event a win-win.

That means Scher is always thinking of the most attractive prizes to offer in the upcoming sweepstakes. This year, the $7,000 REALTOR® Party grant was used to purchase prizes for four RPAC investment levels: $30 Arizona Fair Share; $50 Bronze; $100 Copper; and Major Investors of $1,000 and up. Investors were automatically entered into the drawing for prizes such as an Apple iPhone 8+, an airline gift card, an Apple Watch, an Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon Signature Massage, a professional chef cooking an in-home dinner for four, a round of golf at an exclusive local club — even an indoor sky-diving session.

In total, Phoenix REALTORS® invested $63,919: an increase of $10,000 over the previous year. Just as significant, says Scher, is the fact that more than 300 members joined the ranks as first-time RPAC investors this year, and a number of existing investors increased their investment amount to correspond to higher sweepstake categories.

An easy-read “What is RPAC?” lesson was linked to the billing statement, to help all members understand the importance of the fund. “We introduce RPAC in all of our classes, meetings, and new member orientations,” says Scher, “but we want to make sure that this information is also connected to the exciting prospect of entering the sweepstakes. It’s important that members understand not only that they should invest, but what RPAC does. It’s that understanding that will make them become repeat investors.

Scher cautions that, although the RPAC Sweepstakes isn’t a live event like a chili cook-off or an auction, it still takes a great many hours of preparation and behind-the-scenes work.  “And while PAR’s budget covers the intensive marketing, there’s no way we could do this without the REALTOR® Party grant that allows us to offer so many great prizes. We’re so pleased that working together with the REALTOR® Party, we’re able to spur such robust RPAC investment from our members.”

To learn more about how the Phoenix Association is having great success encouraging RPAC fundraising with a billing statement sweepstakes, contact Marc Scher, Vice President of Government Affairs, at 602-246-1012.

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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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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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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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Houston Association Gathers and Shares Hurricane Harvey Recovery Resources with Multicultural Associations

Hurricane Harvey wreaked Texas-sized devastation on the greater Houston region, but the larger-than-life spirit of Texas residents helping each other through the hard times is a powerful silver lining.

Being especially in tune with the complexities of destruction caused by flooding, real estate professionals are at the forefront of the ongoing aid effort:  the state association’s Disaster Relief Fund was mobilized before the storm had subsided, and the leadership of the 37,000-member Houston Association of REALTORS® (HAR) launched into gear while people were still being rescued. In November, with the help of a REALTOR® Party Diversity Initiative Grant, HAR brought together and shared recovery resources with its multicultural industry colleagues in a program called “Road to Recovery: Life After Harvey.”

Kenya Burrell-VanWormer of JPMorgan Chase, who is HAR’s recently installed 2018 Chair, explains point-blank: “Natural disasters do not discriminate. Harvey affected everyone!” The inspiration for the event, she continues, came from an all-day relief effort sponsored by the Houston Black Real Estate Association, in which she, her 9-year-old daughter, and a fellow HAR Director participated right after the storm. “It was such a moving experience, and it prompted us to plan a program of our own at HAR. As REALTORS®, we know that our professional value is in our information and knowledge.  As leaders, we realized that by engaging our fellow industry professionals in all the local minority associations, we could provide these valuable resources which they, in turn, could share with their clients and colleagues and friends.”

The Directors of HAR agreed that such an event was needed, and the attendance numbers bear out their vision. With the support of President and CEO Bob Hale, and the tireless staffing of TREPAC Director Karen Driscoll, HAR developed a half-day program featuring a line-up of candid, open-minded industry speakers who covered topics ranging from mold remediation, to available funding for homes and businesses, to tax relief, to dealing with the emotional aftermath.  HAR invited members of the local chapters of the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB,) the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA,) the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals (NAHREP,) the Hispanic Mortgage Lender Organization (HMLO,) and the Veterans Association of Real Estate Professionals (VAREP,) as well as the Houston Independent Real Estate Brokers Association (HIREBA) and the Houston Black Real Estate Association (HBREA). Nearly 300 individuals attended, enjoying a complimentary lunch and a supportive, informative, collegial afternoon. Many received door prizes of gift cards to grocery and department stores; one even won an iPad. All were heartened by a report from an industry analyst showing that despite Harvey, the outlook for the regional real estate market was stronger than expected.

“In our industry, we can all admit to short attention spans, constantly checking our phones,” laughs Burrell-VanWormer, “so I think it’s a clear measure of success that the audience was totally engaged with the speakers, and paying serious attention to all the highly relevant information.” At a simple reception for committee members following the event, she adds, the question on everyone’s lips was “Ok – what next?” The follow-up is still in development, but one thing is clear, she notes:  “Houston is the fourth largest city in the country, and we have one of the most diverse populations in the nation.  As a city, we embrace diversity, as an association we embrace diversity, and with the continued support of the REALTOR® Party, we will continue this mission as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act in 2018.”

To learn more about how REALTORS® in the Houston region are helping neighbors, clients—and each other—survive the effects of Hurricane Harvey, contact 2018 HAR Chair, Kenya Burrell-VanWormer, at 713-628-8383.

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Pacific Southwest REALTORS® Advocate for Transit-oriented Smart Growth

Housing affordability is the top priority for California’s governor.  It’s the principal challenge for the mayor and the San Diego City Council.  And it’s of utmost concern to the Pacific Southwest Association of REALTORS® (PSAR), with 2,000 members in the trenches of the local real estate industry, where rents have skyrocketed in the past decade, and would-be first-time homebuyers are struggling.  PSAR recently used a REALTOR® Party Smart Growth Action Grant to co-sponsor a report that convinced the city to adopt a handful of policy measures to help ease the crisis.

The grant was used to support the work of Circulate San Diego, the region’s leading nonprofit concerned with transportation and sustainable land use issues, as it developed recommendations for transit-oriented development. A prime focus of the plan was updating the city’s existing Density Bonus program, along with other incentives making it easier for in-fill development to move forward.

Tracy Morgan Hollingworth, Government Affairs Director at PSAR, served on the technical advisory board of Circulate San Diego’s Transit-Oriented Development report.  Its goals were to:

  • Reduce costs for new affordable and market-rate mixed-use developments near transit
  • Generate more economic development from region’s transit investments
  • Create better links between homes and jobs through transit
  • Reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions by accommodating future growth near transit

Shortly after receiving Circulate San Diego’s report, the City Council unanimously voted to adopt five new incentives based on its recommendations.  Rather than increasing density rates, the new ordinances make it faster and simpler to build housing units that are already allowed.  The incentives include: an increase in the existing Density Bonus Program, which rewards developers for including a certain number of low-income units in their building projects; reducing the parking space minimum for units built close to transit stations; and allowing low-income units to be built up to a mile away from market-rate units, within a single development project, for construction efficiency.

Hollingworth notes that the beauty of the new ordinances is that they simply remove obstacles that have discouraged building where increased density has already been approved.  “It’s about maximizing density to the allowed limits, not increasing the density rates.  This will add desperately needed housing units where there’s existing infrastructure, and give developers and builders a fair degree of flexibility. And because it covers the entire city, it takes some of the pressure off individual neighborhoods struggling to update their community plans, which can be a lengthy and tortured process.”

Rafael Perez, a PSAR member active in city politics, attended many Circulate San Diego meetings and provided testimony for the City Council.  He notes that the coalition of organizations supporting Circulate San Diego in this complex effort was highly unusual in its diversity. “You’d expect to see environmentally-focused groups getting behind transit-oriented development,” he says, “but the presence of the REALTORS® and other business groups brought valuable angles of expertise, and a critical balance, to the process.  And for the City Council to have found the recommendations acceptable on both sides of the aisle, tells you how universally beneficial they’ll be.  For REALTORS®,” he adds, “our involvement also demonstrates our vested interest in the region, and helps to disprove the all-too-common notion that we’re only interested in sales.”

To learn more about how the Pacific Southwest REALTORS® are working to help San Diego maximize housing density and implement transit oriented development initiatives, contact Government Affairs Director Tracy Morgan Hollingworth at 619-222-8155.

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Texas REALTORS® Take Advocacy to Another Level Using Social Media

Headquartered across the street from the Texas Capitol and just around the corner from the Governor’s Mansion, the Texas Association of REALTORS® has never been shy about political advocacy. In recent years, it has also eagerly harnessed the power of social media to communicate with its 114,000 members. Combining its political prowess and social media savvy, in mid-December TAR upped its advocacy game by offering a preview of the state’s upcoming legislative session on Facebook Live.   

The half-hour preview and Q&A event was hosted by TAR’s Director of Legislative Affairs Daniel Gonzalez, whose depth of knowledge and engaging demeanor make him a natural spokesperson. Opening with a brief overview of his department’s work at TAR, he reminded members that the association’s legislative agenda is not driven by staff, but by REALTOR® volunteers from across the state who serve on TAR’s Public Policy Committee. Assuring viewers that TAR will read every single word of the six-to-seven thousand bills filed during the course of the session, he noted that it would be tracking roughly one third of them, including many that aren’t about real estate or private property rights, but which have a big-picture, long-term bearing on the industry.

In addition to letting viewers know what their legislators will be tackling in the session that began in January, Gonzalez took the opportunity to direct their attention to the latest issue of Texas REALTOR® magazine, and to hiddenpropertytax.com, an educational site that TAR has launched to clarify a complex legislative issue now in play in Texas.  He also urged members to participate in the annual REALTOR® Day at the Texas Capitol this spring. With ten minutes to go, he fielded questions from the live audience on topics ranging from title insurance rates to homeowner associations.  

Brandon Alderete, TAR’s Director of Political Affairs, points out that the association is right at home with webcast technology. “We’ve been delivering CE course content to our 77 local associations via online video for several years now,” he notes. “The live feed is the exciting innovation here, allowing us to interact directly with so many members who are already right there, following us on Facebook.” Nearly 1,500 viewers tuned in to the live and recorded sessions over the first 24 hours, and the post was also shared by dozens of individual Texas REALTORS® and local associations. TAR had promoted the event with organic and paid social media, through email newsletters and via text message through the REALTOR® Party Mobile Alert system just before the webcast began, generating more than 500 click-throughs.

“Whatever we can do to enhance communication with members, we’ll pursue it,” says Gonzalez.  “Facebook Live is a fairly new phenomenon, but we thought it would be worth a shot,” he adds, noting that based on the enthusiastic feedback, his department will continue to share legislative issues with the membership via live webcasts.  “Our members really responded, and seem to want more. That’s the way we like ’em: engaged and asking questions!”

To see firsthand how the Texas Association of REALTORS® is keeping its members connected to legislative issues affecting their industry and their communities, see https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10155514734234298&id=89617004297. To learn more, contact Brandon C. Alderete, Director of Political Affairs, at 512-370-2124.

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