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Utah REALTORS® Think Ahead to Prevent Affordable Housing Shortage

The population of Utah is expected to double – yes, double – by the year 2040, and the matter of just where to house everyone is high on the state’s to-do list. Blocking the way are longstanding zoning restrictions at the local level across the state, as well as significant geographic constraints and, until recently, a misperception among the general public that denied a need for affordable housing. With the help of Utah REALTORS® over the past two years, public opinion has been swayed, and the state has found a way to incentivize solutions to the growing housing shortage, rather than strong-arming municipalities with mandates in 2019.

As Cate Klundt, Government Affairs Director of the Utah Association of REALTORS®, explains, the first step was joining a broad-based partnership of industry groups, homebuilders, non-profits, and the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Institute. This group, known as the Utah Housing Gap Coalition, commissioned an academic study detailing the nature of Utah’s demographics and housing needs, and conducted polling and focus groups on consumer attitudes. “The results of these inquiries in the first phase gave us what we needed to help craft effective legislation and formulate informed, targeted education campaigns in the second phase,” says Klundt. Two Issues Mobilization Grants and polling services strengthened the effort from start to finish.

Among the key issues revealed by the research was the prevailing misunderstanding among many Utah residents who rejected the notion of a housing shortage, despite the fact that Utah’s housing prices have increased at a higher rate than those of San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle in the past 20 years. Also significant, notes Klundt, is that the population boom putting pressure on the housing market was shown to be due to in-migration and natural household growth, rather than an influx of ‘outsiders.’ A notable age gap between aspiring home buyers in Utah and those opposing the development of affordable housing units pointed to the established generation being out of touch with the plight of the millennials. “We needed to make it clear to the baby boomers that the people being squeezed out of the housing market are not some nebulous threat, but their own children — and we had the data to prove it,” says Klundt.

The REALTORS® used this data in an internal campaign focused on protecting the American dream of homeownership, a theme that resonated at their REALTOR® Day at the state capitol, where about 400 members met with three-quarters of the legislature. The Utah Housing Gap Coalition directed a public campaign at Utah’s parental generation, with the message, ‘Your grown children want to remain close to home – let’s make this possible for them!’ says Klundt.

Members of the Housing Gap Coalition visited city councils around the state to hear their concerns before approaching the state legislature with an innovative plan: an Affordable Housing Modifications bill motivating municipalities to implement housing reform policies by tying their eligibility for state transportation funding to positive steps toward affordable housing planning and transit-oriented mixed-use development. By allowing local governments to choose from a list of measures including establishing community land trusts, permitting accessory dwelling units, lowering parking requirements, and allowing for higher density residential development in commercial zones, the legislation allows municipalities to retain some local control in solving their share of the state-wide problem. Passage of the bill was a triumph for the Housing Gap Coalition, which will continue its work with a focus on future legislation to meet funding needs.

“I don’t think we’re the only state that has to manage conservative homebuilders and more liberal housing advocates, and we were successful in creating a process that appeased both of those groups as well as local governments and the state legislature,” says Klundt. “Our whole coalition is grateful to the REALTOR® Party for the support that made it possible.”

To learn more about how Utah REALTORS® are working to help municipalities become part of the solution to their own affordable housing challenges, contact Government Affairs Director Cate Klundt at 702-767-3994.

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Third Times a Charm for REALTOR® Champion and Salt Lake Board

Chris McCandless is a longtime real estate professional and a tireless public servant—and in the November 2015 election season, his run for a third term on the City Council of Sandy, Utah marked a major milestone for the REALTOR® Party:  with its 1,000th Independent Expenditure Grant, it helped this REALTOR® Champion retain his seat.

Since 2012, in collaboration with state or local associations, the National Association of REALTORS® has designed and conducted independent expenditure campaigns (1,000 of them, to be exact) to support candidates who promote home ownership and protect private property rights: the REALTOR® Champions.  By investing in candidates who support REALTOR® issues, these campaigns are one of the very tangible ways that REALTOR® Party resources are at work affecting legislation and public policies to benefit real estate.

Justin Allen, the Government Affairs Director of the Salt Lake Board of REALTORS® (SLBR), applied for and received the grant that tipped the REALTOR® Party’s Independent Expenditure Grants over the 1,000 count.  Chris McCandless, he notes, is very well liked and deeply involved in the community; as a two-term Sandy City Councilman, he had demonstrated his value to his constituents, helping to focus the city’s vision for the future on real estate-based business growth, jobs and quality of life, while helping Sandy become one of Utah’s most fiscally sound cities.  But with a challenger mounting an ‘anti-incumbent’ campaign, McCandless supporters didn’t want to take any chances. 

In many states, election law prohibits independent expenditure campaigns from interacting with the candidate’s own campaign; in Utah, open collaboration is allowed, and SLBR planned and managed a campaign that coordinated efficiently with the McCandless team.  In addition to the grant from the REALTOR® Party, SLBR used funds of its own and support from the state association to mount a robust effort involving four direct mail pieces and online advertising driving traffic to the candidate’s site; SLBR also encouraged its REALTOR® members to vote for the REALTOR® Champion.  “While Chris McCandless worked hard running a winning campaign and was re-elected with a comfortable margin, there’s no doubt that the REALTOR® Party helped,” says Allen; he points out that it was a good thing SLBR hadn’t taken a victory for granted: in the same election in a nearby district of Sandy, a twenty-four-year City Council incumbent was handily defeated. 

McCandless himself asserts the importance of the REALTOR® PARTY support he received: “In running for an elected office, in order to be successful you need to have an army of folks willing to support your efforts. I believe that NAR’s Independent Expenditure efforts was one of, if not the most important element contributing to my re-election to a City Council seat in Sandy City, Utah.  Having funding, resources and strategic planning personnel along with the media exposure to supportive private property rights organizations such as NAR, the Utah Association of REALTORS® and SLBR made all the difference. The REALTOR® Party of governmental affairs members is most definitely the group you need behind you if you want to succeed.”

At NAR 360 in San Diego, Chris McCandless was celebrated as a ‘shining example’ of the REALTOR® Party’s legislative values and efforts.  And grant by grant, champion by champion, the count goes on, and so does REALTOR® Party strength.

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Salt Lake used an Independent Expenditure grant to help keep one of its Champions in office—while marking a REALTOR® Party milestone—contact Justin Y. Allen, SLBR’s Director of Government Affairs, at justin@slrealtors.com or 801-542-8857.

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Salt Lake Board Works With Transit Authority to Get Cars Off the Road and People onto Public Transit

Air quality is a big concern in the Wasatch Front region of north-central Utah, and the Salt Lake Board of REALTORS® took steps to help clear the air. The 6,700-member board used a Game Changer Grant and funds of their own to sponsor the Utah Transit Authority’s RideClear Program, which helped to get more than 14,000 cars off the road and 25,000 people onto public transportation.

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