By Melissa McElroy

Every May, thousands of REALTORS® gather for the National Association of REALTORS® Legislative Meetings in Washington, D.C. This year, upward of 8,000 NAR members attended the legislative conference during the first week of May. It’s a week that primarily focuses on public policy and government regulations related to real estate. There are committee meetings and forums and an opportunity actively advocate for the real estate industry and engage in open dialogue with legislators to promote pro-real estate policies.

Andy Alloway, the President and CEO of Nebraska Realty and a NAR Federal Political Coordinator with Nebraska’s Second District U.S. Congressman, Don Bacon. Alloway said that there is nothing comparable to a face-to-face meeting. Elected officials are bombarded with phone calls and emails daily, but an in-person interaction creates that human touch. It provides the best opportunity to impress upon the policymakers the importance of protecting the housing market, which affects everyone. In his words: “Homeownership drastically impacts everyone’s life every day. It is fundamental for individual wealth creation.”

Alloway explained that increasing the top limits on the capital gains exclusion would be an optimal way to put more homes on the market in the immediate future. It is something he and his colleagues have advocated for the last two years. He said adding to the inventory will help keep home prices in check. New construction is all well and good, but it’s not immediate. Time is of the essence in passing capital gain tax laws to address the housing inventory crisis now.

Alloway described his ten-year experience attending legislative meetings and working as a Political Coordinator. “If everyone were like Representative Bacon, we wouldn’t have problems. He is principled in his beliefs. He is a conservative but willing to listen to everyone. He cares and listens to what you have to say. He’s genuine and has common sense.”

Omaha REALTOR® Joe Gehrki, another NAR Federal Political Coordinator, explained the importance of the Legislative Meetings every year, “The American dream of home ownership is woven deeply in the fabric of our nation. The most important reason we meet with our elected officials is so they fully understand our issues and the impact their legislative vote has on homeownership.”

Gehrki is on his third assignment as a Federal Political Coordinator. Over the last 24 years, he has worked on behalf of the REALTORS® with Congressman Lee Terry and Senator Ben Sasse. He currently works with Nebraska’s new Senator, Pete Ricketts, who he described as someone who has quickly established a great working relationship with the Nebraska REALTORS® Association. “His heart is truly in Nebraska. I have enjoyed getting to know his staff and look forward to working with them in the coming years.”

According to Gehrki, NAR has always believed in grassroots efforts to relay views on policy and legislation. REALTOR® members understand the industry from being in the trenches selling houses and can provide insider information far more effectively than a lobbyist. “We work face-to-face with buyers and sellers of real estate, so we know the direct impact of legislation that affects them.”

“Currently, the single greatest issue concerning real estate is the supply of affordable homes for sale. NAR supported several pieces of legislation to help increase the supply of homes. Increasing the capital gains limits will significantly impact sellers and investors. It will make them much more willing to sell.”

Gehrki pointed out that following significant pressure from REALTORS®, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) rescinded its proposed loan level pricing adjustment (LLPA) upfront fees for borrowers. This issue was at the forefront of NAR’s political efforts over the last several weeks and would have increased costs for many potential home buyers.

Perre Neilan, OABR’s Governmental Affairs Director, has over 25 years of experience working in Nebraska’s political arena. Neilan said, “Associations and government are run by the people who show up. I’m proud of the REALTORS® who showed up in D.C.” Neilan plays an essential role in advocating for REALTORS® by building good working relationships with elected officials. He added, “There is no substitute for face-to-face meetings with elected officials. In-person meetings is the best way to share thoughts and concerns about the real estate industry.”

Homeownership is the American Dream. It is the most sustainable way to build wealth for individuals and to build intergenerational wealth. According to a recent NAR study, the U.S. has a shortage of at least 5.5 million housing units. This underbuilding gap developed over the last 20 years and amounts to a $4 trillion underinvestment in housing. REALTORS® continue to underscore the importance of taking steps to rectify the housing shortage. Doing this now means millions of new employment opportunities and a significantly more robust economy.

REALTOR® priority Issues from the 2023 Legislative Meetings

  • Incentivize more owners to sell their homes by increasing the maximum amount of capital gains a homeowner can exclude on the sale of a principal residence and annually adjusting it for inflation. Bipartisan legislation on this issue has been introduced in the House of Representatives. The More Homes on the Market Act (H.R. 1321) is sponsored by Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Mike Kelly (R-PA).
  • Attract private investment for building and rehabilitating owner-occupied homes by offering tax credits that create a pathway to neighborhood stability through sustainable homeownership. Providing this powerful incentive to build and rehabilitate homes for low- and moderate-income homeowners can fill the gap in areas where it is often more expensive to develop or rehabilitate than appraisal values will support. Bipartisan legislation on this issue has been introduced in the Senate. The Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (S. 657) is sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD), Todd Young (R-IN), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH).
  • Incentivize the conversion of unused commercial buildings to residential and mixed-use properties. Many commercial properties can be adapted to better suit the needs of communities and create job opportunities, including adding multifamily and affordable housing, warehouse and industrial properties, and mixed-use spaces.
  • Create incentives for housing provider participation in the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program. Legislators should also increase funding to assist homeless veterans living on tribal land, update HUD’s methodology for determining rents paid to housing providers participating in the program and reduce burdensome inspection delays. Bipartisan legislation on this issue has been introduced in the Senate. The Choice in Affordable Housing Act (S.32) is sponsored by Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Tina Smith (D-MN), and Jerry Moran (R-KS).
  • Reauthorize and increase funding for HUD fair housing enforcement programs. Congress should support legislation that closes the homeownership gaps among demographic groups and reauthorize and increase funding for HUD’s fair housing enforcement grant programs.