What Has NAR Advocacy Done for Me Lately? Part 1

How is NAR advocacy working for members? In part one of a two-part conversation, Patrick Newton, Director of Advocacy Communications and Strategy, and Shannon McGann, Chief Advocacy Officer, discuss NAR’s legislative successes and ongoing policy fights.


[00:04] Welcome to the Advocacy Scoop, the podcast that takes you inside the advocacy work of the National Association of REALTORS®, connecting 1 .5 million members with their advocates in Washington for a front row seat to the fight for public policy that strengthens the ability of Americans to access property ownership.

[00:25] Hello REALTORS®, I'm Patrick Newton, Director of Advocacy Communications at the National Association of REALTORS®. Association of REALTORS®. Here with Shannon McGann, our Chief Advocacy Officer. Welcome back to the Advocacy Scoop.

[00:35] Hello REALTORS®, hello Patrick. Hello, so if you tuned into our first episode, you'll know that we have launched a new podcast called the Advocacy Scoop, and our goal with the Advocacy Scoop podcast is to bring REALTORS®' insights on our advocacy work here at NAR.

[00:49] It's one of our most popular sessions at our conferences, and so why not bring it to you on a regular basis here with our podcast? So we're so happy to have you here in our latest episode. What have you done for me lately?

[01:01] It's one of the biggest questions we always get is what's in our advocacy up to what are you doing for us? And so we're going to talk about some of our biggest fights that we fight on a multi -year basis that your businesses would be drastically different if it was not for our work here.

[01:17] That is true, Patrick, and one of the top questions that we receive when we are traveling the country and talking to you all each and every day is, well, what's really going on in Washington and tell us where the fights are, where we're winning, where we need some more work. And that is something that we do in DC every single day. So, our job here is to make sure that you are well informed, that you know where that value of advocacy lies, and that you can go back to your office or, talk to your clients and you can be the smartest person in the room when it comes to these important federal policies that are impacting real estate and your clients.

[01:53] And let's talk about an issue that just doesn't ever seem to go away. Flood. Don't flood us with information, but whenever someone says that doesn't go away, I immediately am like, "Oh, we're talking flood insurance." Okay, this is it. I mean, we get questions about it. But all the time it comes up. every single year because it has to be reauthorized every single year. And so this is one of these battles we've been fighting since the days of NOAA.

[02:20] Insurance program has been. Well, not so fun fact, before joining NAR, I was the staff director of the house financial services committee. That is the committee that oversees the national flood insurance program.

[02:32] So, I have been working about half my career on how do we get a reauthorization of this program. Not gonna say I failed, we had a couple of reauthorizations during that time that were very bipartisan in nature.

[02:44] However, those things tend to lapse and our job here at NAR is to make sure that the program is not lapsing and that we don't see homeowners who are going without that protection or potential closings that aren't able to happen because of issues that are happening in DC.

[03:00] We have been working with both sides of the Hill, both the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats for many, many years to first educate them on the importance of this program and how vital it is to ensure that those property ownership can change hands and that folks are not left in a very vulnerable position when we're dealing with hurricanes and other storms.

[03:20] We've had great success in ensuring no lapse in the program, but we are looking for it. long -term renewal. There are important policy changes that could be made there. Austin Perez on our team, who has forgotten more than any of us will ever know about the Flood Insurance Program, is our subject matter expert in this area, and we have tons of resources on our website, and we'll get into a little bit more of that later, but it is a crucial issue and one that we have been very pleased to be successful on so far. And real estate transactions would ground to a halt if this program lapsed, and that would be catastrophic.

[03:53] So, that's the good fight. We're always fighting. Another one is private property rights. That is absolutely right. And we fight for private property rights for all. So, we work with our state and local associations on everything from some misguided rent control efforts to water quality issues, anything that impacts your ability to buy or sell property and what happens when you own that property. One of the areas that we work on an advocacy that is not getting as much credit as this do, so I wanna make sure that our dear listeners here are aware of it, is our legal advocacy in this effort. Yes, we care very much about how a bill becomes a law and what we're working on in the state legislatures, but we also understand that the courts have an important voice in all of this as well. So we've been coordinating with our legal action committee, the amicus brief advisory board. I know that sounds really exciting.

[04:44] Amicus, amicus, amicus... no one knows, no one knows how you're supposed to say it. No one knows, you can talk to five lawyers and get six responses on how to pronounce that. But to ensure that we are also fighting in the courts.

[04:56] And, so we've had some really big wins over the last several years, one being during the pandemic, the CDC eviction moratorium. In the midst of the pandemic. the Center for Disease Control said, "Hey, by the way, if you own property and you're renting that out to a tenant and they can't pay, that you're not able to evict them." And there was no certainty within that process. And also, those mom and pop property owners didn't have access to all of the PPP funds and other programs that were helping to keep the economy afloat over those years. So, we understood that that uncertainty was going to create even more problems in the marketplace and potentially put more people at risk. So, our state associations in Georgia and Alabama sued, they went all the way to the Supreme Court twice and we won there and have since been fighting in many states around the country as well to ensure that those mom and pop property owners aren't unnecessarily expected to pay for their mortgage, to pay their insurance, to pay the utility bills all while not having access to any of that rental income. And, most importantly, that we fought to ensure that there was rental assistance where it was needed and that tenants weren't left out in the cold during the unprecedented time of the pandemic, and that we were able to get rental assistance out the door to ensure that they were taken care of as well.

[06:10] That was the key, the rental assistance. Especially how many mom and pop property owners and housing providers are out there. I think the conventional wisdom is like, "Oh, it's a bunch of corporations who are." renting out apartments and they can afford it." For many folks, it's their retirement, that they're renting out a second property, maybe just to be able to make ends meet. And, so this took care of tenants and the property owners.

[06:33] Another big issue—this has been one of our top advocacy issues several years running because it's extremely important to spare housing—and in fact, we got some good news recently when one of our research reports came out and said that some of the ratio racial homeowner gap has been narrowing in certain areas. So, I mean, that's a multi-year effort for us. Oh, and especially when you're looking at Hispanic home ownership, and we have been working directly with the federal government for many years to ensure that there is no better enforcers of our fair housing laws than our REALTOR® members.

[07:04] This is a huge priority every year when we go to Capitol Hill and meet with members of Congress in May for our fly-in, our REALTOR® legislative meetings, and we're talking about fair housing, home ownership opportunity, how in particular to help those communities who have been unfairly, unethically, and in some cases illegally left out of these home ownership opportunities.

[07:27] In addition to that, we also work directly with our members, with our state and local associations, to increase it, and to strengthen those fair housing license requirements. We've had six states that have added new fair housing education requirements in order to get the license. And we have also been working with regulatory agencies, including the federal housing finance agency. I'm told to not use acronyms, so I've got to say the whole thing, to make sure that we're looking at policies that would include things like a positive rent, rental history, and utility history to expand eligibility for qualified buyers. Senator Tim Scott has been a big leader in this area as well to open up more housing opportunity for all.

[08:11] To talk about how this is one of those multi-year battles, I mean we're talking the Fair Housing Act was passed back in the 1960s, and we are still fighting this fight. The racial home ownership gap is still terrible, but we are making incremental progress year after year. And our members, you are the ones that are on the ground all across the country, sort of enforcing these fair housing standards that we actually have a higher level than what's required by law.

[08:37] Yeah, so our members are leaders in this effort. Well, let's talk about another one of our big multi-year battles that came out of nowhere. And that was the pandemic. So just like every other industry in America, you know, one day you're going to work, the next day your business has turned on its head, you might have even lost your job temporarily at least, and we snapped into action like nothing I've ever seen.

[09:03] Oh, that was a very crazy time, and I'm going to use a term that I think many of us have forgotten since then, but essential services, if you recall, picture this, 2020 went state by state folks were making determinations on what parts of the economy, what job functions were essential and what were not. Many of those came from the direction of the Department of Homeland Security, where they issued basically the best practices. It wasn't anything that was an official ruling, but best practices for the states on which ones to name as essential or not. And, at the beginning, real estate was not on that list. So, you could get things, you know, grocery delivery, other types of important services in the economy, but if you were in the middle of buying or selling a home, that was not protected.

[09:49] So, that was an area where we had to advocate, not just at the federal level, where our policy team back then, led by Joe Ventrone at that point, was instrumental in explaining to Homeland Security why that real estate services needed to be included.

[10:04] But then we had to work with our state associations to go state by state and advocate for that to happen. And, eventually it did. Pennsylvania was the last holdout, that's a fun story.

[10:15] And, then in addition to that, things like independent contractors having access to unemployment benefits, the PPP loans, like any of the small business loans, it was not a given that that would happen because typically independent contractors aren't included in those types of programs and so we had to advocate for that and we're very successful in doing so, and believe what I hear from you all on the ground is that that helped to keep these businesses up and running and to help people to buy and sell homes in a time when there was great uncertainty and it turned out that that was a booming time for real estate and, thankfully, we were able to provide those essential services to the economy and to consumers. And we also took a leap forward in technology as well during the pandemic and being able to do virtual. Remote online notary! Yes, and that's something that we've had members doing for years and years but it wasn't legal in all states. There was some national advocacy that needed to happen at the congressional level and then state by state to allow for folks to be able to notarize those documents remotely and now they can.

[11:19] That's fantastic. You know, those are some of the big issues that we've been fighting over years, sometimes decades. We know these issues are likely never going away. There's always going to be reforms for flood insurance.

[11:31] I think Shannon, since you've come to NAR, we're up to 30 reauthorizations for flood. There's always gonna be a fight for private property rights. Fair housing does not have a finish line. Hopefully we don't have another pandemic, but that doesn't mean we won't have another pandemic. pandemic type event that requires our organization which is uniquely suited to snap into action and respond to it in record time which of course we did but we're coming to the end of the episode, Shannon, which only means one thing... it's closing time. Alright, this episode we're gonna take a listener question and of course flood insurance that we were just talking about the question is what are the odds of reforming that program long term? They're getting better every day. I have to tell myself that in order to ensure that we can get out there and keep doing great work.

[12:20] Not to get into the weeds on process, but as a committee person, this is what I do. The House Financial Services Committee had been able over the last few years to get a couple of bipartisan reauthorization measures over the floor, and things go to the Senate and they they just don't make it out.
The Senate Banking Committee I think spent about five years before they had a legislative markup, but since in the last few months they have had one and so that is very positive news. The chairman of the committee, Sherrod Brown from Ohio, from my home state, go back guys, has indicated that he is interested in also moving some legislation there. So, where there is interest in doing something then there could be. Where there is a will, there is a way. Lingo police, you just said markup. Not all of the, like, you're on the financial services committee, but not all of us go there.

[13:09] Okay. What is a markup? A markup is as sophisticated as it sounds. When you take a piece of paper and you mark it up, it's when you actually bring that legislation to the committee and they say, "Here are the changes I would like to make. "Can you replace this clause with this one?" and make these changes? And, then it comes out of committee if they vote for it. And, that is the piece of legislation that ends up going to the full House or Senate.

[13:34] So, flood insurance, as we know, you know, especially Congress, they love to do things that they absolute last second. Well, so do I. I mean, we all, if it wasn't for the last minute, nothing would get done. It's what the last minute is for.

[13:45] Um, but I do think in advocacy, um, uh, lot of folks are like, well, if you just ask for it, do we have this letter? Do we just ask that we want this done? It is all about education and ensuring that those policymakers understand what are the benefits of moving in one direction, and what could be the problems.

[14:05] And, we had amazing success with our membership during the last potential laps. This was in September of 2023, and we were looking at a looming government funding deadline at the end of the fiscal year.

[14:20] That's when the government funding runs out September 30th. It's a really terrible time to be working in DC, and we instituted a call for action that went out to all of our members on a Friday night saying "Hey, the government funding deadline is coming up, and we're very concerned because the flood insurance program is attached to that bill."

[14:40] That is a good thing because that keeps it renewed on a regular basis, but it's a bad thing because if there is a lapse, then that could also impact the flood insurance program. And within a matter of hours, we had thousands and thousands of outreaches to Capitol Hill. We were hearing from members of Congress and their staff like, "Hey, okay, we're hearing from REALTORS®. What's going on?" "What's happening with flood?" And I think in less than 24 hours, they had close to 20 ,000 contacts reach the Hill. Later that afternoon, both the House and the Senate passed these bills with wide bipartisan support.

[15:14] And this is thanks to all of you who made those phone calls, who sent in those emails, our federal political coordinators who directly reached out to their member of Congress to make sure that folks knew this is important and to educate them on the ramifications if this didn't go through.

[15:30] And a national call for action, just a primer is, you know, we send out an alert to our full membership and you have an email. It's a very simple process for you.

[15:41] We prepare it all for you and your members of Congress hear from you on this issue and they heard from us on flood and it's rare. We don't break glass pool lever every single week on every single issue.

[15:54] So, they know when that's going to happen, and to hear from us on something like this, it is a big deal. The boy who cried wolf, right? You want to make sure that this is something that's done rarely, but when it is done, it's effective. Shannon, this sounds like a great place for us to pause, because we've got some more issues to talk about in our next episode. We'll keep talking about the big fights that we're fighting. And so, if anyone ever asks us the question again, what have you done for me lately? We'll just say, listen to the first three episodes of the Advocacy Scoop podcast, and you'll get a great picture of all of our work that we're up to here in DC. Absolutely, and I can't wait to talk about the next ones soon enough.

[16:28] So, that's the scoop. Thank you to everyone listening to this podcast, please be sure to subscribe and share wherever you get your podcast. We'll meet us right back here for more Advocacy Scoop next time.

[16:39] REALTORS® are members of the National Association of REALTORS®.


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