Anaheim, CA (November 14, 2023) – Yesterday, at 2023 NAR NXT: The REALTOR® Experience, NAR's advocacy team held The Advocacy Scoop, providing their members with an inside take on the state of real estate in Congress.
NAR Chief Advocacy Officer Shannon McGahn opened the session by outlining the current challenges Congress faces and NAR's record of success in the face of such adversity.
"NAR's advocacy structure is built for moments like this," said McGahn. "With friends and respect on both sides of the aisle, it has proven time and again to be effective in a divided government. In the advocacy group, our mission is to support the policies and the policymakers who support you – as Realtors®, associations, the real estate industry, and consumers."
McGahn then discussed NAR's top three public policy and advocacy goals in Washington. The top priorities include: 1. Improve access to homeownership, increase housing inventory, streamline affordable housing programs, and expand economic opportunities; 2. Ensure fair housing for all; and 3. Promote NAR research products to help inform policymaking.
"Success on fair housing and affordable housing supply will not come on one big victory day," said McGahn. "They are multi-year campaigns where we will celebrate many wins in our effort to make the American Dream more accessible. We have spent the last several years modernizing the advocacy operation, prioritizing the cultivation of relationships within our organization and with policymakers, industry partners, and state and local associations. The mantra we follow is what will advocacy look like in ten years, and how are we the first ones to get to it?"
McGahn shared the success of NAR's first nationwide Call for Action in several years. This past September, as the nation steered toward a government shutdown, NAR mobilized its membership and sent tens of thousands of messages to Congress in a matter of hours to ensure continuity for the National Flood Insurance Program.
McGahn then welcomed Jon Waclawski, NAR's vice president of political advocacy, to the stage. The discussion topics focused on the political advocacy wins for this past year.
McGahn and Waclawski discussed NAR's State and Local Issues Mobilization program. The approval for grants this year is up 20% from last year, and "the 82 issue mobilization grants that we approved this year are because our state and local associations are so active and so pointing on strategies and policy at their local level that we can be effective, leveraging our member dollars to help," said Waclawski.
McGahn then questioned Waclawski about how the state and local associations tap into tools, resources, and funding to support legislative issues, ballot measures, and grassroots lobbying around key issues at the state and local levels. Among issues such as property and transfer taxes, rent control remains a top priority for the political advocacy operation.
"Rent control continues to be a major issue that our state and local associations are dealing with and grappling with," said Waclawski. "We already know that we're going to have two statewide ballot measures that involve rent control, one in California and one in Massachusetts. These are going to be very well-funded ballot measures, and so we're going to look forward to deploying a large amount of our resources to help move the needle."
The conversation ended by touching on the Realtor® Political Action Committee (RPAC). Waclawski closed by stating, "We have a 35% participation number; that's phenomenal. There is no other organization that comes close to that number. A record was set on the fundraising side; it was close to $50 million that we were able to deploy to help our major Realtor® party champions be successful. In terms of who we support…this is a group of very engaged members with seasoned political backgrounds who are very deliberative and thoughtful in their selection process of our candidates. We're very proud that in 2022, we were able to deploy those resources in an even 50/50 nonpartisan split led by the Republicans and Democrats."
McGahn then welcomed Bryan Greene, NAR's vice president of policy advocacy, and Joe Harris, NAR's vice president of government advocacy, to discuss what is happening in Congress. After touching on the current state of Congress and their optimism around the looming deadline for a spending bill by the end of this week, the conversation turned to what is happening in the world of inventory and affordability.
"In terms of affordability, we all know the economists are saying that things are getting better," said Greene. "It's sometimes harder to see, and we've been trying to address that on multiple fronts. We just recently engaged the Federal Reserve, working with the Mortgage Bankers Association and National Homebuilders. We sent a letter essentially saying that the market needs clarity; we need to hear that there will be no more rate increases. We are always pushing for some inventory measures in the House."
McGahn turned the conversation to the current bipartisan legislation on inventory and affordability. She asked Harris what his take was on how the bills are moving on the Hill and how they are being received.
"The More Homes on the Market Act is an example; that's something that has gotten tremendous support and response from legislators because the issue is becoming more and more real as time goes on," said Harris. "You can't help but be affected by it. It underscores the importance of our work in terms of empowering the middle of the governing wings of both parties. The More Homes on the Market, the Neighborhood Homes Investment Act, tax credits and incentives to give private investment, and converting some of these underutilized office spaces - what we're doing with legislation like this is keeping the economy going. Congress is in a difficult place right now, but that doesn't mean there isn't work to be done. It doesn't mean there aren't people willing to keep talking about it."
The National Association of Realtors® is America's largest trade association, representing more than 1.5 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. The term Realtor® is a registered collective membership mark that identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of Realtors® and subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.
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