Chief lobbyist outlines NAR legislative priorities

By Kim Shindle | March 11, 2015 | 4 min. read

The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) has several federal issues that it’s currently working on and some that are in a holding pattern until legislation is introduced, according to NAR Deputy Chief Lobbyist Jamie Gregory, who addressed the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors® during the annual Public Policy and Political Affairs Seminar this week in Harrisburg.

  • Flood insurance – The National Flood Insurance Program will require reauthorization in 2017. “Sometime next year, they’ll begin talking about reauthorizing the legislation,” Gregory said. “They may look at ways to privatize flood insurance but NAR is concerned that companies may cherry-pick insurance.” Gregory said NAR believes the most immediate action needed is the creation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Office of the Advocate, which was mandated by previous legislation. “If a homeowner receives an outrageous insurance rate or their property is inaccurately placed in a flood zone, they should have somewhere to go. FEMA hasn’t created this office because it says it doesn’t have the funding. NAR wants to see funding in the budget to allow this office to be established.”
  • Tax reform – There appears to be agreement about moving corporate tax reform forward but legislation has not been proposed at this time. NAR continues to work with coalitions to keep 1031 Exchanges. “We’re working with 16 national real estate associations in a coalition and have conducted research to show the positive impact 1031s have on the economy,” Gregory said. “Our research shows that there is a tremendous amount of economic activity that happens because of 1031s but right now we’re in a holding pattern.”
  • Housing finance reform – A bill that would have eliminated Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac within five years was introduced last year but did not pass. The bill also proposed significant changes to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), which would have more stringently re-defined first-time homebuyers eligible for the program and reduced the income limits. Gregory said that FHA’s 50 basis point premium reduction enacted this year by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has had a positive impact on the real estate industry. “NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun says we’ve already seen an increase in first-time homebuyers since this change,” Gregory noted. “Historically 40 percent of the housing market is first-time buyers; now it’s only 27 percent. All efforts to help the first-time homebuyers get back into the market are important to the industry.”
  • Cap on affiliate services and fees – NAR is working to introduce legislation that would change a three-percent cap on points and fees of the loan amount, established by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act. He said the cap has a more detrimental effect on lower loans and a mortgage of $150,000 is the breaking point. “The cap would then require homebuyers to shop for their own title, appraisal and other settlement services,” Gregory said. “Some believe there should be no changes to the Dodd-Frank Act but we’re facing some challenges created by this bill.”
  • Patent reform – NAR announced it joined the United for Patent Reform coalition to pursue comprehensive solutions to abusive patent litigation. The coalition consists of a diverse group of American businesses from across a wide range of industries – technology, retail, hotels, grocers, restaurants and construction. Patent reform is crucial to Realtors® as the real estate industry is more and more dependent on the use of information technology and software products to market properties and manage their businesses. Gregory said the House has proposed legislation and the Senate is close to introducing a bill as well. “I think we’ll see patent reform passed by the end of the year,” he added.

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