You're either at the table or on the menu
Many of you have heard me make that statement at one time or anther over the past few years regarding participation in the political process. I know a lot of you could care less about politics but the fact of the matter is, you have to be engaged today or you’ll be out of business tomorrow.
largest trade association political action group in the country, the National Association of
our mid-year Legislative Meetings in
As you might imagine, NAR is actively involved with much of the current housing legislation you read about. We have worked with our Representatives to pass H.R. 1852, the Expanding Homeownership Act and with the Senate to pass S. 2338, the FHA Modernization Act. We are now trying to get the two sides to resolve the differences in these bills so they can present this for the Presidents signature before the August break. The House has also passed a bill strengthening the housing mission of Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac and we are working with the Senate to get them to introduce similar legislation.
The Senate has been slow to act this year because they have had as many as 14 of their members running for President during the course of this marathon campaign. By November, one of their members will be elevated to the Presidency so hopefully they can get back to the business of governing and getting some of these much needed bills in play. You’re never too sure whether it’s a good thing for them to be busy elsewhere or not. At least if they’re busy doing nothing, they’re not screwing something up. But when we have bills to help American homeowners that need attention, we would prefer they buckle down and do the work we elected them to do.
Other facets of our busy federal agenda this year include making the increase to FHA loan limits permanent, modernizing the single family mortgage insurance program, working to decrease the spread between conventional and jumbo loan rates and trying to enact a temporary buying stimulus including temporary tax credit for individuals purchasing a principle residence. Two other areas we are pursuing successfully include the re-authorization of the National Flood Insurance Program before it expires in September, and taking another run at small business health reform. You may remember our efforts in 2006 to provide health care coverage for the 46 million self-employed and small business entrepreneurs who currently have no access to affordable group benefits and find individual policies prohibitively expensive. We almost succeeded last time. The Senate has introduced a bill to address this issue and we are working with a number of other small business advocacy groups to encourage the House to sponsor a companion bill.
Finally, at the local level. In June there are two measures on our ballot you may have heard about, Propositions 98 & 99. The California Association of Realtors encourages you to vote YES on 98, NO on 99. These measures address eminent domain issues in our state. Prop 98 is the most far-reaching and would prohibit city, county or state governments from ‘taking’ single family residences, businesses or farmland for either private or commercial use. Prop 99 only addresses single family residences. The League of Cities and most city and state government entities are aligned against us on this one and running a very dis-informative campaign. Why? Because they don’t want governments right to appropriate your property to be curtailed. While most cities give lip service to limiting their use of eminent domain to only ‘takings’ for the common good, in fact they want to preserve their ability to take any land they want, anytime they want for damn near any reason they want.
They are leading their opposition to 98 by saying it’s a front for apartment and mobile home landlords to eliminate rent control – and in fact that is part of Prop 98. As vacancies occur in Prop 13 rent controlled residences, under Prop 98 that control would go away and future tenants would have to pay market rental rates. While this MAY invoke some hardships on lower income renters, it also provides some flexibility for property owners to make improvements to their properties and keep them from becoming blighted, thus subject to eminent domain confiscation by local government. If YOU owned a property would you feel it fair for the government to dictate your rents at a rate only marginally higher than they were ten years ago? Me neither. Vote YES on 98, NO on 99.
I know our market is tough right now and next issue I’ll share some of the positive news from NAR and our Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. But in the meanwhile, rest assured this too shall pass and our market will return to a more normal course. We’re not out of the woods yet but as I spoke with Realtors from around the country last week, I was amazed at the number of markets that never experienced a decline and the number that have declined only slightly and are already picking up. You’re not seeing that reported in the national media but it’s true. Housing affordability in our state is up 18% and you’ve got maybe a 6 month window left in your optimum buying period before rising interest rates offset declining home prices.
The opinions expressed here are those of the writer only and while they are the absolute correct and factual opinions, may not reflect the values of the National or California Associations of Realtors, Coldwell Banker nor the Valley Business Journal.