HGAR Lobbies NYC/Hudson Valley Lawmakers On Eight Key Priorities at Annual Lobby Day
John Jordan | May 2019
ALBANY—Approximately 60 members of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors traveled to Albany on Tuesday, May 7 to join hundreds of Realtors from across the state and present the real estate association’s 2019 legislative priorities to state lawmakers that represent Assembly and Senate districts in the Hudson Valley and New York City.
Tops on the HGAR legislative agenda were the association’s continued support for the NY First Home legislation that passed the Assembly and Senate in 2017, but now awaits a study before it can go into effect, as well as the “Transparency and Disclosure in Cooperative Housing” bill that when originally proposed would require co-op boards to give reasons in writing to an applicant and establish reasonable time frames for Co-op boards to act on applications. HGAR Past President Barry Kramer said that the co-op bill has been modified since it was drafted to now only require a specific time frame for boards to act on an application, somewhat similar to legislation passed recently by Westchester and Rockland counties.
In connection with the NY First Home legislation, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill on Dec, 18, 2017 but issued a memorandum in conjunction with the approval that required the Division of Community Renewal, in consultation with the Department of Taxation and Finance and the State of New York Mortgage Authority to study “opportunities for, and implications of, a tax-advantaged first home savings program.” When originally announced, the study was scheduled to be complete by June 2018.
The legislation would have allowed individuals seeking to purchase their first home to establish a savings account and make annual tax-deductible contributions of up to $5,000 for an individual or head of household or $10,000 for married taxpayers who file taxes jointly. The bill put a cap on contributions of up to $100,000 for the purchase or construction of their primary residence.
The HGAR delegation, led by Legislative and Legal Issues Council Chair Leah Caro and vice chairman Clayton Livingston, joined other members of the New York State Association of Realtors at its Annual Lobby Day program. HGAR staff that participated in the Lobby Day program included HGAR CEO Richard Haggerty; HGAR COO Ann Garti; HGAR Director, Multiple Listing Service & Information Systems Gary Connolly; HGAR Director of Professional Development and Industry Relations Theresa Hatton, HGAR Director of Marketing Cathleen Stack and HGAR Government Affairs Director Philip Weiden.
The event kicked off with an address by 2019 NYSAR President Moses Seuram and keynote speaker New York State Senator Shelley Mayer of Yonkers, who expressed her support for the entire Realtor legislative agenda.
Sen. Mayer, who is a co-sponsor of the Transparency and Disclosure in Cooperative Housing bill, told the hundreds of Realtors at the breakfast session, “I am hopeful that we can finally move this bill to get a timely answer to an application to buy a co-op.”
Members of the Hudson Valley delegation that met personally with HGAR members in a Hearing Room at the Legislative Office Building expressed their support for the measures. HGAR officials told Real Estate In-Depth that the bi-play with the state legislators at the LOB hearing room was one of the most productive in memory.
State lawmakers that attended the session with the HGAR contingent included: State Assemblywoman Sandy Galef, State Assemblyman Thomas Abinanti, State Assemblyman David Buchwald, State Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, State Assemblyman Steve Otis and State Senators James Skoufis and Peter Harckham.
After the session ended, HGAR members hand-delivered the association’s legislative agenda to individual members of the Hudson Valley and New York City delegations.
Former Westchester County legislator and now State Sen. Harckham had an extended discussion with the HGAR group and expressed not only support but optimism that the co-op disclosure bill might be approved by the legislature this session.
Noting that the Source of Income bill that was part of the enacted state budget, Harckham said of the co-op disclosure bill “is sort of like the step sibling of that (measure). My guess is that we will not have a problem with it.” He later added that while he is not a member of the Senate Housing Committee, “It just seems to me to be natural that if we are going to pass Source of Income then this is the next logical step,” Harckham said.
Sen. Harckham and HGAR’s Livingston had a back-and-forth discussion on HGAR’s opposition to a proposal in the Assembly to increase the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s oversight of wetlands from the current threshold of 12.4 acres or more to wetlands as small as one acre. Sen. Harckham said that local municipalities are bearing huge water quality costs due in part to issues surrounding the loss of wetlands. He said he would welcome further discussion with representatives of HGAR on the matter.
Among other topics discussed at the session included HGAR’s support for stronger continuing education requirements for Realtors and opposition to any attempt to broaden statewide rent control regulations. HGAR Regional Director New York County Tony D’Anzica discussed why the association is against efforts to broaden the state’s rent regulations that are set to expire at the end of this year.
D’Anzica told state lawmakers that building owners are forced to abide by rent control and other state and New York city regulations and yet in many cases cannot pass on the cost of necessary upgrades and improvements to their properties to tenants.
“How does a landlord run a building without going bankrupt?” D’Anzica said. “That is the question.” He added that building owners as well as condominium and cooperative properties are all feeling the squeeze from state and city housing regulations.
State lawmakers also cited a number of proposals and or issues that should require more scrutiny by HGAR and the real estate industry as a whole—a bill that would prohibit evictions without good cause; a measure to strengthen regulations regarding fraudulent transfer of properties and a proposal that would require commercial landlords to post a notice of the building’s ownership contact information in order to notify the area and local businesses that the property is available.
Assemblywoman Galef noted efforts now underway by her and other area lawmakers to study the assessments of golf courses in the state. She noted that a number of Westchester golf course owners, including the Trump Organization, are seeking dramatic reductions in their tax assessments.
“It’s all about equity, it’s all about everyone paying their fair share,” Galef said.
The following is a list of HGAR’s 2019 legislative priorities that were presented to state lawmakers on Lobby Day:
NY First Home (First-time home buyer savings account proposal)—Signed by Governor Cuomo, Chapter No. 379 now awaits a study before it can go into effect. HGAR supports the first-time home buyer savings account program, which would put home ownership within reach for more first-time buyers.
Mortgage Recording and Transfer Taxes—HGAR strongly opposes proposals to raise revenue through transfer taxes and flip taxes. New taxes imposed in the budget on real estate transaction in New York City in this year’s budget helped make New York the highest taxed state in the country.
Transparency and Disclosure in Cooperative Housing: S. 4677 (Kavanagh) A. 6194 (Lavine)—HGAR supports requiring co-op boards to give reasons in writing to an applicant, and establish reasonable time frames for co-op boards to act on applications.
Wetland Oversight: A. 3658 (Englebright)—HGAR opposes this unnecessary legislation, which would increase the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s oversight of wetlands from the current threshold of 12.4 acres or more to wetlands as small as one acre. The DEC already has authority over all wetlands determined to be of “unusual local importance,” and local municipalities have the authority to regulate wetlands. The significant expansion of the state’s regulatory authority, as proposed by this legislation, would create an unnecessary imbalance with significant negative ramifications for homebuyers, developers and the overall economic health of New York State, HGAR stated.
Require Additional Continuing Education for Real Estate Licensees S. 3839 (Hoylman) A. 6082 (Dinowitz)—HGAR supports mandatory continuing education courses that provide licensed real estate professionals with updated knowledge on changes in their field. State law currently requires real estate brokers and salespersons to complete 22.5 hours of continuing education every two years to renew their licenses. Full-time brokers who have been licensed for at least 15 consecutive years prior to July 1, 2008 are exempt from these education requirements—also known as a “grandfathering” clause. Given ongoing changes in the profession and the laws that govern real estate transactions, removing the “grandfathering” clause thereby requiring continuing education of all licensees regardless of when they were licensed will benefit consumers by helping improve the level of quality and expertise among real estate professionals. Included in the 22.5 hours of required continuing education, there are three core hours of fair housing education and one core hour of Agency Law education required. Expanding Continuing Education core requirements to also include 2.5 hours pertaining to ethical business practices and one hour pertaining to legal updates will benefit both consumers and real estate professionals.
“Flip tax” on Properties in New York City (S.3060 – Salazar)—HGAR strongly opposes legislation that would impose an additional 15% real estate transfer tax on residential properties sold within one year and a 10% transfer tax on residential properties sold after one year, but less than two years from the prior purchase or conveyance. This bill does not achieve its intent and would dramatically increase the tax burden imposed on the real estate transaction in New York City and make home buying and renting less affordable for city residents, according to HGAR.
Neighborhood Integrity Act (S.212 – Benjamin/A.2543 – Rodriguez)—HGAR strongly opposes legislation that would prohibit licensed real estate brokers and salespersons from selling or listing any property for sale or for rent in a New York City neighborhood that is not a traditionally recognized neighborhood. Violations would be subject to a monetary fine, license suspension or license revocation at the discretion of the New York State Secretary of State. Realtors oppose this burdensome and misguided legislation because there is no current legal description of what constitutes a “neighborhood boundary” nor a “traditionally recognized neighborhood.” This legislation will only cause consumer confusion and market disruptions in a constantly evolving real estate marketplace, HGAR noted.
Oppose New York Statewide Rent Control—The Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors is opposed to any efforts to broaden New York State’s rent regulation laws which are set to expire this year. HGAR acknowledges the existence of a housing shortage and the need for more affordable units, however it sees rent regulation as the engine that exacerbates the housing shortage. Economists on both the left and the right agree with this assessment (93% according to a study by the American Economic Assoc.), including Nobel Prize economist Paul Krugman.