HGAR Contingent Presses State Lawmakers On Key Real Estate Legislative Agenda Items
John Jordan | March 2018
ALBANY—A record number of members of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors traveled to the state capital on March 20 and joined Realtors from across the state to press the industry’s legislative agenda that includes advancing the implementation of a first-time home buyer’s savings account and transparency and disclosure in cooperative housing sales transactions statewide.
HGAR officials told Real Estate In-Depth that a record 75 HGAR members traveled to Albany to take part in the New York State Association of Realtors’ Annual Lobby Day. HGAR members filled two buses that departed from White Plains (with a stop in Putnam County) and West Nyack (with a stop in Newburgh) and included members from Manhattan, the Bronx, as well as from Westchester, Rockland, Orange and Putnam counties. The HGAR contingent was led by Leah Caro and John Olivero, co-chairs of the HGAR Legislative, Political and Legal Issues Committee, HGAR President Barry Kramer, HGAR Chief Executive Officer Richard Haggerty and HGAR Government Affairs Director Philip Weiden.
HGAR’s Caro led a session held at an expansive hearing room at the Legislative Office Building that featured several highly informative give-and-take sessions with State Senator David Carlucci (D-38) and State Assemblywoman Sandra Galef (D-95) and another with State Assembly members David Buckwald (D-93), Amy Paulin (D-88) and Inez Dickens (D-70) from Manhattan. The session was also attended by a number of staff members of Hudson Valley lawmakers who were participating in state budget meetings.
Among the key items HGAR officials discussed at the session or at individual meetings afterwards with the state representatives or their staff from the Hudson Valley and New York City delegations included continued support for the first-time homebuyer savings account legislation. Last year, the State Legislature passed the first-time homebuyer savings account bill, but in December Gov. Cuomo signed the bill, but issued a memorandum in conjunction with the approval that at the very least delays its implementation.
The legislation would allow 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 governor reached an agreement with the State Legislature to pass legislation requiring 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.” A bill that would facilitate the study has passed the New York State Senate and was before the Assembly’s Ways and Means Committee. The measure is expected to pass the Assembly and be signed by Gov. Cuomo.
The study, which is expected to be completed and its findings released on June 30, is to include a detailed review of the fiscal and economic impacts of the bill.
Another legislative priority covered at the legislative meetings was HGAR’s opposition to any increase in mortgage recording or transfer taxes in the New York City/Hudson Valley region.
HGAR strongly opposes a proposal by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York State Legislature to impose a “New York City” real estate transfer tax of an additional 2.5% on the sale of properties valued at more than $2 million. This increase is in addition to the current “mansion tax,” which imposes an additional 1% tax on the transfer of a home that sells for $1 million or more. Levying additional taxes on real estate will curb real estate transfers, reduce tax revenues and negatively impact the economy, HGAR contends.
The association advocated for mandate relief by enacting the “Let New York Work” agenda. HGAR also seeks to extend the 2% property tax cap, which has saved $7.6 billion in taxpayer dollars, according to the Empire Center.
Specific legislation addressed by the HGAR contingent also included the support of the “Transparency and Disclosure in Cooperative Housing” bill that requires co-op boards to give reasons in writing to an applicant, and establish reasonable time frames for co-op boards to act on applications. Rockland County Executive Ed Day recently signed legislation requiring a 45-day time frame for a co-op board to make a decision on an applicant and urged the County Legislature to enact legislation requiring co-op boards to provide a reason for a denial of an applicant in a timely fashion. Westchester County is currently considering legislation that would require a timely decision by co-op boards as well as notification of the reasons behind an applicant’s denial.
HGAR also indicated to lawmakers its support of a bill that would increase the threshold of the Mansion Tax by having it triggered to the Consumer Price Index. HGAR also supports a bill that would impose vested rights for property owners. The association also indicated its opposition to state lawmakers on legislation that 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.
HGAR is also supporting legislation sponsored by State Assemblywoman Paulin of Scarsdale that would require municipalities to maintain a consistent set of rules throughout a construction project, except in reasonable instances.
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. Violators would be subject to a monetary fine, license suspension or license revocation at the discretion of the New York State Secretary of State. HGAR opposes what it calls “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 stated.
The Lobby Day program began with a welcome address by NYSAR President CJ DelVecchio, followed by remarks from New York State Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-13) of North Shore, Long Island, a sponsor of a bill that would foster transparency and disclosure in cooperative housing transactions. NYSAR Director of Government Affairs Mike Kelly also provided an update on the status of NYSAR’s priority legislation.