GATEWAY PERSPECTIVES: Making Advocacy Local

Richard Haggerty | October 2019

It’s no secret that real estate interests in this area have taken it on the chin for the last couple of years. It started with the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions (SALT) and escalated this year with the expansion of the rent control laws in New York State and the increases in the mansion tax and transfer tax in New York City. Not only are these policies harming the real estate industry, they will also harm the economy as a whole, discouraging investment in housing, especially multi-family housing.

In my article last month in Real Estate In-Depth, I discussed HGAR’s new strategic plan which is the road map we will be following for the next three years, and I discussed that the plan has five planks or “pillars:” advocacy, leadership, professional development, engagement, and success. In this column I’d like to focus on advocacy, which from my perspective may be the most vital of the pillars.

In the strategic plan there are five initiatives under the advocacy pillar:

1. Develop REALTOR leadership to advocate for and collaborate with the public, consumers, and other allied organizations to protect real property rights through legislative and other means.

2. Advocate for REALTOR issues at national, state and local levels.

3. Communicate the value of REALTORS to consumers.

4. Support and promote our communities and neighborhoods.

5. Champion Fair Housing

These initiatives layout a different approach to advocacy. The days of solely relying on face-to-face meetings with our representatives at the local, state and federal levels discussing the importance of real property ownership to our economy are over. We now have politicians who paint all housing advocates with the same brush, billionaire investors who are out to take advantage of the little guy, fat cat landlords who care less about their tenants. We know that is not the actual reality—but that is the tale that many politicians are spinning.

So what path do we take going forward? I believe we take the path of developing extensive grass roots relationships with consumer groups, neighborhood associations and not for profit housing advocates—finding those areas of common concern and common ground. I think we approach our politicians at the local level, meeting with them not just as housing advocates, but also as constituents with deep connections and concerns for the neighborhoods in which we live. As Leah Caro, the 2019 Legislative Council Chair reminded me recently, real estate is local and politics is also local.

Also, on a local level, this week we learned that Nita Lowey, a Congresswoman that has represented New York’s lower Hudson Valley since 1989, is retiring at the end of her term in 2020. I could go on and on about the Congresswoman, who was always a staunch Realtor ally and advocate for private property rights. If there was an issue concerning real estate that she had questions about, she’d call us. If there was an issue that we had as housing advocates concerning a proposed policy at the federal level, we could reach out to her and get an immediate response.

From left, WCBR’s Richard Haggerty, JP Endres, (the late) Henry Fries and Luz Monsalve med with Rep. Lowey at her DC office in 2005
From left, WCBR’s Richard Haggerty, Michael Graessle, John Kope, P. Gilbert Mercurio, Henry Fries, and Ralph Ragette met with the Congresswoman at her DC office in 2012

She was and is a strong opponent to the cap on the SALT deductions. The bottom line is Nita Lowey is a class act, a fierce advocate for her constituents and, when necessary a pragmatist who realizes that sometimes you have to compromise for the greater good.

Nita Lowey was on hand for HGAR’s new White Plains office opening in 2016
U.S Rep. Lowey meets with Realtors in 2017

Thank you, Congresswoman Lowey for your decades of service! Your voice in Washington, DC and your passion on behalf of your constituents in the Hudson Valley will be missed!!

Richard Haggerty
HGAR CEO