LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: Four Major Issues on Agenda at NAR Meetings

Philip Weiden | May 2018

HGAR leadership and staff will once again be attending the annual NAR Legislative Meetings (May 15-18) to take an active role in advancing legislation and influencing public policy that affects the real estate industry. This year there are four major issues on the agenda.

The first of these issues is net neutrality. HGAR and NAR are urging Congress to enact common sense “rules of the road” that will ensure the Internet is an open, competitive place for consumers and for businesses. Legislation must ensure that Internet service providers may not block, throttle or establish paid prioritization also known as “Internet fast lanes.” It must further require ISPs to be transparent in their network management practices. Frequent regulatory fluctuations are not good for Internet providers or for those who rely on the Internet for business or personal use. It is time for Congress to act.

The second item on the agenda is the national flood insurance program. HGAR thanks members of the House of Representatives for passing H.R. 2874, the 21st Century Flood Reform Act, that would comprehensively reform and reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program. We are urging the Senate to take up H.R. 2874 immediately to avoid a program lapse on July 31st, 2018.

The third item on the agenda is tax policy. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, enacted in December 2017, made significant changes to the treatment of residential real estate. Due to NAR’s lobbying efforts some of the potentially harmful provisions were not enacted. As we move toward implementation of the law, it is clear that Congress has more work to do to address significant tax law problems that unfairly inhibit current and prospective homeowners.

Realtors need to remind members of Congress and their staffs that healthy real estate markets are key to sustained economic growth. Additionally, many benefits come to society, communities and families from sound tax policies that encourage homeownership and real estate investment. Realtors should urge Congress to extend the mortgage debt forgiveness exclusion in 2018 and beyond, which helps homeowners with short sales that are vulnerable to paying tax on forgiven mortgage debt. The deduction for energy-efficient commercial buildings (179D) also has not been extended to cover 2018. We urge Congress to take action on that issue.

The final issue on the agenda is fair housing. For more than 100 years Realtors have subscribed to a strict Code of Ethics. This Code includes a commitment to provide equal and professional, services regardless of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, national origin and as of 2009, sexual orientation and as of 2014, gender identity. Realtors are proud to lead the way toward greater equality in housing opportunities. We now urge Congress to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes under federal fair housing law.

Philip Weiden
Legislative Affairs columnist Philip Weiden is the Government Affairs Director for the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.