LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: Realtors Gather in D.C. to Push Pro-Housing Agenda

Philip Weiden | May 2019

An HGAR delegation visited with U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney earlier this month during the NAR Realtors Legislative Meetings to discuss support for HR 5, Housing Equality Act and flood insurance. From left, Theresa Guanill, ERA Insite Realty Services, Ron Garafalo, HGAR 2019 President, Richard Haggerty, HGAR CEO, Katheryn DeClerck, Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty, Leah Caro, Park Sterling Realty and Chair of HGAR Legislative Committee, Theresa Hatton, HGAR Director of Professional Development and Industry Relations, Pedro Pereira representing HGAR's Ambassador Association from Portugal, U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and Ann Garti, HGAR COO

Thousands of Realtors, including an HGAR contingent led by Legislative Committee Chair Leah Caro and President Ron Garafalo, gathered in Washington D.C. (May 13-17) to meet with their respective members of Congress in the House and Senate. Their meetings centered around the issues currently impacting the real estate industry. Among the topics discussed were mortgage debt forgiveness on short sales, passing the equality act, which would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of protected classes, reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program and reinstating the full deduction for state and local taxes.

The National Flood Insurance Program is set to lapse if Congress does not extend government funding. If this happened thousands of home sales across the country every month would be stalled or possibly fall through. Realtors are lobbying for a long-term extension of this program, which is crucial to the housing market. A full five-year reauthorization would allow potentially less expensive private plans to compete for this segment of the business and bring long-term certainty to the market in flood prone areas.

Mortgage debt forgiveness is needed to keep short sales from falling into foreclosures and to recognize the fact that homeowners in a short sale position do not have the cash to pay taxes on that portion of the debt that is “forgiven.” If not, reauthorized people may simply walk away from the affected properties contributing to declines in property condition and values in their neighborhoods. This is a temporary measure until New York has fully recovered from the great recession.

Reinstating the SALT cap is critical to the tri-state area and the lower Hudson Valley in particular. A recent decline in high-end home sales is being attributed to the SALT cap and this situation could continue if action is not taken. Realtors pressed for reinstatement of the deduction for state and local taxes when they met with our members of Congress. New York faces a continued decline in state tax revenue if this is not rectified.

Finally, the House of Representatives passed the equality act, which is landmark legislation that would add gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of protected classes. We urge the Senate to pass this legislation and the President to sign it.

Stay tuned for updates on these issues.

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