PRESIDENT'S CORNER: Your Voice has Power

Anthony Domathoti | May 18, 2022

HGAR President Anthony Domathoti

The American political process not only provides the opportunity for citizen involvement, but good government demands it. It is wise to follow Plato’s analysis: “The punishment of wise men who refuse to take part in the affairs of government is to live under the government of unwise men.”

From the very beginning, Realtors have supported expanding homeownership opportunity, bolstering property owners’ rights and the constructive regulation of the real estate industry. These are our core values. They are also among the primary reasons we have joined together as an association, since there is strength in numbers when we are promoting these issues.

Last week, HGAR joined more than 9,000 Realtors from across the nation in Washington D.C. Our purpose was to further our work with Congress to advance policy initiatives that strengthen the ability of Americans to buy, invest, own and sell commercial and residential real estate. Most importantly, our focus was to improve access to homeownership, increase housing inventory and encourage adaptive reuse of commercial properties.

“We often say our advocacy operation is second to none—and we say that because it’s true, we don’t represent an industry. We represent a profession made up of 1.5 million individuals working every day in their communities to change lives,” said NAR President Leslie Rouda Smith.

Your advocacy efforts are key in helping to shape both state and local laws. Advocacy is the act of taking a position on an issue and sharing that position with someone who can do something about it to bring systemic, lasting change. For those of us seeking to protect homeowner rights and effectuate generational wealth, advocacy is critical to catalyzing policy changes that strengthen security and create housing opportunities for all.

At the New York State level, on Tuesday, May 10, hundreds of Realtors from across the state converged on Albany during NYSAR’s annual Lobby Day to advocate on critical Realtor issues and legislation, including removing the ban on telemarketing during states of emergency, opposition to “Good Cause Eviction” and the All-Electric Building Act, and support for transparency and fairness in cooperative housing.

At HGAR, we advocate for policies that eliminate barriers to homeownership and promote a dynamic, inclusive, and accessible real estate market. Specifically, our advocacy is to expand access to homeownership, strengthen New York’s fair housing laws, promote housing stability, protect real estate licensees, reduce state and local real estate taxes, oppose Good Cause Eviction and remove a technical amendment to telemarketing restrictions allowing buyers and sellers to communicate with real estate professionals during a declared state of emergency. HGAR opposes the imposition of a statewide Good Cause Eviction standard, which would implement impractical and overly restrictive standards and stifle investment in rental housing. It would also impose de facto rent control statewide and prevent a property owner from recovering their property even after a tenant’s lease has expired.

There are many points in the legislative process at which you can become more involved–from the drafting and introduction of a bill to its passage and enactment into law. The importance of getting involved cannot be overstated. Most state legislators know very little about real estate-related issues and the impact they have on people’s lives. They have much to learn from you and other key stakeholders.

I challenge you to do some thinking: where are you in your career journey? What are the skills that make you a unique asset for your clients? For your brokerage? For our association?

We need your voice and skills to shape our industry, and one of the best ways to do that is to re-engage and get involved. After all, our association is only as strong as our members are engaged.

The frequently quoted wise words of Margaret Mead ring true in legislative advocacy… “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Also, remember the old adage, “There is strength in numbers?” It’s not only true in life, but politics as well! While you as an individual can work with legislators for the best interests of your area, the best chance of accomplishing your goals is to collaborate with HGAR by establishing your priorities and advocating for them together.

All advocacy is, at its core, is an exercise in empathy. We, as Realtors, are not wrong to push candidates to declare their position clearly on policy issues. That is good citizenship. Hard questions should be asked of every candidate, every politician., every lawmaker and those public servants should be prepared to answer, but in their own words.

To be an advocate is to have courage, independence and passion for the things that matter. As the good saying goes: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

HGAR was certainly at the forefront of many conversations over the past week, and I was honored to represent our industry and our city in Washington DC and Albany as the current President of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.

It is now more important than ever to be vigilant. Remind our communities of the support we, as Realtors, give. Don’t be afraid to advertise how hard you work for your clients and community. You are the best and I think you deserve the recognition.

No voice is too soft when that voice speaks for others. Your voice has power!

Anthony Domathoti
Anthony Domathoti, AHWD, CRS, C2EX, SRS, ABR, is President of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors and is a licensed Real Estate Broker/Owner of EXIT Realty Premium of the Bronx.