During the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C., from May 13-19, 2019, members will advance public policy issues important to the real estate industry through Capitol Hill and federal regulatory agency visits, special issues forums and committee meetings.
NAR policy committees are constantly monitoring legislative and regulatory issues. Additionally, a wide-ranging public policy survey of members, and political intelligence from NAR’s Advocacy Group, guide and direct the development of the 2019 Federal Advocacy Agenda. The highlights are listed below:
National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)
Flood insurance is required for a mortgage in more than 20,000 communities nationwide, and the NFIP is set to expire on May 31, 2019. NAR will urge Congress to pass a long-term reauthorization of the NFIP with meaningful reforms that open the door to private flood insurance and modernize flood mapping and mitigation investments. While there is a growing private market for flood insurance, millions of small businesses and homeowners currently depend on the NFIP to protect their property against flooding, the most costly and common natural disaster in the United States. Without flood insurance, property owners would have to rely on the federal government for taxpayer-funded disaster relief after major floods.
Tax Extenders and Tax Indexing
NAR supports a permanent extension of the tax exclusion on mortgage-debt forgiveness. NAR is monitoring the implementation of Opportunity Zones (OZ) and working to ensure that the rules implementing the new OZs fulfill their promises. The current provisions that cap the Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) loan limit at $750K, the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction at $10K, and the maximum exclusion amounts for gain on sale of a principal residence ($250K/$500K) should be indexed to protect against future inflation. NAR also supports ending the marriage penalty in the SALT deduction cap. Currently, single filers and married couples are subject to the same $10K cap.
Access to Credit
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac play key roles in the secondary mortgage market, which is crucial in providing capital for mortgage lending. NAR supports reforms to the housing finance system that ensure mortgage capital is available in all markets at all times, and under all economic conditions. Bipartisan congressional action is key to securing an explicit government guarantee that protects the availability of long-term, fixed-rate mortgage products (i.e., 30-year fixed-rate mortgage). NAR’s vision for comprehensive reform supports replacing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with government-chartered authority(ies) subject to strong regulatory oversight and accountability while minimizing taxpayer risk by encouraging private capital investment. The new entity(ies) will retain portfolio practices, emphasizing that the underlying mission continues to meet the needs of Middle America and underserved borrowers through a robust, competitive market.
For more than 100 years, REALTORS® have subscribed to a strict Code of Ethics. In Jan. 2014, an amendment to Article 10 of the Code of Ethics expanded protection against discrimination to include sexual orientation or gender identity. REALTORS® are proud to lead the way toward greater equality in housing opportunities and urge Congress to adopt sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in the Fair Housing Act.
Federal Mortgage Programs
NAR believes that federal mortgage finance programs such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and the Rural Housing Service (RHS) occupy a critical role in the nation’s housing finance system. These federal agencies ensure access to mortgage credit that’s available to all Americans; in particular, groups traditionally underserved by the private market, including low- to moderate-income, minority and first-time homebuyers. NAR continues to support proposals to preserve and strengthen these programs.
There’s a lot to accomplish this Congress, and REALTORS® have the resources and resolve necessary to promote and protect the ability of Americans to own, buy and sell real property.
Shannon McGahn is the senior vice president of Government Affairs for the National Association of REALTORS®. This column is brought to you by the NAR Real Estate Services group. For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.