Last year did not turn out the way anyone could have imagined as we met for New Year’s Eve parties and watched the ball drop in Times Square on the final day of 2019. Today, it still feels as though we are months away from gathering with lots of close friends and family, let alone seeing a mass of people huddled together outside celebrating anything.
Like everyone else, the advocacy team of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) had a plan heading into 2020. That plan, though, changed dramatically when our world turned upside down in the span of just a few days last March, and we quickly snapped into action in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Throughout the year, our lobbying efforts helped secure access to Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, paid sick and family leave, Economic Injury Disaster Loans and direct stimulus payments, among other critical relief measures for our 1.4 million members. With less than a week remaining in 2020, a final COVID relief bill was signed into law. NAR’s advocacy team worked through the holidays to ensure billions in funding for rental assistance, broadband and expanded small business loans crossed the finish line.
In all, five major coronavirus relief bills were signed into law during 2020, totaling nearly $4 trillion—the largest economic rescue event in American history. NAR was involved with each one, sending more than 100 letters to Congressional leaders.
With one in five NAR members reporting to have taken a PPP loan, it’s safe to say that the real estate industry would have been crippled without this program. Instead, REALTORS® survived the storm, and now, the residential industry is thriving as it continues to lead in America’s economic recovery.
Fallout from the pandemic will likely be felt for years, and we surely haven’t seen the last of COVID in Congress. We enter 2021 with continued resolve to fight for relief, but we are also determined to work on behalf of REALTORS® for many other priorities. In the months to come, NAR plans to advocate for tax incentives for homeownership and construction of affordable housing, preserving the critical 1031 like-kind exchange, protecting housing providers and commercial real estate, and fighting for more inclusive national housing policy.
We know that all NAR members—and everyone in this country—benefit when our housing market is free, fair, transparent and efficient. And, as the largest trade association in the world, NAR is committed to using our voice to champion efforts that will combat and eliminate discrimination in America’s real estate industry. Those efforts include partnering with lawmakers in Washington to secure more equitable public policy while also promoting NAR’s implicit bias training videos, our recently released interactive fair housing simulation trainings and our constantly evolving member-oriented anti-discrimination initiatives, both to maximize their utility and to encourage other associations to join our fight.
President-elect Joe Biden’s $15,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit proposal could be particularly helpful for minority homebuyers and millennials who have struggled to save for a down payment while juggling student loan payments and relentless housing price growth across the country. These issues enjoy tremendous bipartisan support, and NAR stands ready with strong relationships on both sides of the aisle to lend a hand in moving these important policies forward.
As we learned in 2020, no one knows what a year can bring. But America’s largest trade association is uniquely positioned to respond to whatever may come and deliver results, not just for its members, but for the American consumer and economy.
Shannon McGahn is chief advocacy officer for the National Association of REALTORS®. For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.