After throwing out the legislative playbook just weeks into 2020 due to the pandemic, it was back to full steam ahead for our advocacy goals this year.
And 2021 was not for the weary in Washington.
The year began with a sixth major COVID relief bill, the American Rescue Plan. The bill continued policies supported by the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) that protected our members’ health and economic well-being, including benefits for sole proprietors, the self-employed, small business owners and independent contractors.
The bill also included new measures like aid for state and local governments, expanded child tax credits and another $21 billion in rental assistance.
Congress spent most of the year debating President Biden’s Build Back Better infrastructure plans.
In November, a traditional public works bill became law, filled with longtime NAR priorities like investments in roads, bridges, ports, airports, roadways and a historic $65 billion for broadband.
At the time of this writing, a second social spending infrastructure plan is advancing in Congress. Some of the earliest tax proposals to pay for this plan could have devastated the real estate sector, which makes up nearly one-fifth of the entire economy.
We worked to educate lawmakers on these tax issues for more than a year.
When House leaders finally unveiled the bill in October, it did not include the most-feared taxes and limits on real estate investment. It contained no 1031 like-kind exchange limits, no capital gains tax increases, no change in step-up in basis, no tax on unrealized capital gains, no increased estate tax, no carried interest provisions and no 199A deduction limits. But it did include SALT relief.
Also included, a robust investment in affordable housing, which is critical to opening up homeownership for first-generation and first-time buyers.
NAR CEO Bob Goldberg joined other housing leaders and members of Congress at the U.S. Capitol for a press conference in support of these affordable housing measures.
While Bob headed to the Capitol, NAR President Charlie Oppler headed to the White House with other business leaders to meet with President Biden on the debt ceiling. The very next day, Congress struck a deal to avoid a catastrophic default.
Another major focus of our advocacy efforts has been addressing the housing supply shortage. Earlier this year, NAR released a landmark report that confirmed that the shortage of 6 million units is a crisis that will take a “once-in-a-generation” policy response.
The media cited our report far and wide, garnering millions of impressions. And it also impressed lawmakers to act.
Our policy recommendations began making appearances in infrastructure plans.
It was also a standout year for NAR’s Community Outreach Programs, as 263 state and local REALTOR® associations received support for advocacy efforts in 2021.
There are success stories nationwide. A Fair Housing Grant helped the Birmingham Association of REALTORS® highlight fair housing issues at a hybrid summit. The Fredericksburg Area Association of REALTORS® used a smart growth poll to create a regional growth and housing action plan. And in northern Idaho, a Placemaking Grant helped the Selkirk Association of REALTORS® support the development of an ADA-compliant trail.
We have other regulatory and legislative accomplishments this year as well, like work protecting independent contractor status and progress on remote online notarization—too many to list in this space.
There is no other trade association in Washington like NAR for one reason: our members. We don’t represent an industry; we represent 1.5 million individuals. They are thoughtful, engaged pillars of their communities. Our advocacy operation is successful because of them. It is bipartisan and issue focused.
Our members played a vital role in the nation’s economic resilience this year and will help lead our economy in the years to come.
Shannon McGahn is chief advocacy officer for the National Association of REALTORS®.