It’s was a busy week at the National Association of Realtors® Legislative Meetings in Washington, D.C. last week. President Donald Trump spoke to Realtors® on Friday highlighting his priorities.
Pennsylvania Realtors® met with 18 members of Congress and/or their staffs last week to outline some of NAR’s priority issues. They also talked about Realtors® and the important role we play in our communities.
Some of the federal legislative issues discussed included:
Federal taxes and real estate
Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 was enacted, many changes affect residential and commercial real estate, as well as Realtors®. One of the most significant changes, which NAR worked tirelessly to prevent, was the change that made it difficult for most homeowners to take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction on their federal income taxes. Prior to the legislation, one out of three homeowners were able to itemize deductions on their taxes and take advantage the mortgage interest deduction, compared to now, with one in eight homeowners being eligible to take advantage of the tax deduction. NAR is working to determine if there needs to be a new policy that creates incentives for homeownership and a committee at NAR is working to develop a policy on this issue.
National Flood Insurance Program
The NFIP is set to expire on May 31. It’s anticipated that Congress will reauthorize a short-term extension. NAR reports that there has been ongoing work to reform the program, including modernizing flood mapping and mitigation investments. Some of the proposed changes reflect concerns expressed by NAR during testimony.
Association Health Plans
NAR continues to work with federal and state legislators to expand access to Association Health Plans and more affordable health insurance options for real estate professionals. Congress may have to clarify and codify some regulatory provisions in order to address conflicting state laws and enforcement, as well as recent litigation by the Pennsylvania attorney general and 11 other state attorneys general. NAR representatives met with government officials last week at the White House urging support for association health plans. NAR specifically highlighted one Pennsylvania Realtor® who reported she is paying 25% of her gross income to pay for health insurance. If you have stories to share about your experience with health insurance, visit ThatsWhoWeR.realtor.
Qualified Opportunity Zones
Established in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, QOZs were created to provide an incentive to invest in economically depressed areas. There are more than 9,000 zones in the U.S., with some located in every state. The Opportunity Zones encourage new business and development by providing significant deferral and exclusions in capital gains. NAR is working to help ensure the rules implementing the new QOZs fulfill their promise.
NAR supports the reform of government-sponsored enterprises, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac creating a government-chartered authority(s) subject to strict regulations, but which will ensure the mission of Fannie and Freddie continue to meet the needs of consumers with taxpayer safeguards. In addition, the future housing finance system must ensure that there is mortgage capital in all markets under all economic conditions and that there is an explicit government guarantee in the secondary market, which should ensure the availability of long term, fixed-rate mortgage products like the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage.
Federal Mortgage Programs
NAR believes that programs administered by the Federal Housing Authority, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Rural Housing Service occupy a critical role in the housing finance system and must be preserved and strengthened. These agencies ensure access to mortgage credit is available, particularly to groups traditionally underserved by the private market, including low to moderate-income, minority and first-time homebuyers.
Fair housing is who we are as Realtors®. NAR supports amendments to the federal Fair Housing Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Nearly a decade ago, NAR’s Code of Ethics was changed to require Realtors® to provide equal professional services without discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
To learn more about NAR’s federal advocacy, visit nar.realtor.