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Call-for-Action Successful in Urging the U.S. Senate to Pass H.R. 3700

On July 15, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed House Resolution 3700, the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016. The bill received unanimous passage by the U.S. House months ago but languished in the U.S. Senate. In mid June, the National Association of REALTORS® launched a Call-for-Action (CFA) to spur movement in the Senate.

Nearly 140,000 REALTORS® from across the nation contacted their Senators, encouraging them to get to work for future homebuyers by passing H.R. 3700. Georgia’s grassroots resulted in almost 4,000 members participating in the CFA and we applaud the efforts of our members which had a successful impact on moving this legislation forward. Additionally, GAR commends the leadership of REALTOR® Champion, Senator Johnny Isakson, who became a co-sponsor of the bill and fought strongly for its passage.

House Resolution 3700 will implement much needed reforms to the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) condo loan program, easing access to lending and expand market entry to consumers that cannot afford a single-family residence. REALTOR® related components of the legislation include:

  • Reducing the FHA condo owner occupancy ratio to 35%.

  • Directing the FHA to streamline the condo re-certification process.

  • Provide more flexibility for mixed use buildings.

  • Mirror the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s  (FHFA) rules regarding private transfer fees for FHA condo lending.

  • Provide permanent authority for direct endorsement for approved lenders to approve Rural Housing Service (RHS) loans.

Condominiums account for about nine percent of the housing inventory, yet make up only 4.1 percent of the FHA’s portfolio. The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act provides common-sense reform to expand housing options and saves taxpayers money through the promotion of more efficient agency practices. The CFA united the REALTOR® voice and together, passed measures that will support the real estate industry and the business of our members.

July 26 Primary Runoffs Officially Elect Party Nominees

On July 26, Georgia held hotly contested Primary Runoff elections around the state. The Georgia REALTORS® performed Independent Expenditures (IE) for two of the races, which included Chairman of the Cobb County Commissioners and State Representative for House District 6. Independent Expenditures are campaign resources available to state and local associations from NAR, useful in performing polling, direct mailers, robocalls, get-out-the-vote calls, online advertising and other campaign services.

The Atlanta REALTORS® Association (ARA) performed an IE to support Tim Lee for Cobb County Chairman. Lee faced two-time challenger, retired Marine Colonel Mike Boyce. The Cobb Chamber of Commerce, the Council for Quality Growth and other community and business organizations united with the REALTORS® to rally behind Lee. Ultimately, these campaign efforts proved unsuccessful and Tim Lee conceded defeat to Mike Boyce. Boyce was successful in securing 64% of the vote and faces no Democratic opposition in the November General Election.

Additionally, the Carpet Capital Board of REALTORS® performed an IE for District 6 Representative Tom Dickson. Tom has been a friend to the REALTORS® since 2005 and a strong supporter of private property rights. In the end, challenger Jason Ridley, proved victorious in the runoff garnering 54% of the votes.

The primary for the Congressional District 3 race between State Senator Mike Crane and West Point Mayor Drew Ferguson, proved victorious for Ferguson, with a 54 to 46 percent margin. Ferguson will face Democratic opponent, Angela Pendley, in the November General Election.

October 11 is the deadline for Georgians to register to vote in order to be eligible to cast their ballot in the November election. Registering is simple and can often be completed online through the Georgia Secretary of State’s website. As advocates for the REALTOR® Party, we encourage all of our members to register and to support REALTOR® champions in the upcoming election.

GAR Hires Jeff Ledford as New Director of Governmental Affairs

The Georgia REALTORS® are proud and fortunate to welcome Jeff Ledford as the new Director of Governmental Affairs. Jeff brings with him twenty-three years of experience in state government, having formerly served as Georgia’s Real Estate Commissioner from 2007-2011, as an analyst for the Georgia Ethics Commission, and most recently, as Director of State Initiatives for the Georgia Department of Economic Development.

The Director of Governmental Affairs position became available, when predecessor John Barbour, accepted an offer to lobby for the Independent Insurance Agents of Georgia. John has been a valued staff member of GAR and instrumental part of the Governmental Affairs Team for almost nine years. GAR is grateful for the contribution he has made to the Association during his tenure, ensuring that the Georgia REALTORS® are the most powerful force at the State Capitol.

We are excited to begin a new chapter under Jeff’s leadership, confident that he has the professional experience and keen insight to continue navigating GAR’s successful political influence.

Jeff is a graduate of Georgia State University, where he studied Political Science. He and his wife Lisa reside with their family in Kennesaw. Jeff assumed the position of Director of Governmental Affairs on August 1 and can be reached at jledford@garealtor.com. Please join us in welcoming Jeff to the Georgia REALTOR® family!

REALTORS® Successfully Defend REALTOR® Party Champions in May Primary Elections

In the 2016 May primaries, the Georgia REALTORS® performed Independent Expenditures for fourteen candidates, proving highly effective for thirteen of the state races. An Independent Expenditure (IE) is a campaign resource available to state and local associations from NAR. IEs serve as an added tool to provide campaign services in the form of polling, direct mailers, robocalls, get-out-the-vote calls, online advertising and other promotional efforts. These campaign tactics improve name recognition and advocacy communication in an election for a particular candidate, at zero cost to the individual that is being supported. As the name suggest, IEs must be conducted in total separation from the candidate, with absolutely no contact or coordination with them or associates of their campaign.

GAR successfully engaged in bipartisan support of REALTOR® Champions for races in both the State House and Senate. With committee approval, we were able to assist members of the General Assembly that have proven to be REALTOR® Champions, which included:

These legislators have stepped up to demonstrate they are staunch defenders of private property rights and free enterprise when it comes to issues of interest to GAR at the Capitol. Of the fourteen candidates, twelve won their primaries and one is in a run-off on July 26. We were proud to see these candidates secure their nomination and advance on to the General Election in November. Local boards that are interested in conducting an IE for a future local or state race are encouraged to contact GAR’s Governmental Affairs Department for more information.

NAR Issues Call-for-Action for House Resolution 3700

The National Association of REALTORS® has issued a Call-for-Action to urge the U.S. Senate to take up and pass House Resolution 3700, the Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016. H.R. 3700 received unanimous passage by the U.S. House of Representatives and was an official talking point during NAR’s Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C. this past May.

House Resolution 3700 seeks to implement much needed reforms to the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) condo loan program that would ease access to lending and expand market entry to consumers that cannot afford a single-family residence. Prospective buyers of condos are typically first-time homebuyers, retirees and lower-income earners.

Condominiums account for about nine percent of the housing inventory, yet make up only 4.1 percent of the FHA’s portfolio. FHA approved condo loans require that commercial space is limited to 25 percent (which includes parking garages) and that no less than 50 percent of condo units are owner occupied. These stringent parameters often limit an eligible buyer’s selection of properties. Additional provisions of the bill would authorize the Rural Housing Service (RHS) use of local endorsement lenders to approve RHS loans. Such authorization would expedite the approval process and alleviate agency burdens. Over the course of five years, the Congressional Budget Office projects that H.R. 3700 will reduce government spending by $311 million. The Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act provides common-sense reform to expand housing options and saves taxpayers money through the promotion of more efficient agency practices.

GAR encourages all of our members who have not yet taken action to send the message to our Senators that we want H.R 3700 to be passed. Submitting your CFA will help unite the REALTOR® voice and push GAR closer to our 20 percent (4,626 members) goal. To view your local board’s participation rate, click here. This CFA will remain active until July 18. We will continue to monitor and update members on the progress of this important piece of legislation that aims to strengthen the real estate industry and federal housing programs. For more information, view the links below.

Governor Nathan Deal Signs Top Priority Bills for GAR

The 2016 Legislative Session was very successful for Georgia REALTORS® and several of our top priority bills were signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal. Highlighted below are GAR’s most notable pieces of legislation that were approved by the governor.

House Bill 869 (Rep. Alan Powell) With the implementation of the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure Rule (TRID), real estate agents and brokers are no longer guaranteed access to closing statements for each transaction, placing REALTORS® at risk of legal liability if the law was not changed.HB 869 clarifies that real estate brokers are only required to maintain copies of closing statements if it was provided to the licensee. Also incorporated is a modification that brokers are only required to review accepted offers rather than all offers and listing contracts, including those that were immediately rejected. Effective July 1, 2016

Senate Bill 206 (Sen. William Ligon) Prior to Senator Bill 206, water suppliers were not required to properly file and record water liens, resulting in unexpected costs at the closing table. This bill mandates that a water supplier provide a notice of outstanding debt within ten days to any real estate agent, closing attorney, owner, tenant, or lender that issues a request for such information. Failure by the water supplier to provide a notice within ten days will cause unpaid charges on the lien to be extinguished, preventing the water supplier from denying service. Effective April 26, 2016

House Bill 773 (Rep. Penny Houston) Under the provisions of House Bill 773, the Georgia Housing and Finance Authority will receive an increase in its outstanding bond limit from $1.3 billion to $3 billion that will fund the Georgia Dream Homeownership Program (GDHP). The previous bond limit was set over 20 years ago in 1993, so enacting this measure provides a much needed update. The GDHP makes first-time homeownership possible for Georgians who meet eligible income requirements. Effective April 26, 2016

GAR is proud that all three bills have a direct and positive impact upon the everyday business of our members. Listed below are our other top priority bills that were signed by the governor, which will strengthen the protection of property owners, REALTORS®, and consumers.

  • House Bill 51 (Rep. Tommy Benton) Change Provisions to Redemption of Property Sold for Taxes Effective July 1, 2016

  • House Bill 935 (Rep. Brett Harrell) Provide Freeport Exemption for E-Commerce Facilities Effective July 1, 2016

  • House Bill 1025 (Rep. Tom Taylor) Change Provisions Relating to Service of Accusations or Citations Effective July 1, 2016

  • Senate Bill 255 (Sen. Jesse Stone) Provide Constitutional Protections in Garnishment Proceedings Effective May 12, 2016

  • Senate Bill 258 (Sen. Fran Millar) Prohibit an Increase in Property Valuation Following an Initial Assessment Effective April 26, 2016

Georgia REALTORS® Attend NAR’s Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo

Once again, over 200 Georgia REALTORS® traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the National Association of REALTORS’® 2016 Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo. The week long conference is our National Association’s greatest display of grassroots, offering attendees the opportunity to directly lobby U.S. Representatives of the Georgia Delegation. Thanks to ardent preparation by our members, all 14 meetings provided a productive exchange of information to our Members of Congress (MOC) to elevate the national platform of REALTORS®. Having members engage with their congressmen as constituents, while also serving as experts in the field, does a great deal to encourage congressional support on policy that will enhance the real estate industry.

2016 talking points included expanding access to housing, ensuring affordable mortgage financing, providing access to privatized flood insurance, and upholding real estate related tax policies. Additionally, petition letters signed by thousands of constituents urging the preservation of the mortgage interest deduction (MID) were supplied to our MOC. Although legislation has not been introduced that specifically caps or eliminates the MID at the federal level, tax reform is likely to receive serious examination in 2017. When the conversation of tax reform is initiated, all tax credits and exemptions will run the risk of being eliminated, including the MID, property tax deductions, and like-kind exchanges. REALTORS® want to ensure that Congress understands the vital contribution homeownership makes to the economy and we will continue to educate our Congressional delegation on the importance of preserving housing related tax policies.

Concluding our Capitol Hill visits, members were invited to attend GAR’s Legislative Reception. We were honored to have Senator Johnny Isakson attend the event to provide remarks on the importance of sound real estate policy to support continued economic recovery. Members also had the pleasure of meeting with Senator David Perdue earlier that morning at his constituent  meet-and-greet. We value the generosity of both Senators’ time and appreciate their commitment to the real estate industry.

Study Committee Created to Examine Vacant Structures

Senator JaNice VanNess of Rockdale has introduced Senate Resolution 1084, which will study vacant structures and dwellings that are unfit for human habitation or for commercial, industrial, or business occupancy.

SR 1084 states that vacant and dilapidated real estate structures put the welfare of the public at risk and increase hazards of fire, accidents, or other calamities. Such blighted areas enable the act of drug crimes and adversely affect public health, creating a need for the committee to consider solutions to repair, close, or demolish such structures.

The study committee was introduced after SB 422, which aimed to make it unlawful for a structure left vacant for more than 30 days to be left in a neglected state of disrepair, failed to make it through committee. The REALTORS® are opposed to SB 422, as it is very broadly written and could negatively impact private property rights.

SR 1084 was favorably reported out of the Senate Rules Committee but failed to receive a vote by the full Senate.