We Helped Steady the Economy
A series of legislative wins has bolstered real estate, but the pressure is
on to stay vigilant for the arrival of a new administration and Congress.
Over the past eight years, the White
House and Congress frequently looked
to REALTORS® to help get the economy
through the worst downturn since the
1930s. National Association of
REALTORS® Chief Lobbyist Jerry Gio
vaniello talked with REALTOR® Magazine
about how the real estate industry has
fared since then and what to expect in
the year ahead.
What were REALTORS®’ most important victories in Washington since
2008? The single most important
accomplishment was the home buyer
tax credit to help households buy a home
while the economy was still recovering.
We worked with Congress to pass that
credit four times.
Second was the creation of the Con
sumer Financial Protection Bureau, which
is intended to help protect households
from unscrupulous practices in the
financial services industry. Importantly,
we were left out of the agency’s juris
diction. Lawmakers debated whether to
include the real estate industry as well as
the mortgage and banking industries. We
made sure we were left out of that equa
tion. That was a quiet but huge win for us.
And then there’s protection of Fannie
Mae and Freddie Mac. After they were put
into federal conservatorship, Congress
introduced a bill to eliminate them, which
we opposed. Their role is too important to
the purchase and transfer of property. It
fell to REALTORS® to explain to Congress
how important they are to the economy
after the conservator eliminated their
government affairs operations.
How has advocacy on behalf of
REALTORS® changed over the last sev-
eral years? One of the most important
changes is that 50 to 60 percent of mem
bers of Congress are new. They are not
as acquainted as they should be with why
we have federal incentives for home own
ership and real estate investment, such
as the mortgage interest deduction, the
deduction for state and local real estate
taxes, and various commercial incen
tives. We’ve had to start from scratch to
tell them that these are incentives agreed
to by the American people—in some
cases for 100 years—to promote home
ownership and build strong communities.
Looking ahead, we’ll have a new president and a new Congress. What will
be the big issues for REALTORS®? We
have to be prepared for a perfect storm
that might be coming in 2017: tax reform,
reauthorization of the federal flood
insurance program, and the reinvention
of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We’re not
sure where Congress or a new president
is going to be with them. We have to be
vigilant and make sure we educate law
makers and stay tough.
Lawmakers have long noted that NAR
has one of the strongest advocacy
programs in Washington. How did
REALTORS® get to that position?
Members of Congress look to
REALTORS® as a community resource.
What businesses are opening? Where are
housing prices? Is transportation work
ing? Congress knows that REALTORS®
are active in their community. They’re not
going to be transferred to, say, a regional
REALTOR® center like a banker might be
transferred to a regional banking center.
By Robert Freedman R E
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