With racial equity at the forefront of American consciousness, the National Association of REALTORS® will focus the bulk of its policy priorities this year on improving equal access to housing, association leaders said Wednesday during NAR 360, a Facebook Live event serving as the unofficial kickoff of the virtual 2021 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings.
Earlier this year, NAR put its efforts into securing favorable real estate provisions in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, a new round of COVID-19 relief legislation. Now the association is turning its attention to closing the widening racial homeownership gap and broadening fair housing protections for the LGBTQ+ community, among other priorities, said Leigh Brown, NAR’s vice president of advocacy. NAR supports policy goals including:
- Spurring more housing supply.
- Providing tax incentives for property ownership.
- Improving access to credit for all Americans.
- Preserving and protecting the 30-year mortgage.
- Helping Americans with student loan debt buy a home.
Even before events in 2020 catapulted racial equity into the heart of the national conversation, NAR reaffirmed its commitment to fair housing through its ACT! Initiative, noted 2021 President-elect Leslie Rouda Smith. The initiative focuses on accountability, culture change, and training in real estate and includes Fairhaven, a fair housing simulation course, and an implicit bias training video. The ACT! initiative “guarantees that our members are leading the nation in our work to secure equal housing opportunity for every American,” Smith said.
Propping Up the Commercial Market
“The residential real estate market is poised to help drive our national recovery, but commercial sectors have been hit hard,” Brown said, adding that NAR is urging Congress to consider reforms that would ease lending restrictions for commercial properties. These include:
- The preservation of community development tools, like 1031 like-kind exchanges and opportunity zones.
- Reauthorizing and reforming the National Flood Insurance Program.
- Protection of the independent contractor status for real estate professionals.
- Infrastructure improvements, such as more investment in broadband, that are vital to building healthy, vibrant communities.
“We know the importance of commercial real estate to our communities in creating jobs, generating sustainable development, and driving homeownership,” said Immediate Past President Vince Malta. “In fact, this pandemic has shone an even greater light on how commercial properties are a cornerstone of vibrant communities.”
Malta said NAR is prioritizing support for commercial members who’ve been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. One indication of that is the recent rollout of more robust commercial listing data for the Realtors Property Resource®. NAR also has developed the C5 Summit, an event launching in New York this September to support networking and education for commercial practitioners. The summit aims to “help members attract and facilitate investment, promoting deals that enhance neighborhoods, create jobs, and revitalize communities,” Malta said.
Investing in the Future of Technology
A bright spot since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the acceleration of “technology acceptance” among real estate pros, said NAR CEO Bob Goldberg. He added that the association’s REACH program—an effort through NAR’s investment arm, Second Century Ventures, to support real estate technology startups—has enabled REALTORS® to learn about new innovations during the pandemic.
NAR also has launched REACH Commercial, REACH Canada, REACH UK, and REACH Australia.
“All of our REACH companies are already well positioned to help the market navigate post-pandemic challenges and revolutionize the future of real estate,” Goldberg said. “This past year has highlighted how organizations of every size will need to innovate, evolve, and adapt in order to succeed in the markets of the future. I’m confident that our members’ resilient spirit has our industry well positioned for the future.”
Despite unimaginable challenges in 2020, REALTORS® are “still in the fight” for property rights, said NAR President Charlie Oppler. “I’m confident we’re headed in the right direction, and I’m optimistic about what lies ahead. I have no doubt that our nation’s path to prosperity is brighter because of your hard work and commitment.”
— Reprinted from REALTOR® Magazine Online, April 2021, with permission of the National Association of REALTORS®. Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.