U.S. Lawmakers: We Need REALTORS® to Help Us Recover

May 14, 2020

James Clyburn (left) Tim Scott (right)

Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.)

Real estate will be essential to the nation’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, two congressional lawmakers said Wednesday during the virtual 2020 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and Sen. Tim Scott, both of South Carolina, said at the General Session that because homeownership is a primary means of building wealth, expanding access for buyers will be crucial for helping Americans recover financially from the current crisis. “I believe that the foundation upon which this democracy is built and people thrive is homeownership,” Clyburn said. “The real estate community ought to get creative and think about ways that tools can be created so that families can begin to build wealth early.”

The lawmakers thanked REALTORS® for their steadfast support of two major issues facing current and prospective homeowners today: access to broadband internet and remote online notarization. Lack of internet access in rural communities especially hinders schoolchildren who are now reliant on home computers for remote learning, Clyburn noted. This issue could stifle homeownership, dissuading prospective buyers from moving to smaller, more affordable communities around the country, he added.

The National Association of REALTORS® sent a letter to Capitol Hill on Monday calling for increased investment in broadband infrastructure and services. “COVID-19 has created an unprecedented need for reliable and affordable high-speed internet,” NAR President Vince Malta wrote in the letter. “REALTORS® support a comprehensive national policy to stimulate the deployment of broadband, increase data speeds, and lower broadband prices.”

Scott, who worked in the real estate industry before being elected to Congress, called remote notarization—an increasingly important step for completing closings without in-person contact—“the future.” He also noted that activity in many housing markets remains healthy, which speaks to the need for national remote notarization guidelines. The local MLS in his hometown of Charleston, S.C., he said, reported its highest number of contracts on record in the last week. “We’re working to make sure it’s easier for closings to happen” because owning a home means “you have skin in the game of America,” Scott said.

In March, NAR sent a letter to Congress in support of the Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020. The bill would permit immediate nationwide use of RON, with minimum standards, and provide certainty for its interstate recognition.

Clyburn, chair of the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, said the HEROES Act, intended to provide another $75 billion in stimulus funds to Americans, would help homeowners directly. The bill, currently under consideration in the House, would “also protect the livelihoods of teachers, first responders, and other essential workers,” he said. “Direct payments are needed for all Americans to sustain themselves so losing your job doesn’t mean losing your home.”

On a personal note, Clyburn added, “I have interacted with your profession my entire career. You guys have been interconnected with the communities in which I work. Though I admire you professionally, I appreciate you personally.”