NAR's Ventrone: Divided Government Could Result in Better Policy

November 10, 2020

Political tensions are running high after a close, heated presidential election, but a government that’s not controlled by one party could be good for real estate, because many of the issues that benefit the industry are bipartisan issues, said Joe Ventrone, the National Association of REALTORS®’ vice president of federal policy and industry relations, on Monday at the Conventional Financing & Policy Committee meeting during the virtual 2020 REALTORS® Conference & Expo.

The session provided some important insights in advance of NAR’s Town Hall Election Analysis and 2021 Forecast. The Nov. 11 town hall will feature NAR Chief Advocacy Officer Shannon McGahn and political consultant Doug Sosnik, who will discuss how the election results could affect the housing industry in 2021.

With the state counts from the Nov. 7 election nearly complete, results are showing a government in which lawmakers from both sides of the aisle will have to work together to get new policies moving forward under a President-elect Joe Biden, Republican-controlled Senate, and Democratic-controlled House. (Two runoff elections in Georgia will determine in January whether Republicans keep their majority in the Senate.)

A divided government does not necessarily result in gridlock, Ventrone said. “You can still produce a lot of good legislation because it’ll be bipartisan,” he said. “Any good legislation cannot be driven solely by one political party.” He cited previous legislation, such as the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (which was Republican-driven) and the Affordable Care Act, also called “Obamacare” (Democratic-driven), as examples of partisan legislation that has been contested by the different parties.

While NAR does not take a position in presidential elections, the panelists all offered after-the-fact observations, based on decades of observation.

NAR’s advocacy work will center on bringing both parties to the middle to move several housing priorities forward under new administrations, such as rental assistance and government-sponsored enterprise reform, Ventrone said.

NAR will press for several issues in its 2021 advocacy efforts, such as real estate’s continued representation in another stimulus bill containing pandemic-related aid. NAR will continue to advocate for the inclusion of small businesses and independent contractors in any renewed pandemic-relief assistance for the Paycheck Protection Program or unemployment insurance. The association is also very hopeful for rental assistance to be included in the next phase of a stimulus bill.

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, calling up its authority in the name of public health, ordered an eviction moratorium to prevent landlords from evicting certain renters nationwide for the remainder of the year. NAR, along with other housing groups, have voiced concern about the moratorium. While the rule may temporarily assist struggling renters, it fails to help landlords who must still pay their mortgage and other obligations on properties, they argue.

NAR continues to advocate for rental assistance for the nation’s landlords. Watch a video with more on the background on the eviction moratorium and NAR’s position.

NAR will also be closely watching in 2021 the possibility of a $15,000 first-time home buyer tax credit, which President-elect Biden has touted as part of his tax plan. Biden has called for a creation of a new refundable tax credit of up to $15,000 for eligible first-time home buyers. The credit could be collected when a home is purchased rather than later at tax return filing time. Another issue in Biden’s tax plan that NAR also will closely monitor: Income earners over $400,000 could be denied use of 1031 like-kind exchanges. “That is a problem area that our commercial side is working on, to educate Congress on the benefits of 1031 like-kind exchanges,” Ventrone said.

NAR will also continue to address racial equality and closing the minority homeownership gap in 2021, he said. One initiative in that direction will be the Nov. 18 introduction of Fairhaven, NAR's new simulation training for overcoming bias, at https://fairhaven.realtor.

Other issues that NAR’s advocacy team is hopeful to move forward on in 2021:

  • GSE reform: NAR plans to continue to advocate for GSE reform. The Conventional Financing & Policy Committee created a video that breaks down GSE reform and NAR’s position. The committee says that educating members about the secondary mortgage market is key to moving forward on any changes. Watch the video.
  • SALT marriage penalty: NAR also will continue to advocate for changes to SALT deduction limits that were outlined in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. The SALT cap currently provides the same $10,000 limit for both single and joint filers. NAR supports legislation to eliminate a marriage penalty by doubling the SALT deduction cap to $20,000 for joint returns.
  • Infrastructure: Ventrone said NAR’s advocacy team is encouraged by the House, which recently showed willingness to move forward on infrastructure issues. In July, NAR sent a letter of support for H.R. 2, which includes investment in surface transportation and mass transit, broadband access, water infrastructure, affordable housing, and more. “We’re hopeful for more opportunities on infrastructure,” Ventrone said.

For more on the federal issues NAR will prioritize in 2021, tune in to the town hall session on Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. CT during the 2020 REALTORS® Conference & Expo.