Who Won the Election This Year? REALTORS®
November 12, 2020
The 2020 election was a big win for REALTORS®. Nearly 840,000—about 53% of NAR’s membership—participated in early voting before Election Day, according to association data. “We know that REALTORS® across the country cast their vote via mail and early voting like never seen before,” Shannon McGahn, NAR’s chief advocacy officer, said Wednesday at the Town Hall Election Analysis and 2021 Forecast during the virtual 2020 REALTORS® Conference & Expo.
NAR supported 83 races nationwide, with 70 wins, six losses, and seven races still to be determined. “The results are we had a great election night,” McGahn said.
She called RPAC the “most bipartisan PAC in the country,” contributing $4 million to individual races, almost evenly supporting Republicans and Democrats across the country. Another $20 million was spent on 12 federal independent expenditures, which largely includes political communications or advertisements.
McGahn highlighted a few key races where REALTORS® saw significant wins: the reelection of Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and Steve Daines (R-Montana), as well as Senator-elect Ben Ray Luján (D-New Mexico).
Another significant milestone is the anticipated record number of women who will serve in the next Congress: 131, up from 127.
Doug Sosnik, NAR consultant and former political adviser, gave an update on the Senate races. For now, Republicans hold a narrow majority in the chamber with a 50 to 48 split. But control of the Senate will come down to two runoffs in Georgia: Democrat Raphael Warnock vs. Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler (appointed) and Democrat Jon Ossoff vs. Republican Sen. David Perdue (incumbent).
Though Georgia has proven itself to be an emerging swing state, Sosnik said Republicans historically have had the advantage. Their campaign messaging will tout a Republican Senate as a check on a Democratic president, he said. “It’s likely that one [party] will win both of the races,” Sosnik said. “If Republicans do win the two seats in Georgia, it would be the first time since 1988 that a newly elected president doesn’t have a Senate of his own party.”
NAR also collaborated with REALTOR® associations to support 285 state and local candidates who made it to the general election showdown. Nearly 200 of them won their races, four are going to a runoff, and 73 lost. A dozen others are still waiting for results. Of the 285 candidates, 70 are REALTORS®, 41 of whom won their races. “Public policy is a marathon, not a sprint,” McGahn said. “Even when you don’t see a win, you are still succeeding in letting the public know about these issues and educating candidates.”
Of the 16 ballot initiatives NAR supported across the country, two significant wins included the passage of Proposition 19 in California, which increases the affordability of property tax rates, and the defeat of Proposition 18 in Utah, which would have restricted development.
“This is the season finale of 2020, and there’s no nice, neat ending. Of course, there’s going to be a cliffhanger,” McGahn said, referencing some of the races that have yet to be called. “This is all par for the course for what we’ve been used to this year, but I think we’ve managed it all very well.”
Democrats will maintain a narrow majority in the House after losing about 10 seats to Republicans. But the slim majorities in both the House and Senate will require more bipartisan compromise than ever, McGahn said. “That’s where REALTORS® come in. We believe centrist policies will best support the communities you serve.”
Fair Housing Policy
In July, the Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from being fired or discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Bryan Greene, NAR’s director of fair housing policy, said that because the Fair Housing Act closely follows employment discrimination law, he expects sexual orientation and gender identity to become federally protected groups when it comes to housing next year. “We know that President-elect Biden has placed an emphasis on racial equity,” Greene said. “I think the first thing we can expect is for the Biden administration to restore some Obama-era rules, several of which were recently scaled back.”
NAR spoke out against the Trump administration’s disparate impact rule, which recently went into effect. Greene said he expects the disparate impact rule to be rolled back and the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which was eliminated this year, to be reinstated. Greene also expects legislation to be introduced that addresses affordable housing and bridges the homeownership gap experienced by African Americans.
President-elect Joe Biden has proposed a first-time home buyer tax credit. Currently, only about one in 10 households can get a tax incentive for buying and owning a home, said Evan Liddiard, NAR’s director of tax policy. “We very much need a tax incentive,” he said. “We look forward to supporting a tax credit for buying a home, and historically, this has been a bipartisan issue, so it has a better chance of being enacted. We can go to work and help make that happen.”
However, Biden has also discussed eliminating 1031 exchanges, which NAR opposes. “We realize this is an education issue,” Liddiard said. “There are many members of Congress and their staff who don’t understand what a 1031 is or what it does.”
The task at hand will be to educate the administration and members of congress on how 1031s benefit the economy and jobs, he said. With the COVID-19 pandemic, 1031s are more valuable than ever because they allow property owners with excess commercial space to convert into another use.
NAR is also researching new tax incentives that could help homebuilders to increase construction. NAR’s Federal Taxation Committee has been looking at ways the federal tax law can support increasing the supply of residential homes, Liddiard said. One idea is to help homeowners facing high capital gains taxes if they sell, thus, making it unaffordable to move. “That keeps homes off the market,” he said. Another potential proposal includes a tax credit for converting commercial spaces to residential and an incentive for state and local governments to rezone areas to allow for more residential construction, he said.
Commercial and Multifamily Policy
Less than 6% of mortgages—or about 2.8 million homeowners—are currently in forbearance, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association. Most borrowers are eligible for either 180 or 360 days of forbearance, said Megan Booth, NAR’s director of federal housing and commercial policy. Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the FHA are working to make sure borrowers have options for repaying their loans after they come out of forbearance, she said. But borrowers who didn’t contact their banks or were delinquent prior to going into forbearance are going to have a hard time.
REALTORS® are needed as trusted advisers now more than ever to help clients look at all their options, Booth said.
There are more challenges when it comes to renters. The federal eviction moratorium runs through Dec. 31. “An eviction moratorium is not the answer,” Booth said. “Renters who can’t pay their rent now aren’t magically going to be able to make payments of all their past due rent when the moratorium expires.”
NAR supports rental assistance as opposed to an eviction moratorium to help renters who’ve lost their jobs or are otherwise unable to work due to the coronavirus. Rental assistance also helps housing providers. More than 40% of rentals are owned by individuals, and they also need to be able to pay their mortgages, taxes, insurance, and maintenance, Booth said. “These property owners can’t be left holding the bag,” she said, adding there’s a possibility that Congress or the new administration could repurpose unused CARES Act funds for a rental assistance program.