Our Mission on Capitol Hill

As we head to Washington this month, we have many goals yet to accomplish. Overarching all these goals is our continuing mission to create the best possible business environment for you and your clients.

May 1, 2009

May is one of my favorite times to be a REALTOR®. It’s when thousands of real estate practitioners from all over the country gather in Washington, D.C., to participate in the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo. Every year, I’m struck by what a great group of educated, politically active, and issue-aware members we have at NAR. It’s no wonder we get so much accomplished on Capitol Hill.

With the economic crisis at the forefront of all our minds, it has never been more important for us to be a strong voice for real estate on Capitol Hill. That’s why we’re putting together a very special program for this year’s Midyear Meeting attendees.

On Tuesday, May 12, we’ll host a Real Estate Summit, where some of the best minds in government, academia, and the media will talk about how to bring greater stability to housing and real estate. Among the panelists already confirmed are Sheila Bair, director of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.; MSNBC political commentator Pat Buchanan; and former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. (D-Tenn.).

Over the past year, the government has taken many encouraging actions to get the economy and the housing market back on track. NAR has a keen interest in making sure that the incentives and programs put in place by the government are actually panning out in the marketplace, and at the summit we’ll discuss what more needs to be done.

For example, one incentive with immense potential to perk up the housing market is the temporary $8,000 first-time buyer tax credit. As promising as it is, buyers who don’t have adequate down payment funds won’t be able to use the incentive, since they won’t receive the credit until after they purchase their property and file their tax return. That’s why, in a letter to Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, I urged HUD to give buyers access to their tax-credit funds at closing through a loan facilitated by the FHA. Monetizing the tax credit through a loan, combined with the FHA’s low 3.5 percent down payment, could create an opportunity too good for first-time buyers to pass up.

We’ve already seen this year how working together on practical goals such as this has led to a big payoff for consumers. In March, the Federal Reserve announced that it would buy an additional $750 billion in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage-backed securities and up to $300 billion in longer-term Treasury securities. This means that mortgage interest rates will likely remain at historic lows—lessening foreclosure pressure and helping stabilize home prices. NAR has been advocating since last fall that the Fed take a more active role in buying mortgage-backed securities, and we’re pleased that the government took action.

Charles McMillan

Charles McMillan was 2009 president of the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.