What Do Realtors Want in Congress’s Next Relief Package?
WASHINGTON – While lawmakers almost universally agree on more relief, they largely disagree on how to spend the money. To present the Realtor perspective, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) sent a letter to House and Senate leaders, Speaker Pelosi, Republican Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer and Leader McCarthy.
The letter focused on four broad categories: housing security, market stability, business aid and community durability:
- Extend federal stimulus measures. The number of mortgages in forbearance is declining, which NAR calls evidence that “federal stimulus provisions such as individual direct payments, small business relief programs and expanded unemployment assistance have helped many Americans.” It asks Congress to extend these measures.
- NAR continues to support provisions that allow Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VA and USDA Rural Housing to offer forbearance to mortgage holders, plus any additional efforts that “offer homeowners income flexibility.”
- More help for renter households, though NAR suggests that emergency rental assistance programs pay money directly to housing providers.
- NAR wants “notice to vacate” CARES Act language clarified to renters financially impacted by COVID-19 – a current requirement for housing providers seeking relief.
- More money for housing counseling programs targeted at homeowners who used forbearance options to delay mortgage payments.
- Clarify CARES Act impact on credit scores – specifically what it allows and prohibits for homeowners in forbearance. NAR says the goal is to make sure homeowners in forbearance remain creditworthy, noting that “anecdotal evidence indicates that lenders and servicers are inconsistently marking homeowners who receive or inquire about forbearance options.”
- Maintain access to affordable credit. NAR wants Congress to make sure lenders aren’t “raising costs for consumers seeking credit due to forbearance policies that put a financial strain on the mortgage industry.” Generally, NAR wants Congress to take steps that maintain mortgage market liquidity.
- More time to comment on new and proposed regulations. NAR says a nation struggling during a pandemic is overwhelmed and needs more time to prepare for major regulator overhauls.
- Create narrowly tailored liability protections, so “good faith efforts to restart businesses are not in vain.” NAR says litigation and the associated legal costs “could devastate businesses fighting to keep their doors open.” It also wants the liability protections extended to independent contractors.
- Forgive all Small Business Administration Loans under $150,000 – specifically the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) should qualify for automatic forgiveness. NAR says this change would “provide significant relief for the smallest PPP borrowers.”
- Continue programs that help businesses during the pandemic and add flexibility. “Expediting forgiveness for those struggling to understand the requirements and also expanding eligibility to 501(c)(6) organizations are simple ways to enhance PPP access for more Americans,” NAR says in the letter. It also says small business shouldn’t face any significant tax liabilities.
- Expand unemployment to independent contractors who have only partially returned to full work. While including independent contractors – a common status for most Realtors – was welcome in the first round of aid, NAR says some members have returned to work but at a diminished level. A partial-aid unemployment option would give them much-needed support.
- Extend unemployment assistance measures, such as the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC). That, or other return-to-work bonuses, could offer workers (including independent contractors) a continued ability to meet their mortgage and rent obligations.
- Make changes to the Federal Reserve Main Street Lending Program. Calling the current program “attractive but unattainable,” NAR dislikes the current decreased loan size of $250,000 and calls the minimum employee threshold “unreasonably high.” It encourages the Federal Reserve to make the Main Street Program more accessible to more businesses, including a push to get more banks to participate.
- Offer more access to federal loan programs for commercial real estate. “Commercial lending has decreased significantly and commercial tenants are exiting rental agreements at extraordinary rates,” NAR says in the letter. It “urges Congress to provide additional support … through access to funds to keep workers on payroll and meet their business expenses, and prioritizing extending and enhancing loan programs to reinforce commercial business stability.”
- Enact nationwide remote notarizations. NAR wants a separate bill – the “Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020” (S. 3533, H.R. 6364, the SECURE Act) – passed too.
- Aid to local and state governments. NAR says this will “empower targeted community responses,” to promote public safety, and also will protect homeowners if governments feel pressured to pay for their pandemic mitigation efforts by raising property taxes to make up for deficits.
- Extensive broadband access. Calling broadband “especially problematic in rural areas,” NAR asks Congress to invest resources in expanding the “connectivity needs of millions of Americans in rural areas and the communities that support them.”
NAR posted a copy of the letter to Congress on its website.
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