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NAR: A Divided Government Might Be Good for Real Estate

In a divided government, lawmakers must find a way to work together. Joe Ventrone, NAR’s vice president of federal policy and industry relations, says the goal then will be to bring both parties to the middle on real estate issues, such as rental assistance and GSE mortgage reform.

WASHINGTON – 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, says Joe Ventrone, the National Association of Realtors®’ (NAR) vice president of federal policy and industry relations.

He says that’s because many issues that benefit the real estate industry are bipartisan issues. Ventrone spoke on during NAR’s virtual 2020 Realtors Conference & Expo at the Conventional Financing & Policy Committee meeting.

The session provided some 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, NAR says the results appear to show 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, though two Georgia run-off elections scheduled for January will determine the Senate’s final balance.

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. Any good legislation cannot be driven solely by one political party.”

Ventrone cited examples of past successes under bipartisan governments, such as the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (which was Republican-driven) and the Affordable Care Act, also called “Obamacare” (Democratic-driven).

NAR doesn’t take a position in presidential elections, but the panelists offered after-the-fact observations, based on their 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.

In addition, 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, and advocacy 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 also hopes to see rental assistance included in the next phase of a stimulus bill.

NAR, along with other housing groups, have voiced concern about the eviction moratorium overseen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because it temporarily assists struggling renters but fails to help landlords who must still pay their mortgage and other obligations on properties, they argue.

NAR will also continue to advocate for rental assistance for the nation’s landlords.

The election of a new president also presents new possibilities, according to NAR, and it will be watching for the possibility of a $15,000 first-time home buyer tax credit, which President-elect Biden touted as part of his tax plan. 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 the 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 fairhaven.realtor.

Other 2021 issues identified by NAR’s advocacy team

  • 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.
  • 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.

Source: National Association of Realtors® (NAR)

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