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issue mobilization

Calaveras County REALTORS® Force Repeal of High-Risk Energy Conservation Loan Program

The REALTORS® of Calaveras County in northern California have nothing against energy conservation or home improvements — far from it — but they were glad to be able to spearhead the repeal of authorization for a Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program in their county, back in January. They did so with the help of a REALTOR® Party Issues Mobilization Grant.

The PACE program in Calaveras County, like similar programs in other jurisdictions, provides homeowners with a means to finance conservation improvements from solar panels to electric vehicle plug-in stations, and pay for them through a tax assessment on the property. This lien would be senior to, and therefore have priority over, any other liens, including mortgages. Therefore, explains Kim Schaefer, who serves as a contract Government Affairs Director for the association of under one-hundred REALTORS®, if you can’t pay for that home improvement, you may just lose your home.

“PACE programs are not concerned about the borrower’s credit scores or employment history, making financing easier to obtain and less time consuming,” explains Schaefer, “but these loans are also unfairly expensive, and are often sold by high-pressure door-to-door sales people. And, although PACE loans are in a senior position, they carry interest rates higher than the first mortgage or a home equity loan.” The FHA announced earlier this year that it will no longer insure loans with PACE lines, she adds, noting that by approving the placement of PACE loans in a senior position to FHA first mortgages, HUD has placed homebuyers and tax payers at risk.

The county had authorized the program less than a year ago, and while there hadn’t been much participation yet, members of the Calaveras County Association of REALTORS® (CCAR) were becoming concerned because of problems that might be encountered during real estate transactions, says Schaefer. CCAR was also aware of negative issues that neighboring municipalities were having with such programs, and, in fact, elected officials in the county had been receiving complaints about the high-pressure tactics of some PACE loan sales forces.

Learning that the county Board of Supervisors had put the controversial issue on its agenda in mid-January, CCAR quickly applied for and received an Issues Mobilization Grant to launch a campaign opposing the program. The campaign mobilized grassroots efforts by CCAR members, targeting members of the Board of Supervisors with letters and patch-through calls. CCAR’s President met personally with several Board members to voice the association’s objections to PACE loans, and Schaefer delivered a substantial package of information to Supervisors and their staff, detailing the risks to homeowners.  The vote to repeal authorization was unanimous.

The members of CCAR are very happy with the outcome, reports Schaefer, who adds, “There are many alternative choices to support energy conservation and finance improvements that are more responsible and present less risk to homeowners and neighborhoods.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Calaveras County, California are protecting their clients, their communities, and their businesses, contact contract Government Affairs Director Kim Schaefer at 661-203-8500.

 

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Issues Mobilization Committee 2018 Meeting Schedule & Application Deadlines

(Conference Call Meetings 3-5 PM Eastern Time)

January 17 
Draft Deadline:  January 1
Final Deadline:   January 10

February 14 
Draft Deadline:  January 29
Final Deadline:   February 7

March 14 
Draft Deadline:  February 26
Final Deadline:   March 7

April 18
Draft Deadline:  April 2
Final Deadline:   April 11

May 16 (Wed):  REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo, Washington, DC
Draft Deadline:  April 30
Final Deadline:  May 9

June 13 
Draft Deadline:  May 28
Final Deadline:   June 6

July 11 
Draft Deadline:  June 25
Final Deadline:   July 4

July 25: Contingent Meeting
Draft Deadline:  July 9
Final Deadline:   July 18

August 8
Draft Deadline:  July 23
Final Deadline:   August 1

August 22:  Contingent Meeting
Draft Deadline:  August 6
Final Deadline:   August 15

September 12
Draft Deadline:  August 27
Final Deadline:   September 5

October 10
Draft Deadline:  September 24
Final Deadline:   October 3

November 2 (Fri): REALTORS® Conference & Expo, Boston, MA
Draft Deadline:  October 16
Final Deadline:   October 25

2019 COMMITTEE
November 28 (Wed): REALTOR® Party Training Conference, Minneapolis, MN
Draft Deadline:  November 12
Final Deadline:   November 19

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Wyoming REALTORS® Derails Tax on Services Threat with Timely Advocacy

The Wyoming Association of REALTORS®  (WAR) is careful to use Calls For Action (CFA) sparingly, sending a few out each year to keep members in practice, but “never so many that they feel like we’re asking for help every time they turn around,” says Government Affairs Director Laurie Urbigkit. “Our members know that if they get a CFA from me,” she says, “it means the world is coming to an end!”  

Early in 2017, just such an extreme situation developed in the Wyoming statehouse, and when Urbigkit put out the call, the REALTORS® responded accordingly. The end of the world, in this case, was the threat of a tax on all services that had suddenly appeared on the agenda of the House Revenue Committee, without debate or public testimony. The bill bore the benign title, ‘HB 243 School Finance-Capital Construction Funding,’ but would have imposed a comprehensive sales tax on services provided by all professionals, from barbers to babysitters.  For the real estate industry, it would not only have added to an agent’s commission, but to the appraisal, title insurance, closing fee, loan fees, inspections, repairs, surveys and legal fees.  WAR was keenly aware that, in addition to burdening the operation of real estate brokerages as small businesses, these added costs would effectively block many first-time home buyers from the market.

The association had actually been keeping an eye out for such threats to the industry. In recent years, as Wyoming’s mineral-based economy has been driven down by low oil and gas prices, explains Urbigkit, the state’s general revenue has been substantially reduced, putting pressure on the Revenue Committee to find sources elsewhere. In fact, this bill had died in committee just last September for lack of a motion, “because no one would touch it,” she says. But the committee had experienced a turnover in seven-out-of-nine seats since November’s election, and the chairman decided to revisit the proposal.

Urbigkit leapt to action, alerting all WAR members who are constituents of Revenue Committee members that it was time to make their voices heard. “The REALTOR® Party Hub email communications system is great,” she says. “I can target our members by committee, or by district, and engage them very easily in our advocacy efforts.”  Just as Urbigkit is careful not to ‘cry wolf’ with too many Calls for Action to her members, she also guards the Wyoming legislators from undue bombardment. In order to protect the value of their messages, her members are only asked to contact representatives of their own districts. “Our legislators know that when the REALTORS® are concerned, they’re getting messages from their own constituents, and that carries much more weight than flooding their in-boxes indiscriminately.”       

In response to the urgent CFA regarding the tax on services, a concentrated blast of emails to the House Revenue Committee ensued, complementing WAR’s in-person lobbying efforts. The bill was defeated in a 0-9 vote. “We’re very fortunate to have tools like this at our disposal!” says Urbigkit, adding, “The technology is so precise and effective, and our members are right there with it.”

To learn more about how Wyoming REALTORS® are protecting the real estate industry and keeping homeownership accessible for first-time buyers, contact Laurie Urbigkit, Government Affairs Director of the Wyoming Association of REALTORS®, at 307-851-1191.

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