Over two exciting and fast-paced days, 40 members of the Houston Association of REALTORS® (HAR) visited with 10 members of the U. S. House of Representatives and two members of the U. S. Senate and advocated for REALTOR® issues. In addition to several office visits, breakfast meetings with our members of Congress were held at Tortilla Coast on May 15 and 16. Over the two-day period, we were very pleased to have Representatives Kevin Brady, Al Green, Gene Green, Sheila Jackson Lee, Michael McCaul, Pete Olson, Ted Poe, Steve Stockman and Randy Weber join us for breakfast and discuss our issues. The afternoon of May 15, Texas REALTORS® gathered in the Hart Senate Office Building for back-to-back meetings with Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. These annual visits give members of Congress an opportunity to listen to the concerns of REALTORS® in their districts and recognize their opinions and perspectives to help shape important laws and policies.

We thank Congressmen Gene Green and John Culberson and their dedicated staff for making arrangements for our REALTOR® delegation to enjoy lunch in the Congressional Dining Room.

TREPAC Director Karen Driscoll and I thank Ward Arendt and Connie Parsons for sharing their photos which capture our congressional breakfasts and office visits. Highlights of our visits are captured in these photos on pages 11-13.

NAR Mid-Year Issues Background and Congressional Action Needed

Preserve the Mission and Purpose of the FHA Program

Congressional Action Needed
Congress needs to ensure that the FHA single-family program has the tools and policies in place to meet its mission of providing access to safe, affordable mortgage financing to qualified borrowers nationwide. FHA’s single-family mortgage insurance program helps preserve private financing options for homebuyers regardless of local, regional or national economic conditions. Without FHA, our nation’s housing recovery would never have begun. Congress should do no harm to that recovery. Do not enact FHA reform legislation that unfairly restricts homebuyer access to safe, affordable mortgage credit.

Preserve Homeownership Tax Policies

Congressional Action Needed
As Congress considers proposals to reform the federal tax code, lawmakers should consider the vital role that real estate tax provisions play in the nation’s housing markets and economy, as well as the financial well-being of Americans and their families. Real estate related provisions must be preserved because:

  • More than 75% of homeowners utilize the mortgage interest deduction over the period they own their home.
  • For many homeowners, property taxes are their largest tax deduction, one that continues even after a mortgage is paid off.
  • The value of both mortgage interest and property tax deductions is capitalized into house prices. Eliminating the mortgage interest deduction, for example, would cause on average a 15% decline in value of homes. Decreasing the deductions, even for a limited group, compresses the value of all homes.
  • Further declines in home values will harm housing markets, and stymie our nascent housing recovery.
  • Reducing the capital gains exclusion thresholds would harm household retirement savings and reduce financial flexibility.

Restructure Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac

Congressional Action Needed
Congress must restructure Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure that affordable mortgages are available to consumers in all types of markets, and to avoid a major disruption to the nation’s economy that would result from the total collapse of the housing finance sector. An efficient and adequately regulated secondary market is essential to providing affordable mortgages to consumers. The federal government must clearly, and explicitly, offer a guarantee of some mortgage instruments. A federal guarantee is essential to ensure borrowers have access to affordable mortgage credit. Without government backing, creditworthy consumers will pay much higher mortgage interest rates and mortgages may at times not be readily available — as has happened in jumbo and commercial real estate loan markets.

Support HR 1077, The Consumer Mortgage Choice Act

Congressional Action Needed
Congress should pass HR 1077, the Consumer Mortgage Choice Act. This bipartisan legislation would modify the definition of “points and fees” used to determine whether a loan meets the “Qualified Mortgage” (QM) test. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act establishes a QM as the primary means for mortgage lenders to satisfy its “ability to repay” requirements. Dodd-Frank also provides that a QM may not have points and fees in excess of three percent of the loan amount. To ensure that consumers continue to be able to access affordable housing credit, Congress should amend the definition of “points and fees” to:

  • exclude affiliated title charges;
  • prevent double-counting of loan officer compensation;
  • clarify escrow charges;
  • exclude loan level pricing adjustments; and
  • exclude lender-paid compensation to mortgage brokers

To learn more about the issues affecting the real estate industry at the federal level, visit http://naractioncenter.com/ and mark your calendars now for May 14 and 15, 2014 for next year’s congressional visits in Washington, D. C. It will be here before we know it!

You may view photos from HAR’s Hill visit  here.