GCAAR Positions on DC Issues

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GUIDING PHILOSOPHY

REALTORS® are dedicated, within the framework of a democratic free enterprise system, to place home ownership within reach of all who desire it. Home ownership positively impacts neighborhoods, communities, and the District of Columbia's economic stability.

REALTORS® support policies, which encourage housing opportunities, economic development and private property rights while protecting the quality of life that has made the District of Columbia a desirable place to live.

REALTORS® subscribe to the policy of fair housing. We believe equal opportunity in housing can best be achieved through observance of the law, education, and mutual cooperation of the real estate industry and the public in a free and open housing market.

REALTORS®members of the Commercial Real Estate Brokerage Association of Greater Washington, DC work with city officials and other business organizations to support legislation and programs that encourage business growth and incentives for development of office, mixed-use retail, technology, arts, and housing projects.

REALTORS® support reforms for the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.

LEAD PAINT

Background

Lead poisoning is a serious public issue, particularly affecting the lives of our children. Increased awareness about the issue can motivate homeowners to test for potential health hazards. Although the use of lead-based paint ended in 1977, older homes may contain lead paint, especially homes built prior to 1960. Section 1018 of Title X of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act, issued in March of 1996, requires disclosure of lead-based paint information in sales and lease transactions of residential properties built before 1978. While the requirements of the regulations are imposed on seller and lessors of pre-1978 housing, Section 1018 also makes real estate agents that are marketing those properties responsible for compliance with those regulations. Since 1996, real estate agents must, under federal requirements, advise the sellers or lessors whose property they are marketing of these obligations.

REALTORS® Position

  • REALTORS® are committed to supporting efforts to identify and reduce this potential health threat, while at the same time protecting the value of homes.
  • REALTORS® support lead poisoning education efforts to benefit all homeowners. Increases awareness about the issue can motivate homeowners to test for potential health hazards.
  • REALTORS® support the federal law (Title X) which requires that sellers/lessors disclose known lead hazards to real estate professionals as well as potential purchasers/tenants.
  • REALTORS® oppose mandatory testing for lead tied to the transaction process and supports property condition disclosure and education.

RENT CONTROL

Background
One of the most destructive housing policies is rent control. It discourages the construction of new rental housing and causes the neglect of current rental housing. Rent control places an unnecessary burden on landlords and property owners. Rental housing is a business in which owners are entitled to a market return on their investments. Return on investment creates incentive to build and provide more affordable housing. As more rental housing is created, upward pressure on rents is eased as demand is met.

Rent control creates a shortage of available low- and moderate-income housing, and results in the existing rental units begin poorly maintained because landlords are forced to take a loss on their investment. Instead of helping people who need affordable housing, rent control reduces the available supply of housing for low- and moderate-income people. The answer to the problem of scarce housing and rising rents is to increase housing supply, not decrease it, and direct financial assistance to needy renters. Furthermore, communities that have enacted rent controls should not be eligible for federally-assisted or state-assisted rental housing programs.

The D.C. rent control system was established in 1975. About two-thirds of the rental stock is subject to controls, with the following categories exempt: small units, new and substantially renovated units, units in continuously vacant buildings, co-op units, and subsidized units. Even the controlled units do not have fixed rent levels. A complex system regulates both the frequency and amount of rent increases. Properly licensed and registered units can increase rents annually by the Consumer Price Index. When a unit is vacated, its rent can be increased by 12 percent or up to the rent ceiling, whichever is higher. Landlords can petition to increase rent ceilings to reflect certain cost increases. And landlords can negotiate voluntary agreements with tenants to increase rents.

REALTORS® Position

  • REALTORS® believe that the free market is the best way to ensure that ample and affordable housing is available.
  • REALTORS® oppose rent control and related government regulations.
  • REALTORS® support the full range of programs provided by the City Housing Opportunities Commission to ensure that those in need have access to decent, affordable housing.

FAIR HOUSING

Background
The REALTORS® Association and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have entered into a Fair Housing Partnership Agreement to replace the Voluntary Affirmative Marketing Agreement (VAMA) that has existed between HUD and NAR for more than two decades. The agreement represents a voluntary partnership between the two organizations to identify fair housing issues, concerns, and solutions. It is a progressive plan that applies a proactive approach to fair housing issues.

The Fair Housing Partnership Agreement sets up, on a national level, a model of discussion, planning and action that can be replicated at the community level. An important element in these discussions is the inclusion of other housing industry and community organizations. The focus on partnerships meshes perfecting with the overall goals of a national homeownership strategy, led by The White House, which aims to streamline the home buying process through the collaborative efforts of community-based housing partnerships.

In addition, NAR and HUD have outlined a program to address five national homeownership strategy goals: to inform the public about fair housing; provide up-to-date training for real estate professionals; develop a set of fair housing best practices; work closely with other industry and community based organizations with an interest in fair housing; and encourage the development of local fair housing partnerships. NAR has launched the "At Home With Diversity: One America" certification program in conjunction with HUD to train real estate licensees to effectively reach out to all racial and ethnic groups in their communities. The program focuses on: developing tools to assist firms recruit and manage a diverse workplace; incorporating and enhancing existing guidance on expanding market efforts to effectively reach all population groups; addressing the business and political needs of minority members; and identifying and encouraging diversity within the leadership of the REALTOR® Association.

REALTORS® Position

  • REALTORS® firmly support the principle of fair housing for all. Access to housing must not be denied or restricted on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, marital status, personal appearance, sexual orientation, family responsibilities, physical handicap, political affiliation, matriculation, source of income, and place of residence and/or business.
  • REALTORS® are committed to complying with the fair housing law. There is no room in our profession for housing discrimination.
  • People have a right to live wherever they can afford to live, and REALTORS® have an obligation to protect that right.

STIGMATIZED PROPERTIES

Background
A stigmatized property is one that is associated with an unusual, emotionally distressing nonphysical feature or history such as suicide or criminal activity — including murder, drug trafficking or prostitution. Questions can arise, however, with neighboring properties. This has been the case with daycare centers and group homes, and properties housing convicted felons. Real estate practitioners often find they must balance the need to protect a seller's privacy and civil rights under the federal housing laws with the buyer's desire to know information not related to the physical aspects of the property being sold.

Although there is not many reported cases of practitioners being sued by buyers or sellers over stigmatized properties, the issue is assuming greater visibility as the tendency towards litigation increases in our society. More than a dozen states and the District of Columbia have laws or regulations dealing with stigmatized property.

REALTORS® Position

  • REALTORS® encourage legislation that declares that psychological stigmas associated with real property are not material facts, and need not be disclosed to a potential purchaser or lessee.

LICENSE RECIPROCITY/PORTABILITY

Background
Over 12,000 REALTORS® in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area have a frequent need to cross "state" borders to conduct their real estate business. Widely differing state education and examination requirements create burdensome licensing barriers to licensure. In general, the basic laws governing the transfer of real property interest and real estate brokerage have only minor differences from state to state.

At the 1995 Annual Convention, the NAR Board of Directors approved a motion supporting license reciprocity, an agreement between states to license nonresidents, and portability, the ability to practice real estate in all states with one license, as well as the Committee's policy recommendations. In October 1994, NAR's Research Group sponsored volunteer focus groups in 15 states across the country and found that removing licensing barriers across state lines with a top priority for a majority of those interviewed. At least three groups of real estate licensees have a constant need to cross state borders — those who practice a particular real estate specialty (such as national property management), those whose market is near a state border, and relocation specialists.

The results of this research clearly demonstrate that NAR members in general, and border practitioners in particular, would benefit greatly if the concept of license portability were adopted by each state.

REALTORS® Position

  • REALTORS® support the license reciprocity, an agreement between states to license nonresidents.
  • REALTORS® support license portability, the ability to practice real estate in all states with one license.
  • REALTORS® support license portability for the following reasons:
    1. Potentially thousands of additional practitioners can conduct business across state borders.
    2. License portability will help increase the free flow of commerce across state borders.
    3. Natural markets are defined by consumer demand and REALTORS® will be able to provide better services to their clients if licensing barriers were removed.
  • License portability will enable REALTORS® to take full advantage of "natural" market areas unfettered by artificial barriers and boundaries.
  • REALTORS® support license portability, i.e., entitling the holder of a real estate license issued by one state regulatory agency to operate in all states.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS-SATELLITE DISH PLACEMENT

Background
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to develop rules to prohibit restrictions that impair a viewer's ability to receive video programming services through and/or over the air devices, i.e., satellite dishes. Such restrictions include homeowner and condominium association rules. In July 1997, the FCC adopted a partial rule to prohibit restrictions on those properties where the viewer has an ownership interest. Left undecided was the issue of common areas and rental properties. The FCC requested additional comments and on December 23, 1998, published final rules to extend this earlier prohibition to rental properties.

Homeowner association policies and commercial property agreements include restrictions that serve to protect the structural integrity of their property while offering services to residents and tenants that will increase the marketability of the property. To allow the installation of multiple satellite antennas on balconies and in other areas can cause serious damage to the property and result in unintended safety risks to owners and residents alike. This ruling also interferes with the landlord/tenant contract that includes such restrictions.

All forms of communication — including telephone, cable television, satellite television, and electronic transmitting and security systems — installation, maintenance and service, entry into private property — should be provided pursuant to negotiated agreement between the property owner and the service provider — not by legislative fiat. Unrestricted access to buildings by service providers could adversely affect the proper operation of property. It would undermine the ability of property owners' to responsibility manage complex building systems and ensure service reliability and tenant safety. It could also require property owners to guarantee building access to a potentially unlimited number of service providers and assume much, if not all, of the costs and liabilities associated with such access. Existing buildings have limited space available for installation and maintenance of telecommunications systems.

REALTORS® Position

  • REALTORS® support the right of property owners to choose and control the kind of communication systems servicing their tenants and facilities. This applies to first time installation as well as situations where subsequent communication firms service a given area or municipality.
  • REALTORS® support the right of property owners to be compensated for granting access to their property and for any actual damage incurred while the property is being wired for cable and/or similar system.
  • REALTORS® oppose any attempts by the federal government to interfere in the relationship between property owners, tenants, and service providers regarding the complex process of assessing valuable building infrastructure space.

A LIVING DOWNTOWN

Background
Currently, housing in the downtown area is lacking. A solution would be to increase rental housing and homeownership in the downtown area east of 15th Street by making more publicly-owned sites available for residential and mixed-use development including retail stores and services.

REALTORS® Position

  • REALTORS® support downtown housing for all groups of people from families to the elderly.
  • REALTORS® believe that the city should provide tax increment financing and offer land use incentives such as zoning modifications which grant commercial and retail density bonuses to encourage housing development.
  • REALTORS® support the construction or expansion of the arts, entertainment, and cultural activities and facilities in and near downtown, including a national music museum.

EDUCATION

Background
Probably no single factor discourages home purchases in the city more than the real and perceived poor quality of education offered by the District of Columbia. The number of families of all incomes, backgrounds, races and ethnic groups who chose to live in the Virginia or Maryland suburbs because of the poor quality of schools in our city is incalculable. Improvement of the city's public schools is critical to any true revitalization of the city.

REALTORS® Position

  • REALTORS® support a program to grant residents of the District of Columbia the right to send their children to any federally chartered college or university in any state, at in-state tuition rates. The federal government has indicated their willingness to fund this program.
  • REALTORS® firmly insist that education on all levels — primary, elementary, and secondary — undergo a complete reorganization. We recommend mentoring, participation of parents, smaller classes, caring teachers and staff, courses of study, which keep up with changing times.
  • REALTORS® support after school activities from early child care for working parents to special activities for older students with working parents
  • REALTORS® support thorough maintenance and routine inspection of schools to provide a safe and healthy environment.
  • REALTORS® support the revitalization of school curriculum. Courses of study, beginning at very early ages need to be revised and advanced to encourage every student, the physically disabled, the learning disabled, the athlete, the scholarly . . . all who attend public schools need to enjoy a special place.