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Commentary and current events from the National Association of Realtors®

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ (NAR) Government Affairs and Regulatory and Industry Relations staff are the brokers’ advocate regarding legislative and regulatory issues. Their efforts drove the following important accomplishments in 2007:

Banks in Real Estate
The House passed the FY2008 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, which includes an NAR-supported provision prohibiting the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department from finalizing a rule allowing banks to engage in real estate brokerage and management. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved language to prohibit banks from entering the real estate brokerage business. Final action is pending.

FHA Reforms
NAR successfully lobbied for the passage of H.R. 1852, the Expanding American Homeownership Act of 2007, which helps modernize FHA by expanding the availability of safe and affordable FHA-backed loans for purchases and refinances. The bill includes provisions to eliminate the 3% down payment requirement, increase loan limits up to 175% of the conforming limit in high-cost areas, streamline condominium purchases, and eliminate the cap on Home Equity Conversion mortgages (HECMs). The Senate Banking Committee passed a similar bill. The Senate bill is expected on the floor by the end of the year.

Freddie Mac/Fannie Mae Reform
NAR also successfully lobbied for passage of H.R. 1427, the Federal Housing Financing Reform Act of 2007, which overhauls the regulatory structure of the nation’s housing finance government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs). H.R. 1427 provides for regional adjustments to the caps on mortgages the GSEs may buy for high-cost areas, helping more working families qualify for safer GSE loans. The House passed H.R. 1427, 313-104. The Senate has taken no action to date.

Terrorism Insurance
Recently, the House of Representatives passed a 15-year extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program. NAR was a key player in getting this bill passed-through advertising, testifying, and implementing a call for action to commercial members. The Senate will consider a similar bill soon. NAR expects an extension bill will be signed by the end of the year (the current program expires 12/31).

Flood Insurance Reform
The House passed the Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2007, “H.R. 3121,” which reforms and reauthorizes the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). NAR strongly supports many provisions of the bill, including extending the program five years; increasing coverage limits; and ensuring the 100-year floodplain maps are updated quickly. The Senate Banking Committee also has passed an NFIP reform bill.

Mortgage Cancellation
The House of Representatives passed an NAR-supported bill (H.R. 3648) on a bipartisan vote of 386-27 to provide tax relief to homeowners who find themselves in short sale transactions, foreclosure or in workout negotiations with their mortgage lender. Under current law, if a lender forgives all or some portion of a mortgage debt, the borrower is treated as if that debt cancellation were income and the forgiven amount is taxable at ordinary rates. The legislation, now pending in the Senate Finance Committee, would eliminate the requirement that the homeowner/ seller pay tax on forgiven amounts.

Abusive Lending in the Subprime Market
NAR continued to support federal legislation and regulation that prevents predatory lending while keeping fair and affordable subprime lending available.

Tenants in Common
At press time, NAR is expecting a favorable response from the SEC on its exemption request to exempt, under certain circumstances, real estate professionals from broker dealer requirements so that they may provide real estate advisory services on Tenants In Common (TIC) securities transactions.

Re:sources
For the latest on NAR’s regulatory and legislative agenda, visit www.realtor.org.

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