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As America deals with mounting debt and a shaky economic recovery, it’s more important than ever to stand up in your community and the nation’s capital for sustainable, affordable homeownership. That’s why earlier this year, the leadership team at the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (NAR) began a multi-city bus tour to promote the benefits of homeownership as part of its Homeownership Matters campaign. As policymakers consider changes to federal government programs and incentives that could dramatically change the nature of homeownership, the bus tour is engaging the American people directly about these important issues.

“NAR is doing all it can to help protect the American Dream of homeownership,” says Pamela Geurds Kabati, NAR’s Vice President of Public Affairs and Consumer Media. “The bus tour provides an opportunity for NAR leaders to connect directly with REALTORS®, consumers, local officials and the media about what’s at stake. Some policymakers and members of the media have suggested that America may be better off as a nation of renters, but through the Homeownership Matters campaign and bus tour, NAR and its members are sending a loud and clear message: homeownership is vital to the American social fabric.”

Spreading the Word
The Homeownership Matters bus tour hit the road in March, visiting major consumer events in Chicago, Denver and Portland, while meeting with members at many State and Local Associations along the way. The tour picked up again in Atlanta in July, eventually rolling through 35 states en route to Anaheim for the 2011 REALTORS® Conference and Expo, November 11-14. The bus tour made stops in tornado-ravaged Tuscaloosa and Pleasant Grove, delivering checks totaling $200,000 in donations from the REALTORS® Relief Foundation.

At every stop, NAR spreads the word about how homeowners support America. A white paper by NAR Research, which reviewed more than a dozen independent studies completed over the past 15 years, found that homeownership has a significant positive effect on net worth, civic participation, educational achievement and overall quality of life. Historically, a homeowner’s net worth has ranged from 31 to 46 times that of a renter. Homeowners vote, volunteer and contribute more to their communities, and their children stay in school longer and do better in school. Plus homeowners pay 80-90% of federal individual income taxes, which support programs that benefit all Americans.

What We’re Fighting For
Ultimately, the bus tour supports NAR’s continuing efforts to fight for a healthy housing market for future generations. This means ensuring affordable, consistent access to credit for all responsible borrowers who are willing and able to buy a home, preserving the mortgage interest deduction and fighting the Qualified Residential Mortgage (QRM) rule that would require all borrowers to make at least a 20% down payment on a home, among other vital housing issues facing our country today.

“You can’t have homeownership if you don’t have an affordable, accessible, stable supply of capital for people,” says Kabati, “so NAR is a strong voice in the debate in Washington, D.C., about the need for a secondary mortgage market. NAR wants to preserve the 30-year mortgage and ensure that home buyers who are willing and able to assume the responsibilities of homeownership have consistent, affordable access to credit.”

The QRM rule would require down payments of 20%. According to NAR estimates, it would take 14 years for the typical American family to save enough money for a 20% down payment. NAR believes responsible lending standards and ensuring a borrower’s ability to repay have the greatest impact on reducing lender risk, not high down payments.

“Homeowners are the cornerstone of thriving, vibrant communities,” explains Kabati. “REALTORS® need to send a message to Capitol Hill that homeownership matters and that we need affordable, accessible mortgage credit, the mortgage interest deduction and a federal tax code that supports homeownership. When NAR issues a Call for Action on mortgage interest reduction or other key issues, our members need to take action to help protect the concept of homeownership in America.”

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