National home price increases toward the end of 2019 marked 91 straight months of year-over-year gains, signaling a strength in the housing market, while also highlighting the affordability challenges that are keeping countless American families and aspiring homeowners out of the market altogether.
The challenge of housing affordability is just one of the many issues that the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) is working on in Washington, D.C., and in state legislatures across the nation—continuing its 120-year mission of protecting private property rights, defending U.S. consumers and promoting the value of homeownership.
NAR has spent much of the past 12 months emphasizing and leveraging industry partnerships to strengthen its advocacy efforts. After a four-year gap, NAR hosted a reunion this March of “The Group,” the informal name given to the four key industry trade leaders—the National Association of Home Builders, American Bankers Association, Mortgage Bankers Association and NAR. The Group met several times throughout the year and will meet again in April to build policy consensus and convey a united real estate industry.
On a more granular level, nearly a decade of NAR efforts culminated in a Department of Housing and Urban Development announcement unveiling new Federal Housing Administration condominium loan policies. NAR is hopeful the changes will yield thousands of new homeownership opportunities and help increase access to credit, as condominiums are often the most affordable option for first-time homebuyers, small families and those in urban areas.
This rule extends certifications from two years to three and allows for single-unit mortgage approvals, among other reforms. After being officially implemented on Oct. 15, the changes are already being felt in many parts of the country where affordability and inventory concerns are the most significant.
While NAR continues to work toward long-term reauthorization and reform of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the group spent most of 2019 publicly lobbying for H.R. 3167, the NFIP Reauthorization Act of 2019. This legislation includes a five-year extension along with significant reforms to improve mapping, enhance mitigation and remove obstacles to private flood insurance, policy NAR believes “strikes a delicate balance between NFIP sustainability and affordability.” The bill was unanimously approved by the House Financial Services Committee earlier this year and is awaiting action in both chambers of Congress.
On the heels of the 75th anniversary celebration of the GI Bill, the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act was signed into law in late June, increasing well-deserved resources for America’s veterans. This legislation eliminates the cap on home loans issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs and helps ensure our nation’s veterans have greater access to the American Dream of homeownership.
Finally, early this year, NAR unveiled a comprehensive vision for Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) reform—a private, shareholder-owned utility model. NAR’s proposal—unveiled at the group’s annual Policy Forum in February—prioritizes and protects a liquid mortgage market for Middle America and underserved borrowers alike.
While NAR eyes GSE reforms that ensure responsible, creditworthy Americans can secure a mortgage in all types of markets, its work with Congress and the administration will continue until consensus on reforms that protect taxpayers, support homeownership and maximize competition is found. NAR believes the utility model it proposed earlier this year outlines the best possible path forward for the GSEs, and 2020 advocacy efforts will be shaped by its collaboration with policymakers to secure these positive, pragmatic system reforms.
For more information, please visit www.nar.realtor.