A Mid Year update from President Laura Usher

Laura UsherOur CCIAOR leadership returned recently from an informative and productive week at the 2016 REALTORS® Legislative Meetings in Washington, DC. It is always amazing to see firsthand the breadth and depth of issues the National Association of REALTORS® is working on to protect property rights, to advocate for home ownership and to keep us in business. At every turn, there are threats to the way we do business or proposals to increase tax revenues by adding more taxes onto home ownership.

One of the bright spots of the week was NAR’s announcement that it will actively engage in the debate on student loan debt. In response to growing concerns over the impact of student debt on the ability to buy a home, NAR adopted a policy to advocate to allow student borrowers to refinance their loans and streamline income-based repayment programs. Additionally, NAR supports proposals that promote student loan simplification, clarity, and education. And NAR will take steps to ensure that mortgage underwriting guidelines related to student loan debt are standardized and do not impair home ownership.

I was able to relay a personal experience to NAR regarding a first time home buyer I worked with recently. She had a significant amount of student loan debt which in itself did not disqualify her from mortgage financing; however, the way two federal government programs, FHA and USDA, looked at future payments of her student loan debt was different and she was disqualified from USDA’s no down payment program because of that. Home ownership is being delayed on average five years now for first time buyers because of student debt. This issue is already having a huge impact on our industry, and it will only continue to grow. Personal stories like mine are powerful. If you have had a situation where the underwriting guidelines were unclear and may have unfairly impaired home ownership through student loan debt, please let us know so we can pass along your story to NAR and have them work on our behalf. Click HERE to tell us your story.

At our scheduled Hill visits in DC, CCIAOR leadership met with Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Bill Keating. They were both very receptive to the issues which we brought forward–protecting the mortgage interest deduction for primary and second home owners; reauthorizing and continuing reform of the National Flood Insurance Program and passing legislation relaxing FHA condominium guidelines, making it easier for a condominium complex to be FHA eligible.

It is a powerful experience to meet directly with legislators, and it has been a highlight for me personally in my year as President. I share this because I would be thrilled for you to have the same experience at the state level next month. On June 21st, the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS® is hosting REALTOR® Day on Beacon Hill and I would ask every one of you to make the effort to attend. I hope to fill not only one bus, but two or three! I would be thrilled to have you join us. It is so important for our legislators to see us in their offices, talking about vital home ownership and property rights issues on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Look forward to seeing you on Beacon Hill on June 21!