Taking care of business
IREM Advocacy making big strides into 2023
Millions of Americans cast their ballots in the Nov. 8 midterm elections. As political pundits, reporters, and federal legislators examine how the midterm results influence the political landscape for the next two years, IREM will also evaluate how the midterms affect the real estate industry.
Midterms and advocacy initiatives in 2023
After another contentious campaign season, it looks like there will again be a divided government for the next two years. Conventional wisdom holds that moving any major initiatives through the legislative process will remain challenging. However, even though passing legislation may be difficult, IREM will continue to advocate on issues important to the industry, as advocacy is a top priority for our members, their businesses, and their clients.
The success and growth of IREM’s government affairs program depend on member participation at the federal, state, and local levels. To ensure that our members have a voice with legislators and other governmental officials, IREM will conduct several initiatives in 2023. These will allow members to connect and build relationships with their legislators, educate them on issues important to the industry, and have their views considered when decisions that affect real estate management are being made.
Advocacy Impact Day
After a two-year hiatus, IREM is returning to Washington, D.C., on March 28 & 29, 2023, for our Advocacy Impact Day (AID). Our fly-in event offers members an opportunity to meet with their federal legislators in person and advocate for issues important to the real estate management industry.
Meeting with lawmakers in Washington is critical for the future health and growth of the industry, and IREM is making it as easy as possible to make our members’ voices heard. Legislators are more likely to support positions that their constituents feel strongly about, which is why it’s essential for members to engage with their legislators. Participating in Advocacy Impact Day allows members to build relationships with legislators that will only increase in value over time. It’s also an opportunity to speak directly to the people with the power to change laws and regulations affecting the issues that matter most to members, their businesses, and the clients they represent. Attending will also provide significant exposure and a chance to experience being part of something bigger than yourself.
IREM conducts the Congressional Briefing every July in Washington, D.C. We invite congressional offices to hear presentations from IREM leaders on issues important to our industry. Topics addressed in previous briefings have included the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), assistance animals, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuit reform, and affordable housing. Held as a virtual event the last two years, the briefing is an excellent way to communicate our issues and maintain relationships with federal legislators. Although it’s rare for senators and representatives to attend themselves, Hill staffers will attend so they can become informed on issues of the day. In 2022, over 50 Congressional offices attended the virtual event.
Public Policy Priority Survey
In December, a survey will be sent out to IREM IAEs, chapter legislative contacts, and members of the Legislative & Public Policy Committee and Federal Housing Advisory Board. The objective of the survey is to help IREM set our legislative agenda for 2023 and identify who can help chapters build their advocacy teams. Once the results have been tabulated, they will be shared with members.
IREM also encourages members to meet with their federal legislators in their local district offices. We will target August for members to meet with their legislators as Congress is on recess for the entire month.
Although we’ll advise members to conduct a meeting at their district office, there are several other ways they can connect with their representative if they are unable to have a meeting:
- Invite the legislator to a chapter event
- Invite the legislator to take a tour of one of their properties
- Attend one of the legislator’s town halls or other scheduled events
Education is critical to advocacy. In 2022, the IREM Headquarters’ Government Affairs team presented to 12 chapters on topics such as the Inflation Reduction Act, the Choice in Affordable Housing Act, cannabis laws, and rent control. We look forward to conducting additional chapter presentations in 2023.
Meetings with legislators
IREM and our coalition partners conducted more than 100 meetings with legislators and other officials in 2022. IREM’s advocacy efforts go beyond direct grassroots engagement; the Government Affairs team routinely meets with officials to advocate on our members’ behalf.
Collaborating with other like-minded organizations
IREM collaborates with over 400 industry organizations. We work with coalitions of organizations such as NAR, NAA, NMHC, and BOMA to amplify our voices and affect change with an even more significant impact.
Issues in 2023
Each year, IREM supports or opposes a number of issues that could have significant consequences for the real estate management profession. Issues that we’ll continue to support in 2023 include the Choice in Affordable Housing Act and the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act.
Choice in Affordable Housing Act
The Choice in Affordable Housing Act is a bipartisan piece of legislation that aims to increase private sector participation in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) Program. To provide voucher holders access to high-opportunity areas, Congress can direct more resources into the HCV program to attract and retain landlords, critical partners in the program’s overall success. According to HUD, an average of 10,000 housing providers left the HCV program each year between 2010 and 2016.
Landlords often can be reluctant to accept vouchers due to payment standards, the administrative process involved, and negative misconceptions about voucher holders. However, many landlords are willing to accept vouchers with basic supports in place, such as having a staff liaison or strong risk management guidance from local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs). Critical reforms in the current bill include:
- Providing $500 million to create a Housing Partnership Fund. The funds would be distributed for:
- PHAs to offer a signing bonus to owners of units in an area with less than a 20% poverty rate
- PHAs to provide security deposit assistance so that tenants can better afford to meet deposit requirements and landlords are assured greater protection against damages
- HUD to provide a financial bonus to PHAs that retain a dedicated landlord liaison on staff
- Inspection reciprocity, so that owners and operators already subject to other federal inspection protocols fully satisfy HCV requirements
- Allowance for “pre-approval” of units, whereby a new housing provider participant can request an inspection of units and use that inspection to lease to a participating resident within 60 days
- Application of Small Area Fair Market Rent (SAFMR) methodologies in more jurisdictions to ensure accuracy of payments and alignment with market rates, including an exception to prevent SAFMR calculations from decreasing rent payments
Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act
IREM supports the passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act. The Act would create a safe harbor for federally insured financial institutions to provide banking services for legitimate cannabis-related businesses—and businesses working tangentially with them—in states that have legalized cannabis.
Cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, meaning FDIC-insured banks can’t accept money from cannabis businesses, or else they risk running afoul of anti-money laundering laws. This includes cannabis growers and retailers and any businesses that work with them, such as trucking companies used for transport or landlords receiving rent paid for storage or retail space. Cannabis prohibition has resulted in these businesses being forced to operate on a cash-only basis. This not only creates security concerns for the businesses and the communities they serve, but it also makes tracking and regulating the industry much more difficult.
There’s always room to grow, and the IREM Headquarters Government Affairs team remains a crucial piece in ensuring that the Institute is doing everything possible to promote the interests of our members and move our profession forward.