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Using our voices

IREM advocacy keeps critical issues front and center

By Journal of Property Management
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Although some efforts may quietly fly under the radar, IREM works diligently every day to better the property management profession through advocacy, benefiting all IREM members as well as the real estate industry at large. For those unfamiliar with IREM advocacy, staff, teams, and committees work with local, state, and federal legislatures to ensure critical real estate policies, legislation, and regulations will positively impact managers, clients, and tenants as much as possible.

Colleen Needham, CPM, ARM

Colleen Needham, CPM, ARM, is assistant vice president regional manager for Chicago-based Draper and Kramer, Incorporated, AMO and serves as both IREM Chicago Chapter president and 2022 Legislative and Public Policy (LPP) Committee chair. As she puts it: “Our members really need to know what’s going on so they can make the right decisions if they need to get legal counsel involved,” or need to get their organization to voice support for or opposition to legislation, changes to current guidelines, or extensions of policies already in place.

The scope of policies and regulations is varied and wide. Some of the issues that the LPP Committee monitors includes the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuit reform, assistance animals, recreational and medical marijuana, fair housing, federally assisted housing, pandemic preparation, rent control, and property insurance—especially in regions experiencing extreme weather events.

Working with the Capitol

One of the year’s highlights for the LPP Committee is the Advocacy Impact Day. This event—also known as the Capitol Hill Fly-in—is a chance for IREM members to speak with congressional representatives and senators about critical issues affecting real estate management. This year’s Advocacy Impact Day is scheduled for March 9.

In January, Needham and the LPP Committee approved a slate of policies that would be the primary focus for this year’s Advocacy Impact Day. “We’ll be citing what our initiatives will be going into the Advocacy Impact Day in March,” Needham says. “Once we decide on the topics, we will share them with IREM members and then schedule a webinar, so that people who are interested in participating will receive the talking points. We’ll also provide them the information and pamphlets, so they can review them and do some research. This way, when they make their appointments with the senators and representatives, they will be very well prepared.”

Left to right: LPP Vice Chair Kevin Logue, CPM; Senator Rick Scott’s legislative correspondent, Nick Uberti; and IREM Central Florida Chapter member Billie McMahon, CPM

The LPP Committee will also be collaborating with their counterparts from the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) to review mutually held policy positions and to hear from NAR lobbyists on best practices to conduct effective meetings with legislators or their staffers. “It’s great because we get to collaborate and get our point across,” Needham says. “NAR also lobbies for things that impact our industry and what we do on a daily, monthly, quarterly, and annual basis.”

LPP Vice Chair Kevin Logue, CPM, with Equity Investment Services in Orlando, Florida, has had great experiences at previous Advocacy Impact Days. He looks forward to this year’s event and reporting results back to IREM members. “If we glean any information on where the legislators are with the particular issue we’re advocating for, we’re going to bring that information back. Hopefully all the legislators that we speak to are for it,” Logue says. “But if they’re not, that’s OK—we need to know that. When we talk to them, we’re going to reach out and say, ‘Are there any other issues that you’re working on that we can help with?’ And we’ll bring that back to our local chapters, too.”

Keeping your finger on the pulse

There are several ways IREM members can learn about national advocacy efforts. First, public policy webinars are held quarterly throughout the year to keep members up to date. Even if you can’t sign in during the live event, the webinars are recorded and can be accessed through the IREM website on demand (login required).

A recent webinar offered an overview of IREM’s advocacy initiatives in 2021 and what’s in store in 2022. One of the topics addressed in the webinar included a summary of the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better plan that has stalled in the U.S. Senate. The LPP Committee backed the provisions that spared real estate investment from some of the most onerous taxes, as well as the funding that would address housing programs.

IREM also offers members several podcasts throughout the year, presents to Chapters on issues important to the real estate management industry, and provides our Government Affairs Digest publication, which is our monthly newsletter on federal, state, and local legislative or regulatory issues.  

Another opportunity for members to learn more about advocacy efforts is during the annual IREM Global Summit. “I participated in the education sessions during the last Global Summit here in Vegas in October,” says Needham. “Our LPP chair and vice chair are always there to have a conversation with anyone who wants to participate, to really let them know what we accomplished in the previous year.” Members will be able to catch up on advocacy efforts at this year’s IREM Global Summit, Oct. 17–20, in Dallas, Texas.

The work goes on

Of course, just as one year wraps up, the coming year means new and ongoing policy work. “We’re revamping our policy position statements,” Needham says. “There were 126 policy statements; we got through 16 of them, grouping them together in terms of business issues, fair housing, and so on—removing some of the extraneous language so our members can more fully understand where IREM stands on these particular policies.” Needham says their goal in 2022 is to get through as many additional policy position statements as possible and then present them to the IREM Governing Council and Board of Directors for approval at the Global Summit.

Logue stresses the importance of members being aware of and involved in advocacy efforts. “It’s important for property managers to be aware of the issues that are relevant to their properties, first and foremost,” he says. “And by participating in advocacy, it gives us a voice in these issues.”

“IREM’s LPP Committee is really focused on federal legislation, but we also address state and local issues,” continues Logue. “The committee members are in lots of different jurisdictions. We ask the members at large to get involved with advocacy and seek out their local representative, wherever they live and work. For instance, I live in Orlando, Florida, in Osceola County. My congressperson is Rep. Darren Soto. I reach out to him and meet with him on the issues either here locally or in D.C.”

Logue shares IREM’s viewpoint that individual members should meet with their congressperson and two senators, if possible. And that doesn’t have to happen during Advocacy Impact Day.

“Honestly, it’s hard to develop the relationships with senators, because they’re super busy people. But if they are not able to meet with us directly, we can meet with and develop relationships with their staff,” Logue says. Senators have different staff members who are responsible for certain policy areas, so it’s best to develop a good relationship with the people who are tasked with real estate interests. “Those are the people who the senators are going to come to and say, ‘Hey, brief me on this.’ So, what we really want is for those staffers or members of Congress to reach out to us as the experts if they have any questions about property management,” Logue continues.

Logue urges members not already participating in IREM advocacy to consider getting involved. “I think one area where we could all improve is just at the level of participation,” he says. “If we could get more people to participate, I think we would be a lot better off, because that’s the way our system is structured. You educate yourself on an issue, then go tell the right person what you think about it, and then you go vote. By engaging in IREM advocacy, you’re really utilizing the system by taking participation to the next level.”

Emphasizing how each of the LPP Committee’s focuses affect property management jobs and stakeholders, he says, “It’s going to benefit you because you’re going to be able to go lend your voice to whatever the issue is, and that’s what’s important.”

Journal of Property Management

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