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Real Estate Associations

NAR and MBA urge Congress to help troubled homeowners hit by COVID

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) NAR and MBA wrote a letter to Congress seeking more emergency mortgage and rental assistance for homeowners because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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Emergency mortgage

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) sent a letter to Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed and California Representative Maxine Waters on May 7. The letter supports legislation that funds emergency mortgage and rental assistance to Americans facing financial hardships due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Waters is the Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees banking, public and assisted housing, and insurance. Reed is a ranking member of the Armed Services Committee and a minority member of the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs committee.

Mortgage lenders and REALTORS® are working through unusual and adverse circumstances to provide vital housing security,” the letter states. “Across every state and local community, we have seen the need for Congress to help homeowners and renters faced with the sudden loss of income…A comprehensive response by Congress to these needs would include direct emergency mortgage and rental assistance to advance housing stability.”

According to the letter, 3.8 million homeowners have requested mortgage forbearance since the beginning of the pandemic. Payment forbearance and lowered interest rates are crucial to the housing sector’s ability to survive the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. As of April 29, 2020, the Federal Reserve has announced it would maintain a mortgage rate of 0 to 0.25% until the economy returns to a trajectory towards maximum employment.

The letter lauds the Housing Assistance Fund created to support homeowners ability to make mortgage payments and lenders ability to create flexibility for payments.

The NAR has been engaged in a series of legislative activism to protect Americans’ homes and keep people housed in a time when income has been significantly impacted. In just the last two weeks, NAR wrote two letters to Congress including this one and also supported two coalition letters. The coalition letters also supported emergency rental assistance for Americans with lost or reduced income. They also advocate for creating a comprehensive portal for consumers to access that emergency mortgage and rental relief. The fourth letter was to the Federal Housing Administration about increased premiums.

Though it is unclear the extent to which lawmakers have been economically impacted by the pandemic, they like everyone else have been impacted by the coronavirus. Waters’ sister died of COVID-19 in Saint Louis, Missouri last week.

It is never quite certain what it will take for Washington to stay connected to the needs of the average American and respond accordingly. Sweeping legislation has been passed in record time in response to the economic shutdown, but the government has a long way to go to prove to the American people that it is trustworthy enough to protect both lives and livelihood all together.

Heather Buffo is a Cleveland native, a recovering Bostonian, and an Austin newbie. Heather is the Venture Growth & Partnerships Lead at Republic where she works with partners in private investing to democratize access to capital for entrepreneurs. Heather studied neurobiology at Harvard University, and is a City Year Boston AmeriCorps alum. She likes to write for AG, drink Austin beer, and ride around town on her road bicycle. His name is Pippin. Say hello if you see them.

Real Estate Associations

NAR and AARP partner to create livability index for house hunting

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCATIONS) The National Association of Realtors® and AARP integrated the AARP Livability Index scores across the Realtors Property Resource® platform.

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A neighborhood with close-together houses, with different livability factors.

When you’re searching for your dream home, there are a lot of things to consider besides what you can afford from a financial standpoint. Factors such as being able to have a short commute to work, living in an area with a good school district, or being close to nearby entertainment and restaurants are all things you might take a look at. These are all considered livability factors — the measure of how various community characteristics play into where you choose to live.

Having access to all this information can be difficult to come by, especially if you live out of state and aren’t familiar with the area. The information you do have access to is what is available in the home listing and answers you get from your realtor or seller, but not much else.

So, where can you go to get that information? Well, the National Association of Realtors® and AARP are making it less of a hassle to acquire that information. In a joint effort, the two are integrating the AARP Livability Index scores across the Realtors Property Resource® platform.

“One of AARP’s goals through this collaboration with NAR is to help people better understand their housing needs over their lifetime and address the barriers that prevent people from living in their desired communities as they age,” said Rodney Harrell, VP of Family, Home & Community at AARP. “We are thrilled about the AARP Livability Index integration as it will provide homebuyers and other movers with the necessary information to make informed choices that meet their needs for today and into the future.”

To assist and give property buyers a chance to make “age-friendly decisions and purchases for the home”, the Index will offer insights on community factors. The tool will access these 7 categories of livability:

  • Housing (affordability and access)
  • Neighborhood (access to life, work, and play)
  • Transportation (safe and convenient options)
  • Environment (clean air and water)
  • Health (prevention, access and quality)
  • Engagement (civic and social involvement)
  • Opportunity (inclusion and possibilities)

The tool will score each neighborhood between 0 to 100, with an average score being 50. Communities with more diverse features that appeal to all ages, incomes, and abilities will score higher than those that are not.

Although a total livability score is based on the average of all 7 category scores, the Index lets you customize your score based on your personal preferences. If transportation is more important to you than housing or the environment, the tool will take into account what you set as most important.

The AARP Livability Index will give Realtors® access to “robust national data” that can be broken down by address, ZIP Code, city, or county to share with buyers. This data will have information on updated metrics and policies. You’ll also be able to compare up to three community performances side by side and even share a score on social media.

What is considered “livable” is different for each person. It can be that affordable home right in the middle of town or that spacious house removed from the bustling city. Whatever your form of livability is, the AARP Livability Index score aims to help you find the right home in just the right community.

This story first appeared here in May 2021.

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Real Estate Associations

NAR updates code of ethics – here’s why it matters

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATION) The NAR amended their code of ethics to cover hate speech online – a decision for which we’ve been waiting for years.

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A welcome sign inside of a home that cannot be removed thanks to updated code of ethics

The National Association of Realtors voted to amend their realtor code of ethics in November 2020, leading to a crucial addition that will change the way realtors approach off-duty interactions and behavior—for the better.

This motion passed on the heels of several reports regarding disturbing speech and actions from realtors. While the comments in question were allegedly restricted to social media, some other members of the NAR went so far as to do things like remove property (e.g., Black Lives Matter signs) from neighbors’ yards. This clearly constitutes an ethical violation, but the line isn’t always so clear-cut—hence the updated code of ethics.

According to the revised code, any kind of hate speech or dissenting behavior toward protected classes from realtors will constitute a violation; this includes comments or harassment based on race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, age, and much more. Should a realtor be found guilty of making such comments, they could face severe penalties.

Changing the code of ethics to reflect common decency is a part of this decision, but it isn’t the most important component. By adopting and enforcing these changes, the NAR gets one step closer to fair housing for all—something that many realtors consider to be of paramount value.

“[Fair housing] is something near and dear to my heart, and most Realtors’ hearts,” says Jennifer Stevenson, president of the New York State Association of Realtors and board member for the NAR.

Some may view this addition as meddlesome—after all, what one says in their private life and on social media has a certain impervious air to it. But the fact remains that realtors really are public servants; by that logic, they should be held accountable for their words whether they are on-duty or off—just like all other public servants.

Furthermore, realtors represent real estate as a whole; the institution itself deserves to be able to eradicate the member status of anyone who violates the ethics held by that institution. It’s a simple concept: Society is—or should be—moving towards greater acceptance and support of protected classes, and that support includes fair housing. Anyone who isn’t on board with that, even if it’s “just in their personal life”, should jump ship now.

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Real Estate Associations

NAR supports economic inclusion for equal housing opportunities

(REAL ESTATE ASSOCIATIONS) The NAR is pushing to insure anyone who wants a home can get one through a combination of economic inclusion, and eliminating implicit bias.

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economic inclusion

The National Association of Realtors® is working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Equality of Opportunity that addresses accessibility to housing based on economic inclusion. NAR CEO Bob Goldberg said,

“We believe that building a better future in America begins with equal access to housing and opportunity. With ongoing residential segregation contributing to many problems in our society, NAR recognizes that this nation cannot achieve true economic equality without first achieving true equality in housing. Our commitment to this cause and to Fair Housing has only strengthened in response to recent tragedies in America.”

What is economic inclusion?

According to the FDIC, economic inclusion describes the efforts to bring underserved communities into the financial mainstream. This could include things like making sure consumers have access to bank accounts and financial services; protections against discriminatory lending practices; and other types of consumer protections. Although the FDIC’s efforts seem to focus on unbanked and underbanked consumers, economic inclusion reaches around to all financial transactions, including housing.

Research from the Brookings Institution cites barriers to economic inclusion as slowing economic growth in local communities. Giving underserved communities access to financial products and opportunities actually spurs the local economy. The government bears the weight of services for the underserved. For example, childhood poverty costs the U.S. economy about 4% of the GDP annually. Nationwide, that is about $500 billion a year. Economic inclusion gives people a way out. It’s not a hand-out, but education and opportunities to change the future.

The NAR is making real change for the underserved

Last week, it was announced that the NAR introduced tools that would reduce implicit bias. Goldberg said, “NAR has spent recent years reexamining how our 1.4 million members can best lead the fight against discrimination, bigotry, and injustice.” The NAR isn’t just talking about it. They’re putting their money behind inclusion, and preventing unfair housing practices. These kind of changes matter for everyone.

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