In May, over 13,000 REALTORS® gathered on the lawn below the Washington Monument. It was the Rally to Protect the American Dream. REALTORS® from across the country joined via Internet feed. To be there was something special. Think of the biggest pep rally you’ve ever attended with great music and a deep sense of purpose on very hallowed ground. In each direction you could feel the power and prestige of Washington, DC: the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, White House and the U.S. Capitol.
Each speaker spoke with their own passion for what we do every day. At our core, we as REALTORS® help build communities. We are usually the first contact someone has moving into a city and the last person they may talk with when they leave. We volunteer, donate and share. The rally wasn’t just a big pat on the back. It was designed to shine a spotlight on the challenges that are before us.
Each day Congress considers important factors such as the National Flood Insurance Program, which they agree needs to be fixed, but so far they have only granted extensions to it–12 so far, the latest only for 60 days. Right now this bill is being used as a Christmas tree; other bills not even relevant to the original bill are being added. Then consider an important issue like the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act that was extended once already and is set to expire at the end of this year. Many of our representatives have told us this issue, which impacts homeowners who are facing a short sale or foreclosure and the phantom income they could be taxed on when the debt is forgiven, won’t be taken up until after the election in November. The lame-duck Congress will address this issue as well as the Bush tax cuts and many other key issues in our country in a compressed time period from November to December 31.
Aside from the procrastination that has choked Congress during an election year, the U.S. government is looking for money. Right now, housing is making money. This is the piggy bank that is being used for all the other programs and pet projects. There is no sacred cow in politics. In May, REALTORS® rallied to protect the Mortgage Interest Deduction for homeowners. We helped to educate law makers on the pitfalls of the Qualified Residential Mortgage (QRM) and the negative impacts on the credit markets this new rule could cause. We discussed the importance of commercial lending and GSE reform. The National Association of REALTORS® advocacy issues are lengthy and tough in this climate.
This rally was not about protecting our jobs. It was deeper. It was about protecting our future. The value of homeownership is hard to measure. Public opinion is shifting from looking at owning a home as purely an investment and becoming “the emotional center of [our] lives,” says Robi Ludwig, a psychologist in New York. According to a recent Coldwell Banker survey, 78% of owners say owning a home is one of their greatest life achievements. 83% of renters say they plan to own a home one day. Every year, but most especially in an election year, we–as an organization but also as individuals in our community–need to be more involved in helping those around us understand the long-term implications of rules and laws passed today. I look at my nephews and nieces… They are why I continue to rally.