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Government Affairs Monthly Report

03-14-2018

Government Affairs Report - Nick Bokone, SSBR Political Consultant

Hayden spends money to Advertise Affordable Housing Options

As home prices skyrocket and become difficult to obtain for some in Steamboat Springs, the town 25 miles west has launched a marketing campaign aimed at luring development and families to the Hayden community. This year, the town has set aside about $6,000 for advertising.

At the beginning of February, digital ads were rolled out to target people in the Steamboat and Denver areas. The ads, so far, are appearing through Google, Facebook and Instagram. While single-family homes in Steamboat are going for more than $500,000, Hayden is publicizing new construction, three-bedroom, two-bath homes on the market for an average of $290,000. Hayden also currently has about 200 plotted single-family lots that are ready to build.

The marketing materials are branding Hayden as the "Heart of the Yampa Valley," and the town will be able to monitor the effectiveness of the digital marketing to see if people are clicking. The Hayden School District is also pursuing grant funding to build brand new schools, and the town will spend $3.7 million in the next three years to upgrade infrastructure.

Affordable Housing Tax Credit Bill Moves Along in Colorado House

This week, HB18-1195 passed the House Finance Committee by an 8-5 vote and now moves along to the Appropriations Committee. This bill, sponsored by Representative Pabon (D-Denver) and Senator Tate (R-Centennial), provides a state income tax credit for contributions to nonprofit organizations engaged in the new construction of affordable housing for homeownership of at least 120% Average Median Income. The donation by an individual or organization must be tied to an actual project that is planned and the amount of the credit allowed by the bill is fifty percent of the amount of the money or the value of the securities donated to the eligible organization. The credit is capped at $250,000 per taxpayer in one income tax year, but if the credit is not fully used in the first year, it can be carried forward for five successive tax filing years. The total amount of the credits cannot exceed more than $20 million dollars over nine years starting in the 2020 tax year.

The Colorado Association of REALTORS® (CAR) Legislative Policy Committee (LPC) supports this bill. This legislation will incentivize new construction of affordable housing that all areas of Colorado need given the dearth of affordable inventory statewide. These projects will be developed with an attainable price for homeowners in the low-income and workforce housing level. CAR is happy to support good public policy solutions that will start to address the continuing problem of affordable housing.

Federal News: ADA Reform Bill Passes House

On Thursday, February 15, the House of Representatives voted to pass HR 620, the ADA Education and Reform Act, by a vote of 225-192. This bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Rep. Poe (R-TX), adds a "notice-and-cure" provision to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), giving businesses an opportunity to fix alleged violations before a suit can be filed against them. It also creates an education program between the Department of Justice, states/local governments, and businesses to raise awareness of ADA compliance issues, and a model mediation program for resolving ADA complaints.

In recent years, the practice of "drive-by-ADA suits," in which attorneys hit many businesses with demand letters for small, easily curable infractions of the ADA (sometimes multiple times), has risen. This disproportionately impacts small businesses and commercial properties, and they often end up spending time and resources settling the issue instead of on actually fixing the violation. The attorneys behind these suits are simply trying to collect the legal fees associated with them; under the ADA, plaintiffs themselves do not collect any damages. H.R. 620 restores integrity to the ADA by incentivizing businesses to quickly resolve ADA violations, ultimately furthering the purpose of the ADA: to ensure access for all individuals to public spaces.

NAR advocated strongly in support of HR 620, sending a letter of support to the full House of Representatives, and issuing a commercial-targeted call-for-action ahead of the floor vote. Many state associations also reached out to their Congressional delegations in support of the bill. NAR looks forward to working with the Senate on crafting a companion bill and ultimately working to see this legislation passed into law.

CFPB Industry Roundtable Discussion

On February 15, NAR participated in an Industry Roundtable Discussion at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) with Acting Director Mulvaney. The purpose of the roundtable was to foster an open dialogue between new agency leadership and roundtable participants, discussing the priorities for the future and united efforts. NAR joined other consumer and banking trade associations in explaining how agency operations affect members of the real estate and housing finance industries, and the consumers they represent.

The Director provided feedback on the new direction of the CFPB, including increased transparency and communication by agency staff, improved engagement with industry, and better coordination with federal and state examiners enforcing consumer protection laws. NAR stressed with the Director REALTORS®’ connections with consumers and how the agency should continue to look to NAR as a trusted partner.

NAR will continue working with the CFPB, following up on issues of concern raised at the roundtable, such as less regulation through enforcement and more clarity on complex regulations, especially in light of the recent PHH case. NAR will also be commenting on the CFPB’s Requests for Information (RFIs) that will provide the agency with details to assess agency efficiency and effectiveness, and encourage feedback from members also wishing to weigh in anonymously.