REALTORS® Call on Legislators’ Support on Legislative Day, while Legislators Express Concern over Housing Affordability
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REALTORS® Call on Legislators’ Support on Legislative Day, while Legislators Express Concern over Housing Affordability

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Washington, D.C. – (RealEstateRama) — About 50 SILVAR members joined over 2,000 California REALTORS® in Sacramento on Wednesday for the annual California Association of REALTORS® (C.A.R.) Legislative Day, the one day each year that the state’s REALTORS® meet with their legislators and discuss real estate-related policies and issues.

California Governor Jerry Brown spoke to California REALTORS® at the Sacramento Convention Center during the C.A.R. morning briefing. Brown said the economy has its cycles and at present the state’s economy is doing well, thanks to the business sector.

“California is the land of sunshine and smart people. That’s why people want to be here. Silicon Valley has the smartest people in the world,” declared the Governor.

Brown told REALTORS® to stay the course, stating, “REALTORS® are the backbone of what California looks like, of what California is.”

At a joint luncheon with members of the San Mateo County Association of REALTORS® and Santa Clara County Association of REALTORS®, Los Angeles Times Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers analyzed the state’s political landscape. He indicated California has “places of great success and places of great struggle,” a dichotomy between urban versus rural, haves versus have nots, the highly employed places versus low employed.

Myers said it will be interesting to see how the state plans to implement the $15 minimum wage; how the state will expand the family leave law; and what arises from discussions on affordable housing. Other fundamental issues looming over California are education, transportation and water.

According to Myers, this year’s state elections may be the last chance to bring new blood to the state legislature, since new legislators will be serving 12-year terms due to the passage of Proposition 28. Myers also warned REALTORS® to expect a longer and confusing U.S. Senate ballot for the June 7 primary because of how the names of the 34 candidates seeking to replace retiring Senator Barbara Boxer are laid out on the ballot. Choose only one candidate. Selecting two or more candidates would disqualify your vote.

After the luncheon, SILVAR members met with Senators Jim Beall and Jerry Hill, and Assembly members Rich Gordon and Evan Low. Members asked their support on the following bills:

SUPPORT C.A.R.-sponsored bill AB 2693 (Dababneh) – PACE Loan Disclosure, which seeks to change the super-priority status of PACE loans and to require disclosures to consumers before they obtain such a loan. A PACE loan allows a homeowner to borrow money to finance energy upgrades. The loan is then repaid as a surcharge on the property tax. The PACE loan takes primary position to the mortgage. If a homeowner takes out a PACE loan they may have difficulty refinancing or selling their home if the new mortgage holder, like Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), does not allow for PACE loans. If the cost of repaying the PACE loan and any mortgages on the property exceeds the purchase price of the home, the seller will be forced to make up the difference. This will prevent some homeowners from selling when they need or want to. Current disclosures given to homebuyers do not explain the potential consequences of using PACE loans. AB 2693 will require Truth in Lending type disclosures to borrowers.

SUPPORT C.A.R.-sponsored bill AB 2760 (Mathis) – Support Animal Regulations seeks to distinguish between a medically necessary companion or support animal and other animals kept as pets. C.A.R. wants to clarify current law to allow legitimate support animals to share rental housing and to allow landlords to avoid unnecessary litigation. Service animals, as defined under federal law, are animals individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual, like guide dogs and signal dogs. Companion animals simply provide comfort to an individual. They are not afforded the same protections under the ADA or California State Law as service animals, even though they are kept as the result of a mental health professional’s prescription, causing confusion for housing providers. The vagueness in state law allows individuals without a legitimate need to claim a status for pets that is not deserved. AB 2760 will allow tenants to keep a support animal on the property provided that the tenant has a prescription validating the need for the support animal from a California-licensed mental health professional. They must also comply with all federal, state and local requirements, such as vaccination or sterilization mandates.

OPPOSE SB 1053 (Leno) – Sec. 8 Housing Mandate, which seeks to expand protected classes under the Fair Employment and Housing Act to include those who receive government rental subsidies. SB 1053 forces residential rental property owners to participate in the federal and local government’s voluntary Section 8 housing program. Section 8 was always intended to be a voluntary program. By forcing property owners to accept tenants with housing vouchers or other subsidies, SB 1053 forces landlords to participate in Section 8 without regard to the property owner’s specific circumstances. It forces landlords to endure administrative burdens and increased costs due to delays that result from understaffed housing authorities and requires landlords to accept objectionable and burdensome lease terms. Under HUD rules, housing authorities must use a HUD formula to determine an “acceptable” rental rate.

REALTORS® thanked the legislators for supporting past C.A.R.-sponsored bills. They also thanked Gordon, who is termed-out this year and will be leaving government service after 24 years. The legislators, in turn, thanked REALTORS® for coming to Sacramento every year and explaining how bills can potentially impact their clients and private property rights.

Silicon Valley’s legislators expressed their concern for the housing affordability problem in the region. They said local city councils are hitting road blocks getting new housing developments and proposals for higher density housing and in-fill housing passed. They noted Silicon Valley has grown in leaps and bounds with giant companies like Apple and Google physically expanding, so change needs to happen.

Beall wants to encourage financing of more apartment buildings and allowing more flexibility in zoning laws for secondary units. “The state has to be vigorous about increasing our supply of affordable housing, or it is going to kill our economy in our area,” said Beall.

Hill said if the problem is not fixed, the backlash could be worse. Some cities in the region are already seeing rent control initiatives.

On the topic of rent control, Gordon remarked, “Let’s stop talking about rent control because it does not work. It doesn’t make sense.”

He indicated studies show for every one high-tech person hired, four service level jobs are created. If service workers can’t afford to live here and have to fight massive traffic to get here, they will leave.

“We won’t survive as a region if we don’t create more housing and make it affordable. Our community will change, but we can play a role in what it will look like,” said Gordon.

Low noted it is a personal issue for him, especially when government officials like himself, and teachers and firefighters cannot live in the cities where they work.

“We are in a crisis. The social contract we made with California is broken,” said Low.

Low said a lot of the backlash to develop more housing is coming from local residents “whose mentality is very protectionist” and who are quick to initiate a recall of council members who support more housing in a community.

“I am very disturbed at what is happening at the local level. This is not suburbia anymore. We need to recognize that and adapt and make changes,” said Low.

“This is your issue,” Low told REALTORS®. “Your involvement is critical to the issue I care most about. You need to show up at city council meetings and promote what is good policy by supporting us.”

The Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) is a professional trade organization representing over 4,000 REALTORS® and Affiliate members engaged in the real estate business on the Peninsula and in the South Bay. SILVAR promotes the highest ethical standards of real estate practice, serves as an advocate for homeownership and homeowners, and represents the interests of property owners in Silicon Valley.

The term “REALTOR®” is a registered collective membership mark which identifies a real estate professional who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS® and who subscribes to its strict Code of Ethics.

For further information, please contact Rose Meily at SILVAR Public Affairs, e-mail rmeily (at) silvar (dot) org, or phone (408) 200-0109.

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