By Steve Brown, First Vice President, National Association of REALTORS®
When people think of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), they usually think of our issues advocacy with the Legislative and Executive branches. But the truth is NAR also works with the Judicial Branch when needed.
Standing up for the rights of property owners is one of NAR’s critical missions. Sometimes that means going all the way to the highest court in the land. Not long ago, NAR joined a dozen other associations in submitting what’s called a “friend-of-the-court” brief to the Supreme Court of the United States.
When NAR heard the story of Chantell and Mike Sackett from Priest Lake, Idaho, it seemed like, in this instance, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had gone too far.
Here’s what happened:
Four years ago, the Sacketts bought less than an acre of land sitting in the middle of a developed subdivision, complete with a sewer infrastructure. The couple had obtained local building permits and even a verbal okay from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that the property, which periodically has water on it, was not a wetlands.
As soon as the Sacketts started to build their home, EPA officials, citing the Clean Water Act, ordered them to stop and restore the property to its original condition and monitor the property because they hadn’t obtained a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. If they didn’t comply, they could be fined as much as $32,500 a day!
Then, the EPA said that the Sacketts could not challenge the EPA’s order because they had not been charged with noncompliance, and prior to that the agency’s orders are not subject to judicial review.
NAR and others filed a brief, arguing that the Sacketts were denied due process because they couldn’t contest the EPA’s order without violating it and facing serious or substantial penalties for non- compliance, or alternatively, seeking a permit, which is a lengthy and potentially expensive process.
After considering the case, the Supreme Court handed the Sacketts, and private property owners, a victory. It ruled that property owners may contest in court EPA compliance orders like the one issued to the Sacketts without having to first violate that order. This means the Sacketts can now appeal the EPA ruling. Finally, they get their day in court.
This is just one case, but be assured that NAR will not rest. We will continue to be proactive in all three branches of government, protecting the dream of home ownership in every way we can.
As soon as I heard about the rally in Washington, D.C., I knew I had to be there. The American Dream of homeownership is under attack. As REALTORS® and as Americans, it’s our duty to defend homeownership and point out the tremendous contributions that the real estate industry makes to this great nation.
We plan to raise our voice at the “Rally to Protect the American Dream,” on May 17th, in Washington, D.C. At 9:30 a.m., we’ll gather by the Washington Monument, right on the National Mall. You can’t ask for greater visibility than that!
We need you to join us, however you can. Take a plane, ride a bus or drive a car—but get here! First, you should register so we know you’re coming. I’ve registered and you can too, right now, at www.RealtorRally.org.
You can even create your own Rally poster at the site, like I have. Include your own personal message about the Rally, homeownership, or revitalizing real estate and share it with your friends and colleagues in your office. Or you can distribute it via Twitter or Facebook.
Together we’ll remind Washington that owning your own home is still a huge part of the American Dream. Not only is homeownership a good long-term investment, it provides exponential economic benefits. Research shows that for every two houses sold, one job is created. That means 2.25 to 2.5 million jobs supported annually. Out of over 80 million taxpayers, homeowners pay 80 to 90 percent of personal federal income taxes.
Owning a home also provides many social benefits. Homeowners are healthier and happier. They are more involved in their communities, volunteer more and vote more often. Their children stay in school longer, get better grades and get better jobs after school.
Homeownership knits together the social fabric of our country. It’s a policy issue, an economic issue and a cultural issue. Let’s ensure that future generations have the same opportunity to buy, own and enjoy their own homes as we, ourselves, have enjoyed.
By Chris Polychron, First Vice President-Nominee, National Association of REALTORS®
As one educator said, “America is a land of taxation that was founded to avoid taxation.” So I think Tax Day is a good opportunity to talk about the tax benefits that go along with home ownership.
Since 1913, when the federal income tax became permanent, the tax code has offered a break for mortgage interest. This incentive to homeowners has reflected the high value that our nation places on homeownership due to the many financial and social benefits owning a home provides.
We believe these incentives should be protected because of the numerous financial and social benefits to the nation that are provided by homeownership. Even with these benefits, home owners currently pay 80 to 90 percent of the federal individual income taxes.
Let me mention a few of the financial benefits:
- Every home purchased pumps more than $60,000 into the economy for things like furniture and home improvements.
- Historically, a home owner’s net worth is 31 to 46 times that of a renter.
- For every two homes sold, one job is created.
- Housing is a key driver of our economy, accounting for more than 15 percent of the national Gross Domestic Product.
These benefits show the importance of housing as an engine of our economy.
On top of financial benefits, there are many social benefits:
- Home owners are happier and healthier.
- They participate more in their communities, including voting, volunteering and donating to charities.
- Their children stay in school longer and have higher test scores.
- Homeowners are less likely to be victims of crimes.
- They have a greater attachment to their neighbors and their neighborhoods, which fosters a greater sense of community.
This is just a partial accounting of the many social benefits that make our communities a better place to live and work.
While we don’t have to throw the tea in the harbor—yet—we can let our government representatives know strongly that we believe in the tax benefits provided to homeowners, particularly the mortgage interest deduction. As one former Secretary of the Treasury put it, “The nation should have a tax system that looks like someone designed it on purpose.”
So on this Tax Day, tell our leaders that we want to see the tax code continue to reflect the values of ordinary Americans, most of whom still consider home ownership to be a key part of the American Dream.
Death and taxes are certainties. Meanwhile, if you’re a homeowner, Tax Day doesn’t look so bad after all. And if you’re expecting a refund because of the MID—it can even become a day to look forward to.
The countdown to the Rally to Protect the American Dream is officially on.
NAR Vice President & Liaison to Committees, D.J. Snapp, talks about how important it is for state and local associations to spread the word to their members about the Rally. He also shares some tools, available from NAR, that will make it easier for associations to promote the Rally, including a countdown clock to post online.