Monday
September 22, 2014

REALTORS(R) to Tackle Several Regulatory Issues

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REALTORS(R) to Tackle Several Regulatory Issues

The Land Use, Property Rights, and Environment Committee met Tuesday at the National Association of REALTORS®' Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo in Washington, D.C. to update members on the many issues tracked by the multifaceted group. 

"The name of this committee proposes a great deal of coverage," noted the committee's vice chair, Max Gurvitch, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based REALTOR®. 

Committee members and staff liaisons highlighted various legislative and regulatory issues facing the industry, including the following.

Disaster Insurance Costs

Austin Perez, the committee's staff executive for legislative affairs, highlighted a congressional effort to protect consumers from high insurance costs in HR 1101, introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this year.

The bill aims "to improve the availability and affordability of private market homeowners insurance coverage for catastrophic events," but Perez did not believe it had much of a chance to actually do so. 

"[Sources in the House] have told us we have an uphill battle," Perez said. "They are not interested in subsidizing insurance."

Lead Paint

Russell Riggs, the committee's staff executive for regulatory affairs, explained that the Environmental Protection Agency is trying to apply the template of Title 10 of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 – which sought to prevent the creation of lead dust – to commercial buildings. 

"They have no research to make that connection," Riggs said. Noting that committee members will testify at the planned public hearing on the subject this June, he said, "I think we are on very solid ground as we move forward."

Energy Labels

"We don't have a problem with Energy Star," said Perez, explaining that the voluntary government program recognizing innovation in environmentally friendly design is not in the committee's crosshairs. "But energy labels are not a good idea in this economy."

Perez went on to note that while there are efforts to add energy labeling language to legislation currently in Congress, the issue reaches far outside Washington. Nine states and localities are currently mandating such labels, Perez noted, and Chicago is considering joining their ranks.

Other impending issues discussed by committee members at Tuesday's meeting include possible changes to the definition of navigable waters; oil, gas, and mineral rights; and stormwater management. 

The large number of pressing issues facing the committee was part of the reason its leadership decided to create two subcommittees: one to determine the reasons behind recent increases in flood insurance premiums, and the other to look at possible regulatory reforms that would benefit the real estate industry. 

The issue of flood insurance was not initially on the committee's radar for 2013. But the five-year extension secured by NAR and other advocates last year came with a cost: the elimination of federal subsidies.

"I thought I would be doing a victory lap around the room," Perez said, recalling the elation at securing the extension. "It was the best deal we could get at the time."

Perez said that while some areas are seeing double-digit increases in premiums, it's not clear whether the increases are being caused by legislative action or recent steps the Federal Emergency Management Agency has taken to update their flood maps. 

"What's wrong with flood insurance? We just know that rates are up and we need to find out why the rates are up," Committee Chair Donna Smith told members. "You're going to find out what's happening … We need to have information [to bring] back to Congress."

- Meg White, REALTOR® Magazine

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