Government Affairs Update August 2015
Written By: Barbara Koelzer, Regional Government Affairs Director
REALTORS Strengthen Relationship with City Officials: Using local issues mobilization funds, the Loveland-Berthoud Association of REALTORS held a reception for the City Council and key staff on June 23. Chair Bob Skillman provided a brief report on the local real estate market. This led to a wide-ranging discussion of affordable housing policies, capital expansion fees and funding for I-25.
LBAR was invited to attend the July meeting of the Construction Advisory Committee to discuss the possibility of a municipal construction defects ordinance, something City staff has briefly discussed but not pursued. City Manager Bill Cahill invited LBAR to participate in the revamping of the City’s capital expansion fee policy. The purpose of the reception was to encourage a closer relationship between LBAR and City decision makers and the dialog is already bearing fruit.
NISP Officials Need to Hear from YOU: The Army Corps of Engineers is holding public hearings to gather input on the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) Environment Impact statement. Opponents of the project have already announced their intent to delay the project as long as they can. Northern Water officials say the appearance of supporters at the public hearings is crucial.
Representatives of local REALTOR associations will speak and individuals are encouraged to do the same. The hearings will be held in Fort Collins on July 22nd at the Hilton Fort Collins on Prospect and in Greeley on the 23rd at the Weld County Administration Building. The hearings begin at 6 pm. Email comments can be sent to John Urbanic, NISP EIS Project Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org. All comments must be received by September 3, 2015.
Stop the Patent Trolls: NAR Launches Patent Troll Call to Action: A Call to Action was launched on July 13 asking members to urge their members of Congress to support H.R. 9 - The Innovation Act. This legislationwould close loopholes in the legal system that currently allow Patent Trolls to target REALTORS for using
common business technologies like dropdown menus and search functions on websites or scan-to-email technologies found in every office scanner.
Patent trolls exist solely to purchase old patents and to use the threat of expensive lawsuits to extort money from legitimate businesses.
Use this link to participate:
Texas Implements Construction Defect Law: On June 17 the Governor of Texas signed House Bill No. 1455, which amends the Texas Uniform Condominium Act. The bill requires condominium associations to fulfill certain preconditions prior to initiating a construction defect or design lawsuit. At its core, House Bill No. 1455 prevents a condominium board from making litigation decisions without meaningful input or approval from the unit owners themselves. Note: This legislation is similar to the bill supported by CAR, which failed to make it through the General Assembly this year.
HUD Announces Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule: The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced its final rule regarding Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing. The rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register this week and will take effect 30 days after its publication date.
The rule lays out requirements based on Section 808 (e)(5) of the Fair Housing Act which requires the Secretary of HUD to administer the Department’s housing and urban development programs in a manner to “affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH).” The rule defines “affirmatively furthering fair housing”, and outlines a revised process for HUD review of state and local governments’ steps to comply with the rules. All jurisdictions receiving HUD housing funds, including CDBG funds, will be required to complete an Assessment of Fair Housing which replaces the former Analysis Impediments to Fair Housing Choice.
NAR says the requirements to affirmatively further fair housing are not new, but have been in effect for decades.
While nothing in the rule directly impacts REALTORS, it is important that Associations familiarize themselves with the requirements relating to an Assessment of Fair Housing and participate in the assessment process.
Congressional Leaders Move to Block EPA Rule: Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees passed a provision that would prohibit the EPA from using any funds in FY 2016 to implement the now-finalized Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. At this time, there is no word yet on when either measure may reach the floor for a vote. Other spending bans in the bills included the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which restricts carbon emissions from power plants, and placing the greater sage grouse on the endangered species list.
In addition, the House has also passed a bill requiring the EPA to with withdraw the WOTUS rule and start from scratch. A similar bill has passed out of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and is awaiting a vote on the floor.
Help for Small Businesses: Regulation A+ took effect on June 19. Regulation A+ is part of the rulemaking that encompasses the JOBS Act of 2012, which is designed to increase capital-raising opportunities for small businesses. Regulation A+ makes it easier for small businesses to raise capital by removing many of the regulatory compliance hurdles that had been in place previously. The new rules will allow companies to raise up to $50 million under Regulation A, which is a less-complicated route in terms of compliance and administration, as the previous limit was $5 million.
Study Says Energy Measures Don’t Deliver: According to a surprising study published by the University of Chicago, home efficiency measures such as installing new windows or replacing insulation deliver such a small fraction of their promised energy savings that they may not save any money over the long run. The authors say, “The upfront investment costs are about twice the actual energy savings. Further, the model-projected savings are roughly 2.5 times the actual savings. While this might be attributed to the “rebound” effect – when demand for energy end uses increases as a result of greater efficiency – the paper fails to find evidence of significantly higher indoor temperatures at weatherized homes. Even when accounting for the broader societal benefits of energy efficiency investments, the costs still substantially outweigh the benefits; the average rate of return is approximately -9.5% annually.” Furthermore, the study’s results indicate “residential energy efficiency retrofits are unlikely to provide the least expensive carbon reductions.” If the results of the study are upheld by further research, this could curtail efforts by municipal governments to implement mandatory energy efficiency retrofits.
The entire paper is available here:
Senators Introduce Transportation Bill: A bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation that would spend $275 billion over the next six years on the nation's roads, as Congress rushes to prevent an interruption in federal infrastructure spending next month. The measure, known as the Developing a Reliable and Innovative Vision for the Economy (DRIVE) Act, calls for appropriating nearly $43 billion per year to the federal government's highway program.
The spending would be contingent upon lawmakers coming up with a way to pay for it, which is a huge obstacle. The federal government's transportation spending is typically funded by a combination the gas tax and transfers from other areas of the budget. Lawmakers face a July 31 deadline for the expiration of the current infrastructure measure but are deadlocked on how to pay for an extension.
The federal gas tax, which is currently 18.4 cents per gallon, has been the traditional source of transportation funding since its inception in the 1930s. But the tax has not been increased since 1993, and improvements in auto fuel efficiency have sapped its purchasing power.
The federal government spends about $50 billion per year on transportation projects, but the gas tax only brings in approximately $34 billion annually. As a result of the shortfall, Congress has not passed a transportation bill that last longer than two years since 2005. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated it will take about $100 billion in addition to the gas tax revenue to close the gap long enough to pay for a six-year transportation funding bill, such as the measure offered in the Senate.
Supreme Court Upholds Fair Housing Act: On June 25 the Supreme Court affirmed the Fair Housing Act, which was passed in 1968 to combat housing discrimination by holding that the law allows not only claims for intentional discrimination but also claims that cover practices have a discriminatory effect even if they were not motivated by an intent to discriminate.
Civil rights advocates say such "disparate impact" claims are essential to combat subtle instances of discrimination, but some companies, developers and housing authorities say they cost time and money investigating actions made with good intentions. "Housing authorities and developers are not able to make the same kind of decisions to develop affordable housing if they have to consider the effects of where they are developing and how the money is invested in housing," said an attorney who filed a brief in the case on behalf of the Houston Housing Authority.