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Every year in the month of April, REALTORS® observe the anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act of 1968 and use the time to educate consumers about housing discrimination and segregation, and to recommit to expanding equal access to housing. April this year has turned out to be different due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but NAR reminds members Fair Housing Month can be celebrated at home. Education, reflection, and discussion are meaningful efforts members can still undertake while practicing social distancing.

To mark the event, NAR is sharing curated lists of books, videos, podcasts and other resources for members to educate themselves throughout the month. NAR urges members to use this time to read, watch, listen, think, discuss and strengthen their fair housing knowledge and leadership with these tools.

As stewards of the right to own, use and transfer private property, REALTORS® reconfirm their commitment to upholding fair housing law and offering equal professional service to all in their search for real property. “Even amid the coronavirus pandemic, REALTORS® are using virtual tools to help homebuyers search for a home so they can achieve their dream of homeownership,” said Mary Kay Groth, president of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR).

At the federal level, NAR is advocating for a federal minimum standard for remote online notary. NAR also worked on further tax extensions for 1031 like-kind exchanges and opportunity zones, and wants to make sure the much-needed forbearance measures do not unintentionally lock up the mortgage marketplace.

As a designated U.S. Census Bureau national partner for the 2020 Census, NAR is urging its 1.4 million REALTORS® nationwide to help drive Census participation in their respective communities. The good news is over 70 million households have responded to date, representing over 48 percent of all households in America (52% in California), using the Census Bureau’s new online option.

Roughly $1.5 trillion is allocated to states and localities annually based off census results to fund roads, public transportation, hospitals, schools and other infrastructure. More specifically, this year’s results will influence the allocation of $93.5 billion to Federal Direct Student Loans, $19.3 billion to Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers and $12 billion to the National School Lunch Program.

Census data is also used to draw district lines to determine appropriate Congressional representation for the next decade. California is one of 10 states likely to lose a congressional seat since more people left California than moved in over the course of a year. If California loses a seat in Congress, the state’s number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will drop from 53 to 52 and it could cost the state billions of dollars in federal funds.

Groth urges those who have not to please respond to the Census. “If you are unable to respond online, a paper questionnaire can be mailed to you by calling toll free 1-844-330-2020. I assure you the Census Bureau will never ask for bank account or social security numbers, donations, or anything on behalf of a political party. Strict federal law protects the confidentiality of Census responses.”

Dear fellow REALTORS® and SILVAR members,

As I write this from my home office, I realize some of what I say could be old news by the time this is published, but I will press on.

As you know, Real Estate has been deemed an essential business during the COVID-19 crisis.  The reaction to this has been mixed. Initially, REALTORS® felt this was a good thing, but it has caused confusion since we live in an area that is under the stricter rules mandated by the various County Health Departments.

The California Association of REALTORS® has been criticized for putting out conflicting information and guidelines, but it has been very clear, as has SILVAR, that our local rules are different, and we must adhere to them. No Open Houses … residential viewings must only occur virtually or, if a virtual viewing is not feasible, by appointment with no more than two visitors at a time residing within the same household or living unit and one individual showing the unit. In person visits are not allowed when the occupant is still residing in the residence.

Doesn’t that seem extreme, you say. Let’s consider what the ordinance says: The intent of this Order is to ensure that the maximum number of people shelter in their places of residence to the maximum extent feasible to slow the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate the impact on delivery of critical healthcare services to those in need.

When assessing if what your are doing for you and/or your clients, the above isn’t just a guideline; it is the law. Yes, transactions are being closed, movers are still moving (based on guidelines that allow this), but it is our responsibility as REALTORS® to be an example of following our Code of Ethics Preamble for “the preservation of a healthful environment.”

Since COVID-19 and its impact on us, I think it’s safe to say we all agree on many things – this is unchartered territory, we miss our colleagues and face-to-face interaction, we have a heightened level of anxiety for the future. We can adapt to new situations quicker than we may have though – we can spend more time with family, we can appreciate the beauty of where we live, and there are many other things we can add to the list. 

Like many, if not all of you, virtual meetings have become the norm. For me, today was another example of seeing friendly faces on my computer screen that I would normally be sitting in a room with and having a discussion that resulted in the same outcome – discussion, review, discussion and eventually a decision. As efficient as that may have been, I missed being together. That has been the reality for many over the past several weeks. And it will continue until our Shelter in Place order is lifted.

When we have come out on the other side of this crisis, there are many thoughts we will have in hindsight. One that I heard recently is the question, “Did I do enough?” If we keep that in perspective, we can’t help but make this crisis and adversity a time to grow. Be safe, stay healthy and keep pressing on.

Mary Kay Groth
2020 Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS® (SILVAR) President

April 2020
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