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REALTORS® meet with Congresswoman Anna Eshoo.

REALTORS® meet with Congresswoman Anna Eshoo.

On May 11-16, REALTOR® leaders from across the country converged on the nation’s capital to advance key real estate issues with regulators and members of Congress during the National Association of REALTORS® Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo. SILVAR’s leadership was among nearly 8,000 REALTORS® and guests who met with legislators, regulatory officials and top industry executives to ensure qualified buyers and investors have access to safe and affordable mortgage financing and protect and advance the operations of REALTOR® businesses and real estate-related tax policies.

SILVAR REALTORS® met with U.S. Representatives Anna Eshoo, Jackie Speier, and staff of Congressman Mike Honda. They urged their elected officials to preserve current real estate-related tax policies and extend the Mortgage Forgiveness Tax Relief Act, which expired at the end of 2014 and prevents distressed homeowners from facing excessive income tax bills on forgiven home loan debt. They also actively engaged with lawmakers on protecting commercial real estate related tax provisions, such as retaining like-kind exchange provisions and making permanent the 15-year depreciation period for leasehold improvements. In addition, REALTORS® urged members of Congress to enact legislation reforming patent demand letters, setting nationwide data security standards.

REALTORS® likewise raised concerns about the upcoming implementation of the TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID). The new rule takes effect August 1, and if not understood by all parties involved, could delay the closing of escrow. SILVAR REALTORS® requested that Congress approve a grace period for the enforcement of the new closing process, so parties can become accustomed to the changes.

REALTORS® also attended sessions with government officials and industry experts, including Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, Donna Brazile, vice chair of the Democratic National Committee, and Republican political strategist and 61st chair of the Republican National Committee Ed Gillespie.

Attending the NAR Legislative Meetings from SILVAR were SILVAR President Chris Isaacson, President-elect Karen Trolan, NAR Directors Leannah Hunt, John Tripp and Suzanne Yost, Carole Feldstein (Federal Political Coordinator for U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo), Judy Ellis (NAR Committee member), Jim Hamilton (NAR Executive Committee members), Jeff Barnett (NAR Finance Committee member), Executive Officer Paul Cardus and Government Affairs Director Jessica Epstein.

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Members of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®, Santa Clara County Association of REALTORS® and San Mateo County Association of REALTORS® met with U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo.

Members of the Silicon Valley Association of REALTORS®, Santa Clara County Association of REALTORS® and San Mateo County Association of REALTORS® met with U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo.

Six SILVAR members participated in meetings on Capitol Hill as part of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Midyear Legislative Meetings on May 13-18. They included SILVAR President Carolyn Miller, President-elect David Tonna, Past President Suzanne Yost, Federal Political Coordinator Carole Feldstein, PAC Chair Barb Williams, and NAR Director John Tripp. They met with Anna Eshoo, U.S. Representative for California’s 18th congressional district, which includes parts of San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties; Jackie Speier, U.S. Representative for California’s 14th congressional district, which consists of portions of San Mateo County and San Francisco; and Mike Honda, U.S. Representative for California’s 17th congressional district, which includes portions of the East Bay, western San Jose and Silicon Valley.

Members asked their representatives in Congress to:

1. Restructure Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac and Encourage the Return of Private Capital. Members requested that the chairmen of the House Financial Services Committee and the Senate Banking Committee hold hearings that focus on restructuring the secondary mortgage market, and that the emphasis of these hearings be the crafting of comprehensive bipartisan legislation that resolves the conservatorship of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They stressed an efficient and adequately regulated secondary market is essential to providing affordable mortgages to consumers; that the federal government must clearly, and explicitly, offer a guarantee of some mortgage instruments; and that the government’s guarantee should ensure a wide range of safe, reliable mortgage products for creditworthy consumers.

2. Preserve homeownership tax policies. As Congress considers proposals to reform the federal tax code, SILVAR REALTORS® said lawmakers should consider the vital role that real estate tax provisions play in the nation’s housing markets and economy, as well as the financial well-being of Americans and their families. As real estate markets continue to recover, Congress must first do no harm to the following:

• Mortgage Interest Deduction: Oppose efforts to change or eliminate the mortgage interest deduction for primary and second homes.

• Property Tax Deduction: Property taxes paid are properly not considered “income” that should be subject to federal income tax. Congress should not tax “income” that doesn’t exist and oppose elimination of the deduction for property taxes.

• Capital Gains Exclusion for Sale of Principal Residence: Individuals can exclude the first $250,000 (and married couples the first $500,000) of gain from the sale of their principal residence from capital gains tax. This provision allows homeowners to build equity and save for retirement and should be maintained.

3. Preserve the Mission and Purpose of the FHA Program. SILVAR REALTORS® asked their representatives to ensure that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) single-family
program has the tools and policies in place to meet its mission of access to safe, affordable mortgage financing to qualified borrowers nationwide. They said FHA’s single-family mortgage insurance program helps preserve private financing options for homebuyers regardless of local, regional or national economic conditions. They asked that the legislators continue support for H.R. 1145 (Waters (D-CA), Capuano (D-MA)), which provides FHA with the flexibility to make necessary changes to the program, provides taxpayer protections against lenders who make errors of material fact, and improves program oversight. They asked that Congress provide FHA with tools, but also protect FHA from any further restrictive requirements that keep more people out of the program.
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