The NAC gets together to talk housing policy in the Southwest Region

Celebrating NAHREP familia, cultura, politics, and grassroots action

August 12, 2021

Qué onda mi gente?!

It was so so wonderful to see many of you in Newport Beach, CA last week for our second regional event. It was so energizing to gather and see all of your beautiful faces. One of my favorite parts of these regional events is discussing the critical policy issues impacting our industry and how we at NAHREP can be the agents for change. I’ve also been meeting up with our National Advocacy Committee (NAC) members after the event so we can work together across chapters with a common voice. Every time we do these I am reminded of how much power we can yield as an organization if we play our cards right.

I did hear something that I think is really important to point out. Someone told me, “I don’t want to get involved because I don’t like politics.”

At NAHREP, we focus on policy, not politics. Politics is a necessary evil that we need to be aware of and play the game when we need to. However, NAHREP gets involved in POLICY campaigns on issues that impact our industry and our mission. That is a huge distinction that I want to make sure we all get. And, if you’re not into policy, let me tell you, policy is into you. Policy decisions impact our industry, your business, your families, and your clients. If you don’t get involved, you’re giving all of the power to the other side.

Session I: Cafecito: How Bad Is It?

Recap: The Southwest Regional Symposium

During the morning of the SW Regional Event in Newport Beach we held a special, invitation-only symposium to discuss the long term solutions to housing inventory. Top housing industry experts joined us and provided invaluable perspectives that we can use in our advocacy work right now. Here are some highlights.

Session II: Taking on the Cost of Building Homes

“The issue about not having inventory is all of our problems and we have to see it that way. Because it’s our job. If there is nothing to sell, then you won’t be able to help your clients. So I’m going to ask you, every time you complain or a client complains about not having any homes, there’s nothing out there, to take three minutes of your day and look up who the Mayor is in the community that you want to sell in. And ask them: What are you doing to approve more housing in this community?”

– Vanessa Delgado, Former City of Montebello Mayor, Developer, Azure Development

Homework: Every time you complain, take action – It takes 3 min.
One of my favorite lines from the symposium came from former Montebello Mayor and former State Senator Vanessa Delgado. She said that if every single time we struggle to find a home for first-time homebuyers because of low housing inventory we called our Mayor, State Assemblymember, or State Senator, we would see action by elected officials by now.

“How is this the country that 50 years ago put a man on the moon and is still using technologies and processes to build homes that are 200 years old?”

 – Gerry McCaughey, CEO and Chairman, Entekra

The way we build housing is outdated.
Gerry McCaughey, the CEO of a construction company named Entekra spoke to us and gave a reality check. The way we build housing in the U.S. is outdated. Gerry has built a company using practices used in Europe, which is to build parts of a home in a factory-off-site. This drastically reduces costs and addresses our labor shortage. This is about efficiency and the way we build housing. I challenge any of you to look up his company – it’s fascinating.

Session III: Re-designing Cities: From Land Use to Transportation

“Nobody should get to come and run for office where you live or where you work and not have to address your concerns and the concerns of their constituents. If you’re trying to find a home for someone that already lives in that community, so should they. You call them and say – I’m your constituent and I can’t buy a house here, what are you doing to help me?”

– Melissa Breach, Senior Vice President Chief Operating Officer, California YIMBY

No one gets to run for office that doesn’t speak to you.
Melissa Breach from CA YIMBY encouraged all of us to hold candidates accountable to answer to our needs to build more homes. She gave us a call to action: once election season comes around, I encourage all chapters to hold candidate forums (where you invite all candidates-not just your favorite) for your local city councils, mayors, state representatives and ask them, “What do you plan to do about our housing shortage?” And don’t just let them get away with talking about affordable rental housing. Ask them about homes for sale and what they plan to do to expand the supply of homes for first-time homebuyers.

Session III: Re-designing Cities: From Land Use to Transportation

 “There is this idea that everyone is against new housing but when you poll the actual electorate, people support it. The problem is, a very vocal minority of people will show up at a meeting and fill a small chamber, they will have 20 people, and it feels like it’s the whole community is there, when it’s a fraction of the community.”

– David Garcia, Policy Director, Terner Center

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
David Garcia from the UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation reminded us that public polling in California actually shows that there is broad support for creating more density in cities, one of the key solutions to our inventory problem. Remember, this means building up or putting more units into one lot. However, the NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard) activists get together and call their representatives. It could be that only 100 people call, but 100 calls in a few days feels like a lot to a representative, even if it is not representative of all of the voters in that district. The elected official then feels pressured to vote no on bills around density because they fear they won’t get re-elected. YOU have the power to counter this. You can gather your chapter and all of you can call your representatives. You’ll see what happens then.

So what does all of this mean for you?

Besides calling your elected officials, NAHREP encourages you to show up to your City Council meetings and ask for more condos and townhomes. If we really want to make a difference on housing inventory, we need to redefine homeownership. The National Association of REALTORS® recently estimated that the nation is short about 6.8 million housing units. If we care about meeting the demand for housing that first-time homebuyers require, the primary way we’re going to achieve that is through townhomes and condos – plain and simple. So, yes that means that not every house is going to be a house sitting on an acre of land. We don’t have enough land by employment centers for that. Today, most land is zoned for single-family housing in the U.S. And no, getting rid of single-family housing zoning doesn’t mean you have to build another home in your lot if you don’t want to. All it means is that you can.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill Passes in the Senate

As many of you know, we have been pushing to get housing production included in the major infrastructure legislative packages that are being debated in Congress. As advocates we use these major pushes and packages as vehicles to get our policy priorities passed. It is a lot easier to include legislation in major provisions such as these than it is to get a single legislation passed alone. Well, the infrastructure package has passed Congress but it does not include any housing production elements.

However, housing inventory is set to play a key role in the upcoming budget measure. Remember, this is the reconciliation bill that we’ve been talking about. The Senate looks like they have cleared the hurdles to pass a filibuster-proof budget measure that includes $332 billion in funding for housing and transit improvements, thanks to swing Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. This could be a huge deal for us. This is our opportunity to have the federal government actually DO something around housing inventory. In the near future we will be outlining exactly what parts of our policy priorities have been included in the budget measure. The Senate has until September 15th to draft that legislation, so let’s get ready to get loud and make sure housing doesn’t get left out again.

Un abrazo corazones. Que tengan bonita semana.

About Noerena Limón

Noerena Limón is NAHREP’s Executive Vice President of Public Policy and Industry Relations. Noerena heads the organization’s policy and advocacy efforts on issues ranging from homeownership, housing inventory, credit access and immigration.

Prior to joining NAHREP, Noerena spent six years at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and served as a political appointee under President Obama in the White House Office of Political Affairs.