Chapter Feature: NAHREP Fairfield County excels at building relationships and taking on housing policy in their state
Celebrating NAHREP familia, cultura, politics, and grassroots action
This month, we are featuring the NAHREP Fairfield County chapter for their great work in building relationships with elected officials and making real policy change happen! In the last year, the chapter featured Connecticut’s Governor Ned Lamont and other top-ranking housing officials within the state at their events. The chapter has worked hard to leverage existing relationships and build new ones, simply by reaching out and sharing NAHREP’s message. Due to those relationships, the chapter was able to advance NAHREP’s mission and make real policy changes happen when it was needed the most. The NAHREP policy team interviewed the chapter to gain insights into their best practices for building long lasting relationships and what housing policies have been on the radar in order to advance sustainable Hispanic homeownership. Read below for the full interview with the NAHREP Fairfield County chapter.
Q: The NAHREP Fairfield County chapter has been doing some great work, particularly around advocacy and government affairs. Tell us, what has made your chapter so successful?
We have been able to develop relationships with politicians and legislators both at the state and local levels simply by reaching out, grassroots style. Our NAHREP agenda and principles have been well received and our key to success has been our founding President Alina Gutierrez’s charm and persistence. She has been truly instrumental in getting in front of the right people and identifying a certain “in” to get us up the ladder quickly. As a Latina realtor, networking is her forte and this has been our secret sauce.
Q: The chapter has built some strong relationships with elected officials, including Governor Ned Lamont. What are some best practices for building relationships with elected officials?
Best practices really come out of the GAD playbook. After the last Presidential Election, Latinos have popped on all politicians’ radars. Most elected officials, whether red or blue, have a liaison or staff member in charge of community outreach. Identifying exactly who they are is the key to getting the relationship started.
Once the relationship is started, it’s important to check in often to see if there is any help that we can give them or learn about any new initiative that they have. Elected officials also need local community leaders to help with their agenda, so they are willing to involve anyone that is able to help in that endeavor. But this also goes both ways. For instance, when the COVID pandemic started, we were able to lobby for Remote Notarization and a waiver of the witness requirement for acknowledgment needed for closings in a time when most offices were closed and social distancing was a must. We reached out to State Representative Chris Rosario and he was then able to get the Governor’s office involved to expedite our initiative and turn it into an Executive Order.
Q: At a recent event, the chapter was sworn in by Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno of the Connecticut Department of Housing. What are some takeaways from the Commissioner regarding her perspective on housing policy in your state?
At our recent Gala, Commissioner Mosquera-Bruno mentioned that the State of Connecticut’s Housing and Finance Authority was allocating another $13M in funding, totaling $40M for their Time to Own program. This is a forgivable down payment assistance loan to help alleviate potential homebuyers’ inability to cover the down payment and closing costs required to purchase their first home. Loan amounts will vary from $25K to $50K with financing to cover up to 20% down payment and up to 5% closing costs. 10% of the principal balance will be forgiven annually, on the anniversary date of the loan closing, until the loan is fully forgiven on the tenth anniversary.
We are excited that the State of Connecticut’s Finance Authority sees the need for a down payment assistance program and is helping first-time buyers secure their first homes. This is a move in the right direction and is a mutual benefit to both state and homeowners alike.
Q: In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges for homebuyers in your market, and what can we do from a policy perspective to address those challenges?
One of the challenges that we are currently seeing in our local marketplace is buyers not being able to qualify for previously obtainable loans because of the rise in interest rates. This is going to require hyperlocal attention as each town or city has their own mill rate, and assessment methods and practices.
Another challenge is the lack of affordable housing. Every year there are fewer and fewer options for affordable housing across most of our growing cities, especially entry-level housing for owner-occupants. Our politicians are aware of the issue, and this needs to be addressed at the level.
Lastly, we’d love to see PMI amounts be reduced in home mortgages. Oftentimes the $200 – $300 per month amount is the difference between borrowers being able to qualify or not in the underwriting process. This is really something that would need to be dealt with at the Federal level and we are starting to spread the word with our representatives in Congress.
Q: The chapter has some big goals for 2023! What’s next for the NAHREP Fairfield County chapter?
One of our top goals is to start spreading out into some of the other cities here in our county. Right now, we are entrenched in the Bridgeport marketplace, and we are looking to develop relationships with officials in Danbury, Stamford, and Norwalk. There are large concentrations of Latinos within these communities, and we’d like to take the same approach as we have in Bridgeport to help grow our presence in these other marketplaces and cover Latino dense communities here in the county.
Our other goal is to help our counterparts in Hartford County get their chapter up and running. Their success is going to be very important as they are on the Governor’s doorstep. We are happy to be Connecticut’s first chapter but also know that we are another stepping stone in our national organization’s overall mission.
Felicidades to the NAHREP Fairfield County chapter for all of the amazing work they are doing! Their passion is contagious! If you are interested in following their lead and building relationships in your market, don’t hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for support.
About NAHREP’s National Advocacy Committee
The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals® (NAHREP®) advocates on behalf of its network of 50,000 real estate professionals and Hispanic homeowners nationwide. NAHREP focuses on national and state legislative issues that are critical to its mission: to advance sustainable Hispanic homeownership.
NAHREP firmly believes every individual who desires to become a homeowner and can sustain a mortgage should be granted access to a piece of the American Dream. To that end, we are focused on three main priorities: Housing Inventory, Access to Credit, and Immigration. Visit our website to read more about NAHREP’s policy priorities and to get involved.