Chapter Feature: NAHREP Atlanta hits the ground running for advocacy in 2023!
Celebrating NAHREP familia, cultura, politics, and grassroots action
The NAHREP Atlanta chapter has set the bar with their advocacy work over the last year – through building relationships with elected and appointed officials, hosting top ranking officials and their staff at chapter events, joining important housing coalitions, and creating educational content for their membership to keep them engaged in housing policy. This month, we interviewed NAHREP Atlanta’s Government Affairs Director Juan Mejia to find out what has made his chapter so successful and what plans the chapter has coming down the pipeline in 2023.
Q: The NAHREP Atlanta chapter has been doing some great work, particularly around advocacy and government affairs. Tell us, what has made your chapter so successful?
Part of NAHREP Atlanta’s success in advocacy and government affairs relates to relationship building. Our committee members are active in their community, and some were already attending advocacy events prior to their involvement with the Government Affairs Committee. We had a successful year with community involvement, having attended over 100 events in 2022. Events ranged from city council meetings, REALTOR® Days at the Dome, inaugurations of our elected officials, and hosting them at our events. We even received a letter from Governor Kemp to the Atlanta Chapter in which he stated, “Homeownership has long been an essential piece to the American dream… I commend you for your hard work on this issue.”
The goal we have in our committee is to not only show face at events or meetings but advance relationships and have meaningful dialogue. We have also been able to join coalitions and collaborate with other partners in our community towards a shared objective. We are excited to see more diversity when it comes to our appointed and elected officials. Our new legislative session, which began on January 9th of 2023, is the MOST diverse in Georgia’s history. We are excited to see the creation of the Georgia Hispanic Caucus and proud to be able to call many of its members friends of NAHREP Atlanta
Q: At a recent event, the NAHREP Atlanta chapter hosted government officials from three levels of government – the city level, the county level, and the state level. Tell us about that event.
The event first came about as members of our own board wanted to learn about the different ways to get involved in the community when it came to advocacy. The first question was: what level of government? Some of our board had blank stares. At that point we decided to showcase three levels – explaining what they do and how our members can get involved at each level. We wanted to showcase Municipal (Atlanta City Council), County (Fulton Housing Commissioner), and State (Georgia Department of Community Affairs). Each government official was given time to share their personal and professional journey, how our members can get involved, and answer additional audience questions.
We heard from Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari, who shared her journey into politics and perspective being the daughter of Iranian immigrants. She has been an active advocate for different issues, including affordable housing, and often speaks up in regard to zoning legislation that comes across City Council. Representing the Fulton County Housing Authority was Commissioner Claudia Colichon. Commissioner Colichon is the only Latina currently serving in that position and was appointed by the Chairman of Fulton County Board of Commissioners. Lastly, Commissioner Christopher Nunn was present representing the State of Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs. Commissioner Nunn was appointed by Governor Nathan Deal. The Department of Community Affairs core business is safe and affordable housing, local government assistance, and community and economic development.
Q: At that event, Commissioner Claudia Colichon spoke about the challenges in Fulton County. What challenges is the county facing in regard to housing?
A big challenge we are facing is a lack of housing in general, but specifically affordable housing. While Atlanta has gotten national recognition and been named the “Best Place to Live in the U.S.” by Money Magazine, it has also been ranked as the city with the highest income inequality in the nation. Recently, companies like Airbnb, Google, and Microsoft are opening offices here, increasing housing concerns for some. Our housing leaders know that this growth comes with challenges, so we are having discussions on how to think outside of the box. These discussions are happening united as a region and not each jurisdiction doing its own thing.
NAHREP Atlanta was able to learn about different initiatives to deal with housing concerns. One of them was MicroLife Institute’s Cottages on Vaughn located in the city of Clarkston (Dekalb County) that showcases eight micro-cottage homes, a common green space for gathering, and climate-conscious development features, such as solar panels and edible, regenerative landscaping. In order to build this community, several zoning ordinances had to be modified; this was done through many conversations with government officials and the community. We look forward to continuing to be part of these conversations with leaders in our community.
Q: Beyond this event, the NAHREP Atlanta chapter has built some strong relationships with elected and appointed officials. What are some of the best practices for building relationships with government officials?
Developing genuine relationships with government officials and their offices is crucial for advancing policy. A good way to begin is by introducing yourself to the pertinent offices and setting up meetings to introduce yourself and the organization. Being able to be available to their office as a thought leader in a specific topic can be of benefit for both parties. Another way to become more involved with government officials is to extend invitations for them to join events. They could be contributors of the event as panelists, speakers, to provide opening or closing remarks, or even a video appearance.
We understand elected officials’ schedules can be very hectic so being able to provide notice of events with plenty of time is appreciated by their offices. We were able to have State Senator Halpern join us as a panelist at our Women of Wealth event. This was great as the event is not a “advocacy event” but she was still able to bring her wealth of knowledge to our members. While it is not always possible for government officials to attend due to conflicts, extending invites to their staff is also a great way to connect further with their teams. Our members deal day in and day out with issues affecting our industry and sharing that insight with different offices can be enlightening for them as well. NAHREP being a national organization allows us to see legislation and actions that work in one location and share that knowledge with our local offices.
Q: In advocacy, partnerships with organizations is important to getting thing done. Tell us about the partnerships you’ve built and how that has helped to advance NAHREP’s mission?
“If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together” is a phrase that answers this question. While there are some initiatives that are specific to NAHREP, many other organizations are working towards initiatives aligned with our issues. NAHREP Atlanta is a big proponent in coalitions, last year we held a round table with other organizations, including the Council for Quality Growth, Atlanta REALTORS® Association, Atlanta Commercial Board of REALTORS®, Apartment Association, Home Builders Association, and others.
At that meeting, we discussed initiatives that were facing our members and if there were opportunities to work together. We also collectively invited the new Atlanta City Council to join us for lunch and get to know us and our organizations. It was a great opportunity for us to share different events going on in the city. It can also be as simple as awareness and support for each other’s events.
Q: The chapter has some big goals for 2023! What’s next for the NAHREP Atlanta chapter?
We want to increase the involvement and participation of our members. In order to lead that change, we are asking our leadership to do it first. During our first annual meeting, the government affairs committee proposed a goal that each member of the board of directors would meet with at least one elected official before the end of the year. Another goal for 2023 is to continue making one of our signature events revolve around policy and advocacy. At our first one, we received lots of encouraging feedback to do it again as it exposed members to opportunities to connect with community leaders.
We are hoping to stay engaged with our elected officials and their offices and continue being thought leaders in affordable housing, lending practices, and immigration spaces. We want to be able to share what we do and understand what resources are out there for our community. We started the year strong by having NAHREP representation at a roundtable with Senator Ossoff where one of our members was able to ask about affordable housing and ways to deal with issues facing all communities.
AMAZING work to the entire NAHREP Atlanta team. Their eagerness and approach to not only building relationships but making real change happen is contagious. We are looking forward to seeing all the great things they are going to do this year and continue to cheer them on. If you’d like to follow NAHREP Atlanta’s lead and get more involved in your market, don’t hesitate to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for support. Let’s do this!
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.