Capitol Update

Capitol Conference Advocacy Hits Critical Apartment Concerns

Print
PDF

On March 8 and 9 NAA will host its annual Capitol Conference and bring before Congress some of our most important issues. I say some because there are of course many, many concerns about which we would love to bend a Representative or Senator’s ear. To really be effective, however, we have to hone in on a couple of topics. This year those issues are reform of the Section 8 program, enabling a right-to-cure period for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and reform and reauthorization of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Here is how we arrived at this particular list and why you should care.

Selecting issues for Lobby Day is complicated. First, you must identify topics that are of actual concern to the industry. Second, it’s preferable for the issues to come with a specific “ask” or request to take action. “You should support apartment housing” is great but “You should support apartment housing by sponsoring this legislation” is better. It gives Members of Congress a specific action and allows us to track whether or not they agreed to our request. Finally, speaking to issues that are moving in Congress makes us timely and more likely to be on the radar.

All three of the 2016 Capitol Conference issues hit close to home for a significant portion of NAA members. For example, many members interact with the Section 8 program in some way, either by choice or by local mandate. The program, while critical to affordable housing, can be extremely burdensome for owners and reform is something on which the apartment industry has been working for over a decade. There is bipartisan legislation on the table that mitigates some of these burdens. The House of Representatives has already passed the bill with NAA’s support. We need to thank them and prod the Senate to take action. This benefits owners who participate in Section 8 now and in the future.

Compliance with the ADA is a central part of every apartment owner’s regulatory life. As our members strive to create and maintain accessible communities, they encounter complex even conflicting guidance. As well, there are differing opinions on compliant design and construction standards as well as the role of proven alternative methods of achieving accessibility goals. This results in lots of litigation. A growing trend is litigation initiated purely for financial gain and not to increase accessibility. Our view is that the focus ought to be on curing design or construction defects not generating settlement fees. To that end, we support bipartisan legislation to allow for up to 120 days to cure an alleged ADA violation before litigation can be initiated.

According to the National Severe Storms Laboratory, flooding causes more damage and takes more lives than any other kind of severe weather-related event. Losses average $5 billion per year. Multifamily structures face significant, unique challenges when it comes to mitigating for flood damage. And, while most multifamily mortgages require flood insurance coverage, there is a lack of affordable, private coverage in the marketplace. As a result, the NFIP is critical to managing risk and protecting multifamily investments. The program expires in September of 2017 and is in need of reform to ensure its long-term financial viability, increase its effectiveness for multifamily owners and reduce exposure for the taxpayer.

Though expiration of the NFIP is 18 months off, the Congressional calendar between now and then is not our friend. Being an election year, we essentially lose the latter half of 2016 for any real legislating. Likewise, next year a new Congress and Administration will be getting settled which also will cost at least the first few months of the year. There is bipartisan, bicameral legislation on the table right now that we need to support to keep the ball rolling on NFIP reform and reauthorization.

Greg can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

 

 

 

Industry Scores Victories, But More Work Lies Ahead for Congress

Print
PDF

We are over a month into 2016; the year where major change is guaranteed in at least one of our branches of government and where there is potential for change in one of the others. The Obama Administration comes to an end at the close of this year. Whether the new occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is of the same or opposite party, there will be a new voice at the bully pulpit, a new approach to leading the nation and, indeed, the world. In the Congress, the House of Representatives will stay in the same party’s hands – barring something crazy happening elsewhere in the political machine – while the Senate is once again up for grabs. Senate Republicans will struggle and strive to maintain their slim majority while House Republicans will attempt to preserve the scale of theirs. Of course, that is 11 months from now and we have miles to go before we sleep (or pass out from campaign fatigue).

At the close of 2015, Congress and the President had knocked out a number of big policy items for the near term thereby smoothing out some potential bumps in the road this year. The federal debt limit has been lifted until March 2017 (no game of chicken over the full faith and credit of the U.S.). The federal budget levels for 2016 and 2017 have been set (much less chance of government shutdown). Several perennial annual tax extenders were made permanent while several others were extended for multiple years (much diminished chase for another year of life for temporary tax provisions). Finally, the highway trust fund was replenished for five years (road crews of the world rejoice!).

This bevy of work the Congress completed before leaving for the holidays included victories for the apartment industry, especially in the tax arena where all of our priorities in the tax extenders package were either extended or made permanent. These include bonus depreciation, small business expensing, energy efficiency and affordable housing development. See the Dec. 28 edition of the Apartment Advocate for details on these victories. (See http://www.naahq.org/read/apartment-advocate)

Not all was shiny for us, however, in the final legislative package that is now law. Proposed language to prevent funding for the Environmental Protection Agency being used to enforce the Waters of the United States or “WOTUS” rule was dropped in the final negotiations. This rule is widely opposed by industries, state governments and others and would negatively impact not only new development of apartment homes but also existing communities. A federal court has stayed the rule for now, but that is not a permanent solution so look for more advocacy on this in 2016.

In what feels like a rare event, we did score a nice victory in the rules from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regarding treatment of expenses to acquire, maintain and improve tangible property, including apartment buildings. NAA and the National Multifamily Housing Council had vigorously advocated for a healthy amount of deduction available to taxpayers without an applicable financial statement or “AFS” in the year of purchase of an item versus having to depreciate that item over several years. The initial amount in the IRS rule was $500 which in our view was far too low. At the end of November, this deduction amount was increased to $2,500 for those taxpayers without an AFS. For more details, see the Dec. 21 edition of the Apartment Advocate. This is a substantial victory and an excellent example of apartment industry advocacy in action.

Despite the victories I’ve noted already, there is much more work to do in the coming year. The Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued several rules recently in the area of fair housing on which we will be focusing. There is legislation to improve and enhance the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program which has strong bipartisan support but a potentially bumpy path before becoming law. Data security, employee criminal background checks and patent reform are all still in the mix for some kind of action in the second session of the 114th Congress. All have implications for your business and we will be at the table for the deliberations.

Mark your calendars and make your travel arrangements for the 2016 NAA Capitol Conference and Lobby Day which will take place March 8 and 9 in Washington, D.C. NAA’s goal is to reach all 535 Congressional offices – that’s 435 Representatives and 100 Senators. The Capitol Conference will start after lunch on March 8 with an issues orientation and advocacy training followed by keynote speaker Joe Scarborough, a former member of the House and host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

While members of the House will be in recess the week of March 7, NAA members can schedule meetings with their important key staff members in Washington and just as importantly schedule meetings with members of the U.S. Senate, which will be in session. NAA members who aren’t planning to attend the Capitol Conference will help us reach our goal by scheduling meetings or property tours at home with their Representatives that week. If you care at all about the future of your industry, your business or your bottom line, you will be part of our effort to make the voice of the apartment industry heard.

Greg can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

 

Handover of Control Calms House Republicans

Print
PDF

One of those characteristics of the United States’ experiment with democracy that we tout as a shining example for the rest of the world is the peaceful transfer of power. The fact that every four (or eight) years a new President takes office via the voting booth and not by the tip of a sword or barrel of a gun is pretty amazing. Similarly impressive was the handover of control of the House Republican caucus (and by extension, the House of Representatives itself) last month. Due in large part to the fact that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) was willing to take the job of Speaker, a potentially divisive vote within the caucus was avoided. He truly was “the one” who could unite the caucus and put a pin in the intraparty squabbling which dominated for the past several months. Now, let’s see how long he can maintain it.

Read more...

The War for the Soul of the Republican Party Continues

Print
PDF

Apartment Industry Colleagues,

All of us at one time or another had a job that was, let’s say, less than fulfilling and that we dreamed of quitting. Hand-in-hand with that of course is how we would quit, thus inspiring many fantasies about telling off the boss, co-workers or interminable clients. Hollywood has provided great fodder for this – Jennifer Aniston in Office Space, Bill Murray in Stripes or Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire. One wonders if Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio-8) had similar whimsies last month as he announced his resignation both as Speaker and from his seat in Congress effective at the end of October. Likely not, as his announcement was characteristic of his usual professionalism and desire to put the institution he loves in front of his own needs. He seemed more inspired by the visit of Pope Francis than by visions of verbal comeuppance for those who made his life so difficult for the past several years.

Read more...

Fall Outlook: Presidential Race and Congressional Issues

Print
PDF

The “summer of Trump” has come to a close, so now we will see whether or not “the Donald” can continue his dominance of the GOP presidential field into the fall. He continues to poll well with a commanding lead over everyone else, but there are more debates coming and he has shown some difficulty in responding to questions of policy, especially on foreign affairs issues. Style-over-substance only carries a candidate so far before he or she must show some ability to tackle the issues. Look what happened to 2012 front-runner Rick Perry when he couldn’t remember the name of one federal agency. I suspect the mortar fire will increase on Donald Trump during the next debate as the other candidates all recognize they have to bring him down to have any chance of winning. Also watch the performance of Carly Fiorina who was the winner of the first “happy hour” debate. Now that CNN has refined its selected process for the debates, Carly Fiorina gets to participate in the prime time contest.

Read more...

Related Articles

Contact AACSC

Apartment Association,

California Southern Cities
333 W. Broadway St., Suite 101
Long Beach, CA 90802
(562) 426-8341

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it