December was a busy month with quite a few Real Estate related items being discussed Nationally. Check out the hot topics here.
Clean Water Act
EPA Releases WOTUS Replacement Proposal
On December 11, 2018, the EPA and Department of the Army signed a proposed rule revising the definition of “waters of the United States” (WOTUS) to clarify federal authority under the Clean Water Act in a clear and understandable way. The agencies’ proposal is the second step in a two-step process to review and revise the definition of “waters of the United States” consistent with the February 2017 Presidential Executive Order entitled “Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the ‘Waters of the United States’ Rule.” The proposed definition would replace the approach in the 2015 Rule and the pre-2015 regulations. NAR believes this proposed WOTUS replacement rule will bring certainty and consistency to the permitting and development process while protecting water quality and property rights. There will be a sixty-day comment period for the public to provide their perspectives on this proposed rule. NAR will provide more info on the rule and develop extensive comments. More information is included in the link below.
NAR Hosts Meeting with FBI on Cybercrime
On December 11, NAR joined other industry organizations to discuss with officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation the impact cybercrime is having on real estate transactions. In addition to NAR, which hosted the meeting, organizations that participated included the American Bankers Association, American Escrow Association, American Land Title Association, Asian Real Estate Association of America, Mortgage Bankers Association, and Real Estate Service Providers Council. The group will continue to work with the FBI on strategies for combating wire fraud through the use of technology, communications with the public, legislative and regulatory changes, and information-sharing about threats and best practices. The group plans to meet next in mid-January.
Strategies for Dealing with Wire Fraud
FHA Announces 2019 Loan Limits
Kootenai County and Bonner County limits are $314,827 for 2019.
NAR Leads Support for Confirmation of HUD Appointees
On December 14, 2018, NAR and 23 other housing and financial organizations sent a letter to Senate Leaders McConnell (R-KY) and Schumer (D-NY) urging for the confirmation of Seth D. Appleton for Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research at the Department Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The coalition letter stressed Mr. Appleton’s extensive experience in housing policy and current role at HUD as demonstrative of his ability to be a leader at HUD and in the housing industry.
On November 26, 2018, NAR and 31 other housing and financial organization sent a letter to Senate Leaders McConnell (R-KY) and Schumer (D-NY) urging for the confirmation of Michael Bright as President of the Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae). The coalition letter cited Mr. Bright’s Capitol Hill and securities background, as well as his current role as acting head of Ginnie Mae, as clear indication of his strong ability to continue to lead Ginnie Mae and support the housing finance market.
Executive Order on Opportunity Zones
On Wednesday, December 12, at an event at the White House, the President signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, chaired by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson and comprised of 13 Federal agencies. The Council’s purpose is to improve efforts to revitalize economically distressed communities through the coordination of government programs, including the federal Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZ) Program. The QOZ Program was created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, and provides tax incentives for investing in under-served areas designated as “Opportunity Zones.” In October 2018 the IRS and Treasury released the first round of proposed rules for the program; on January 10, the IRS is scheduled to hold a public hearing on it. Though the regulations are not final, the agencies have stated that the proposed rules are effective in order to facilitate participation in the program immediately. The second round of proposed rules is expected in January 2019.
The LOCUS National Opportunity Zone Ranking Report was also released this week. This report ranks each of the designated Opportunity Zones based on its Smart Growth Potential (SGP) and its Social Equity + Vulnerability Index score (SEVI). In addition to providing data for investors to determine how to prioritize Opportunity Zone investments, this report provides policymakers and local groups with a framework to manage and ensure equitable, inclusive development in Opportunity Zones.
Black Homeownership Gap
NAR is supporting and joining efforts initiated by the National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) and the Urban Institute to address the continued low rate of African American Homeownership. Two recent events highlight these challenges and set the stage for developing policy initiatives geared towards sustainable increases in African American homeownership.
On December 5, 2018, NAR staff attended the Brookings Institute event “Homeownership while black: Examining the devaluation of assets in black neighborhoods.” The event centered around the release of Andre Perry’s research paper entitled “The Devaluation of Assets in Black Neighborhoods: The case of residential property.” According to Perry, homes in a black neighborhood are valued 23% below similar homes in <1% black neighborhoods due to racial bias. This leads to a $156 billion loss in wealth. Among the solutions presented was that real estate developers should focus on minority, low density, and middle income neighborhoods as places for commercial development, and not just as bedroom communities, which could increase home values and neighborhood prosperity.
On December 7, NAR staff and NAR’s Public Policy Committee Vice Chair Brenda Small attended a National Association of Real Estate Brokers (NAREB) briefing, sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, on “Strategies to Increase Homeownership and Close the Wealth Gap.” African American homeownership rates are almost the same as they were fifty years ago, before the Fair Housing Act was passed. Currently, the black homeownership rate is 41.6%, more than 30% points less than white homeownership. NAREB has been providing research regarding reasons for the substantial gap between African American homeownership and that of other groups. NAREB’s 2018 State of Housing in Black America Report can be found here.
NAREB, NAR and the Urban Institute will be meeting regularly in 2019 to expand research into policies that have and will sustain a growth in African American homeownership.
Congress Extends Definition of Rural
As part of the Farm Bill, Congress passed legislation to extend the definition of “rural” for the purposes of rural housing programs, through the 2030 census. The current definition requires a community to not be part of a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and have a population under 35,000. All existing communities will continue to meet the definition through the 2030 census. The legislation passed by Congress will also exempt certain transitory populations from a communities eligible populations. Prisoners housed within a community will not be counted, and only a percentage of personnel on a military base will be counted. This is a win for rural communities, who rely on the programs Rural Housing Service of the Department of Agriculture.
For more information on some of the Idaho, Rural Development Loans Check them out here.
Go to our Finance page for lenders that participate in this program. Be sure to tell them we recommended you!
Any questions Contact us!
SBA Hosts ADA Listening Session
If you own Rentals this may be Important to you!
On Monday, December 3, 2018, NAR particpated in a Roundtable hosted by the the Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Justice for interested stakeholders on issues related to the Americans With Disabilities Act, includng website accessibility, physical accessibility and service animals.
NAR had previously submitted comments to the Department of Justice (the Department) regarding their May 9, 2016, proposed rulemaking under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) concerning the accessibility of Web information. At the Roundtable, NAR echoed many of the same concerns related to clear website accessibility standards and some of the proposed requirements that ignore the practical challenges NAR members face when creating and maintaining websites.
NAR is eager to work with the Department and other industry partners to develop a clear and reliable industry standard for website accessibility.
For more information, see the links below.
National Flood Insurance Program
Flood Insurance Extended to December 21st
On December 6, 2018, the House and Senate passed a two-week extension of the National Flood Insurance Program. The President is expected to sign the measure.
The program is being extended as part of a temporary appropriations bill called a continuing resolution to avoid a partial shutdown of the federal government. The legislation will move the funding deadline for fiscal 2019 spending bills that are still outstanding to Dec. 21.
By extending flood insurance as part of the continuing resolution, the next extension could be part of a long-term funding agreement, potentially running through September of next year.
NAR supports long-term reauthorization and reforms to strengthen the program.
Depending on what they do with the government shut down this will probably be affected one way or another!
Kraninger Confirmed as BCFP Director
Today, the Senate confirmed Kathy Kraninger as the next Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection (BCFP) by a vote of 50-49. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, has been serving as the Acting Director of the Bureau since former Director Richard Cordray left in November 2017.
NAR, along with 20 other housing and financial organizations, sent a letter to Senate Leaders McConnell (R-KY) ad Schumer (D-NY) urging for the confirmation of Ms. Kraninger last month. The letter supported Ms. Kraninger’s confirmation as a thoughtful, experienced leader who will ensure the necessary transparency of Bureau activities and rulemakings.
Appraisal Valuation Issues update
NAR Comments on NCUA Appraisals
On December 3, 2018, NAR submitted comments to the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) in response to a proposal to raise the threshold for requiring an appraisal in commercial real estate transactions to $1,000,000 from the current level of $250,000.
NAR believes an increase to $500,000 would be appropriate at this time. This would align the NCUA policy with that of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. This increase would only apply to Federally Related Transactions (FRTs) within NCUA’s member institutions. FRTs do not include any loans sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, nor those under government programs, such as loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the US Department of Agriculture.
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