REALTOR® Party Success Stories
State and local REALTOR® Associations around the country are taking advantage of REALTOR® Party tools and resources to step up their community outreach and advocacy efforts. Their success stories expand beyond their states and cities because they inspire and set precedents. Take a look at the examples here, and check back often, we’re adding more each week.
Latest Success Stories
- Virginia REALTORS® Emphasize Link Between Good Schools and Good Communities
- Charleston REALTORS® Help Shape Common-Sense Historic Preservation Code
- Northern Kentucky REALTORS® Offer New Park Benches for Walking Trail
- Pocatello REALTORS® “Step it Up” for RPAC With Surf & Turf Fundraiser
- Austin REALTORS® Host Summit to Address Housing Gap for Minorities
- Knoxville REALTORS® Shape Local Sign Ordinance Into One That Makes Sense for All
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The 2,400-member District of Columbia Association of REALTORS® (DCAR) had long been at odds with the City Council member from Ward 1, a 16-year incumbent and a staunch advocate for higher real estate taxes and more rent control. One opposition candidate, Brianne Nadeau, looked like a promising alternative, but she was down by 25 percentage points. Knowing it would be a heavy lift, they launched an independent expenditure campaign with phone calls, internet banners and door-to-door canvasing. In the end, their candidate won by 17 points.
In two especially tight November elections, working closely with neighboring local associations, the 5,000-member Seattle King County Association of REALTORS® pushed the campaigns of two REALTOR® Champions over the top. When the dust had cleared, one was elected mayor of Auburn, Washington, and the other, a commercial REALTOR® in Bellevue, was re-elected to their city council.
In a rare tempest of the calendar, the 4,200-member New Orleans Metropolitan Association of REALTORS® found itself with precious little time to launch an independent expenditure campaign for Mayor Mitch Landrieu's re-election. This was thanks to an unlikely confluence of the date of its new trustees' installation and first PAC meeting, the Orleans Parish Election Day, and -- oh yes -- Mardi Gras. Landrieu (the brother of U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, a longtime REALTOR® Champion, herself,) had worked tirelessly to improve the overall quality of life in the City of New Orleans and Orleans Parish, but was facing a tough election. The REALTORS® of New Orleans were successful and helped Landrieu win with 64 percent of the vote.
Leaders at the 700-member TriCity Association of REALTORS® in southeastern Washington State immediately saw the potential of hosting NAR’s new Candidate Training Academy – and began ambitiously recruiting participants. Soon after the well-received session, they put their new knowledge, RPAC support and plenty of enthusiasm behind one of their own – a commercial REALTOR® running for Port Commissioner. He beat three opponents in the primary and went on to win the general election!
In the fall of 2013, with the help of grants and services from NAR’s Campaign Services Division, the Virginia Association of REALTORS® got involved in 17 statewide elections, including the gubernatorial race -- winning all but one. The 24,000-member association put their resources behind both Democrats and Republicans – all of them candidates who support issues important to the real estate industry.
Until this past election cycle, the Birmingham Association of REALTORS® (BAR) had never conducted an independent expenditure campaign or made use of any of the advocacy funds and services available through the REALTOR® Party. This autumn, after careful planning, the 3,200-member association backed 15 REALTOR®-friendly candidates for City Council and School Board seats, and 14 won. They began by hosting an NAR Candidate Training Academy. Then, they used NAR's Campaign Funding and Services to help them run the most effective independent expenditure campaigns, including robo-calls and direct-mail pieces. The rest is history – and a good base of advocacy experience on which to build.
The 15,000-member South Carolina Association of REALTORS® (SCR,) had a long list of REALTOR® Champions it wanted to help elect to the state legislature, but its resources were limited. So, it turned to NAR’s Campaign Services for help. In the end, they relied on polling to whittle down their list to 11 candidates, and waged energetic independent efforts in the form of direct mail, phone campaigns and newspaper ads – paid for by their state RPAC funds and NAR. Eight of their candidates won.
Delegate Rosalyn Dance (D-Petersburg) is a long-time friend to REALTORS® in the Virginia General Assembly, where she has served since 2005. So, when Dance was challenged in the Democratic primary this spring, she found the support of the 29,000-member Virginia Association of REALTORS® behind her. VAR, as well as the local Southside Virginia and Richmond Associations had already committed a total of $4,000 in RPAC funds to her campaign, when VAR staff called NAR for additional backing. NAR’s seasoned campaign consultants put together a plan worth just over $20,000 that included live polling calls, personalized “get out the vote” robo-calls, and a direct mail piece. They were also able to craft a Tele-Town Hall Meeting for the candidate. In the end, she won by 264 votes.
- Read about VAR’s successful campaign to keep their champion in the Virginia General Assembly (367K PDF)
The 6,000-member Beverly Hills/Greater Los Angeles Association of REALTORS® (BHGLAAR) was fairly certain that five of the six candidates it was supporting for the Los Angeles City Council, would easily win this year’s election. But one of those REALTOR® Champions, Mitch O’Farrell, was up against some stiff competition. The BHGLAAR leaders turned to NAR’s Campaign Services office for help. That help came in the form of cracker-jack field teams in “Neighbors for Mitch” t-shirts that went door-to-door asking thousands of voters to put their faith in Mitch O’Farrell. In addition, NAR funded telephone calls to voting households, and BHGLAAR contributed its own funds to pay for direct mailers. O’Farrell won handily, and the BHGLAAR is already enjoying improved relationships with the city council.
- Read about the BHGLAAR’s successful campaign to elect a REALTOR champion to their city council (679K PDF)
When the mayor of Santa Fe announced that he would not be running for re-election, the 750-member Santa Fe Association of REALTORS® (SFAR) recognized an opportunity. Not only would this be a prime moment to affect change in its city leadership, but it also signaled a chance to take its involvement in local government affairs to the next level. The first thing it did was to call on NAR’s Campaign Services division to help host a Candidate Training Program, which will be held on Aug. 10 in Santa Fe. SFAR, along with the local Homebuilders Association and the Chamber of Commerce, have identified 20 pro-property-rights candidates to attend the day-long program, which is a general introduction to the nuts-and-bolts of running for office. SFAR is also using NAR’s campaign services to conduct a poll of Santa Fe voters to gather critical information for the upcoming local elections.
When an NAR dues increase went into effect two years ago, the Fort Collins Board of REALTORS® (FCBR) made a promise to its 750 members to bring those dollars back to the northern Colorado community, in the form of grants from the REALTOR® Party. This spring, it made good on that promise, supporting four candidates for local election, including the mayor, with an Independent Expenditure Grant from NAR. The funding paid for get-out-the-vote calls, and a combination of online advertising and social media messaging that reached the youthful voting population of the college town more effectively than traditional print media. Three of the four candidates who benefited from FCBR’s support, won: the incumbent mayor, and two of the candidates running for City Council.
- Read how the Ft. Collins Board helped elect three REALTOR® Champions to their City Council (392K PDF)
When two seats came up for grabs on the City Council of Salisbury, MD, the 950-member Coastal Association of REALTORS revved its advocacy instincts into high gear. The association interviewed all the prospective candidates and took heart when they met challenger Jake Day, a “local boy” with an urban revitalization background that gave him an understanding of what Salisbury needed to develop as a city. They backed him for one district, and incumbent Shanie Shields, for another. Working together with the Maryland Association, the Coastal Association secured Independent Expenditure funds from NAR to support direct mail cards, a radio ad, robo-calls and door-hangers. Both candidates won in the April 2013 election, and two weeks later Jake Day was selected as President of the Council.
Justice Pat Roggensack, one of the four-justice majority seen as favoring property rights on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, was running for a second 10-year term. The 13,000-member Wisconsin REALTORS® Association (WRA) was there to help her secure it, with 57.5 percent of the vote. WRA led an independent expenditure campaign for her re-election, working closely with a well-established coalition of like-minded partners that includes the state chamber of commerce, the state bankers and builders associations, and the Wisconsin Club for Growth. WRA has been involved in seven of the past eight contested state Supreme Court races, backing the winner in six of them. The difference this time came in the form of a $210,000 grant from NAR that financed a two-week statewide radio campaign.
Five years ago, the climate for business and real estate in Wentzville, MO (an hour’s drive from St. Louis) was not good. Since then, the 1,200-member St. Charles County Association of REALTORS® helped bring positive change for homeowners and the housing industry in Wentzville – by changing the makeup of the Board of Aldermen. With the help of endorsements and RPAC contributions from the St. Charles REALTORS®, five of the six of Wentzville’s current Aldermen are “real estate-friendly”. And, the President of the Aldermen, Rick Stokes, is an active REALTOR® in the Wentzville area. Last spring, Stokes’ campaign for re-election to the Board of Aldermen became one of the first in the nation to benefit from an Independent Expenditure Grant from the NAR’s REALTOR® Party.
- Read how the St. Charles Association Worked to Elect a Real-Estate Friendly Board of Aldermen (422K PDF)
It’s always helpful to have a REALTOR® in the house…not to mention REALTOR® Champions in the state Senate and attorney general’s office! In Indiana last year, five campaigns that received support from NAR’s Campaign Services division swept to victory, assuring industry-friendly legislators just where the Indiana Association of REALTORS® (IAR) needs them. The 14,600-member association helped elect two incumbent state representatives – REALTORS®, no less, two incumbent state senators and a state attorney general who was up for re-election. NAR funding paid for radio ads for all five.
One new program that is sure to spawn a multitude of its own Success Stories is the REALTOR® Candidate Training Academy, developed and offered by NAR’s Campaign Services Division. This intensive one-day training session provides a comprehensive overview of what it takes to run for an elected position, be it the school board, or city council, or the highest office in the land. After all, the more REALTORS® and REALTOR® Champions who are successfully groomed for election, the better the environment for REALTOR® issues at the local, state, and national level. Participants in the pilot classes in Reading-Berks, PA and Reno, NV are raving about them.
In politics, there are REALTOR®-friendly candidates, and then there are candidates who are actually REALTOR® members. This election year, the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® (PAR) protected and secured the seats of not one, but two of its own who serve in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. With two Independent Expenditure Campaigns funded by NAR, PAR helped to re-elect Sue Helm of Dauphin County and Marguerite Quinn of Bucks County, outside Philadelphia.
- Read more about PAR’s successful campaigns to re-elect two REALTORS® to the state legislature (207K PDF)
It was going to be a close race for the Riverside County Supervisor, 1st District. But the challenger, a volunteer fire fighter, owner of a small property management firm, and a California State Assemblyman for six years had the support of the Southwest Riverside County Association of REALTOR® (SRCAR.). Using NAR’s Campaign Services Resources, the 3,400-member association was able to help elect Kevin Jeffries – bringing a true friend to the real estate industry into the county supervisor office. And he won with by just 1,200 votes – less than 1 percent of the total.
It’s a jungle out there in San Diego; in fact, in all of California, where the ‘Jungle Primary System’ applies. In the jungle system, all candidates are in the first round which, technically, is a non-partisan race, although candidates can accept endorsements. Fifty percent plus one vote wins the race outright. If no one gets over 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates go to a run-off in the general November election. The 12,000-member San Diego Association of REALTORS® (SDAR) endorsed three candidates, and with Independent Expenditure funding from NAR, it created targeted direct mailings for all three elections. On June 12, each of the three REALTOR® candidates had garnered the most votes: one won a seat on the San Diego City Council; one goes to a run-off for a City Council seat; and the third will compete in a run-off for the office of San Diego County Supervisor.
“When Texas REALTORS® vote, Texas REALTORS® win.” That’s the slogan on the Texas Association’s web site -- and it’s also exactly what happened in the statewide primaries this year. The 80,000-member Texas Association worked with their 89 local associations to endorse 99 candidates statewide, for offices from the U.S. Senate, to the Texas Railroad Commission to both houses of the Texas legislature, to a couple of seats on the state Supreme Court. They won 70 and have 14 still pending in run-offs. The Texas REALTORS® got a big boost from $100,000 in Campaign Services funds, which it used exclusively for communication – direct mail, automated phone calls and development of a campaign web site.
The 8,325-member Oklahoma Association of REALTORS® (OAR) has long had one of the state’s strongest Political Action Committees. But this spring, having received the maximum allowed PAC contributions from OAR, two of its strongest advocates – one in the State House (Marion Cooksey) and one in the State Senate (Clark Jolley) - were still faced with tough primaries. They needed an extra boost. OAR used a $14,500 Independent Expenditure Grant for polling and mailers to bring about success. Representative Cooksey won her race outright in the primary; Senator Jolley will face an Independent in the fall general election, and is expected to win easily.
John Wuo, the Arcadia Association of REALTORS® champion, was a candidate who seemed to have it all: a successful and well-rounded business career; a thriving real estate office; a list of impressive board memberships and volunteer activities longer than his arm; two terms on the Arcadia City Council (including two terms as Mayor) under his belt; and the ability to speak Mandarin – the native language of the city’s largest minority group. But he had no Internet presence. The Arcadia REALTORS® put an end to that. Using NAR’s Campaign Services, they executed a successful campaign using English and Chinese-language ads on Facebook to help elect him to another term.
“We may have lost the race,” says Government Affairs Director Gavin Blair of the Columbus Board of REALTORS®, “but we are in a much stronger position now than before we ran it.” The November 2011 election presented an opportunity to try to add a REALTOR® -friendly member to the Columbus City Council. NAR funded polling, three targeted mailers, robo-calls, and online advertising. While the REALTOR® Champion won the election-day votes, an unforeseen wave of absentee ballots carried the incumbent back to office. Columbus REALTORS® may have lost the race, but the City Council now has a good relationship with them because of the positive campaign they ran.
Seven months before the recent mayoral race in Edmonds, Washington, the REALTOR® candidate was trailing by about 11 points in the polls. Reaching out to NAR’s Campaign Services Department, the state association developed a plan and secured the support they needed. REALTOR® Champion Dave Earling came out victorious in November by more than 65 percent. Through polling, direct mail, automated phone calls and a customized campaign strategy, NAR and the Washington Association worked together to bring about success.
When Jim Johnston was appointed to the City Council of Pocatello, Idaho in early 2011, he was new to political office – but no stranger to public service. In fact, when he ran for election to keep his seat just six months later, polling partly funded by NAR found that he had a whopping 84 percent name recognition. The Idaho native had achieved this not only through his through his 30 years’ experience as a leading REALTOR® in Pocatello, but thanks to his dedicated involvement with organizations ranging from the Idaho Chapter of the American Red Cross, to the Grand Teton Council of Boys Scouts of America, to the United Way, and more. The 5,800-member Idaho Association of REALTORS® put together a campaign plan that involved promotional outreach, and an extensive get-out-to-vote effort. Then they turned to NAR’s Campaign Services Department and asked them to fund 50 percent of it – and they did.
The small but mighty Camden Charlton Board put NAR's campaign services to good use to elect two REALTOR® Champions to St. Marys (GA) City Council. Specifically, the board used NAR-sponsored "robocalls" (automated phone calls to voters) to push two of the three candidates they supported over the top. Jim Gant (husband of a REALTOR®) and Nancy Stasinis (former board president) won by 10 and 15 votes, respectively. Both, as well as the third REALTOR® Champion who lost, stand for issues that help to make their real estate market strong and vibrant.
- Read how REALTOR® Champions stacked up against opponents before the vote
- Read about why it's important to elect REALTORS® to public office
Four local REALTOR® Associations in California, fortified with campaign resources from NAR, banded together to run a successful campaign electing REALTOR® Champion Joe Buscaino to the Los Angeles City Council. The Beverly Hills Greater Los Angeles, Glendale, Pasadena Foothills and South Bay Associations all worked together to turn this special election into a REALTOR® Party win. Polling, advertising and an abundance of local grassroots support helped us “make the deal,” said James W. Litz, government affairs director for the Los Angeles Association. “The amazing part was that this campaign took place over the Christmas/New Year holiday, and the REALTOR® Party was able to deliver during this hectic period, helping us keep a tight schedule for a January 17th election, after a November 8th primary,” Litz added.
- Read Beverly Hills Greater Los Angeles Association Article on Campaign Win (114K PDF)
- Read LA Times Blog about Buscaino Win
When Oklahoma City passed an “abandoned property” ordinance last November subjecting certain vacant properties to registration requirements, mandated fees, and municipal inspections, the Oklahoma Association of REALTORS® thought the city had gotten too big for its britches. OAR used NAR’s polling services, along with a $95,000 Issues Mobilization Grant, to put together an aggressive campaign to convince the Oklahoma state house to pass legislation eliminating fee-based property registries. It worked! The Protect Property Rights Act was overwhelmingly passed and signed into law by the governor this spring.
Wisconsin's notoriously high property tax rate had long been a thorn in the side of the Wisconsin REALTORS® Association (WRA. This past legislative session, with the help of polling services from NAR, the 13,500-member association did something about it. By winning bipartisan support in a statehouse often noted for its partisan discord, WRA helped get property tax relief signed into law. The lower rate will save the average Wisconsin homeowner $131 per year!
REALTORS® in Maryland and Louisiana ran successful issue campaigns to stop local governments from using their power of eminent domain to seize underwater mortgages. The Maryland Association got a two-year moratorium on the practice while the state legislature studies the issue. The Louisiana Association got an all-out ban on the practice. These successful campaigns follow on the heels of NAR’s adoption of a policy strongly opposing use of eminent domain for this purpose.
The real estate transfer tax had been on the books in Kansas for nearly a century, and it was showing no signs of budging. But the 7,600-member Kansas Association of REALTORS® decided enough was enough and set off on a mission to educate state legislators about the discriminatory nature of the tax. It affected only those taking out a mortgage, and placed an unfair burden on Kansas families, farmers and small businesses. With an Issues Mobilization Grant from NAR, combined with funds of its own and the support of the banking industry they ran a successful campaign. On the last day of the legislative session a bill to repeal the law was passed, saving the average Kansas homebuyer $268 at the closing table.
For the second year in a row, the Missouri REALTORS® (MR) blocked a deep-pocketed individual from advancing his plan to eliminate the state income tax. The burden for filling the revenue void would likely have fallen on real estate sales and services, which would have hit MR’s 18,000 members square in the pocketbook, not to mention shut many home buyers and investors out of the market. Using an Issues Mobilization Grant for polling, they were able to show that the pubic did not want this to happen. The polling results were used to help defeat the issue in legal proceedings, before engaging in a larger campaign fight.
The Greater San Diego Association of REALTORS® (SDAR) needed a lot of signatures -- 34,000 authentic and verifiable signatures, to be exact. That was the number required to get a referendum on the ballot to overturn an onerous fee increase on developers of office buildings and mixed-use residential developments. The12,000-member SDAR put an Issues Mobilization Grant to work to help collect a whopping 53,000 signatures, far more than were required to put a referendum on the ballot. All those signatures turned the tide: the City Council saw that the issue would not do well in a public vote, and decided to rescind the tax increase altogether.
In Richmond, VA, REALTORS® have long understood the strong correlation between good schools and home values. Last year, they had to fight for it. The 4,000-member Richmond Association of REALTORS® put a $95,000 Issues Mobilization Grant from NAR to work on a campaign to use a restaurant meals tax on food and beverages to help fund public schools. Working with other community groups, their successful campaign prevented drastic cuts to the school system budget.
Ever since the world's first chairlift was installed at the Sun Valley Resort in the 1930s, the local economy of this idyllic resort community has been chiefly dependent on visitors. A number of these tourists will become second home owners at the highest end of the market. The 320-member Sun Valley Board of REALTORS® (SVBR) knew they needed to do something to help support and attract non-stop flights from nearby cities. These flights bring in their customer base, and more importantly, are the ticket to sustaining a robust economy. So they used an Issues Mobilization Grant from NAR to help run a campaign to pass an additional 1 percent sales tax allocated specifically to air service funding. They won – and already a new non-stop flight from San Francisco is landing in Sun Valley.
The City Council of North Las Vegas had nearly been seduced by a private firm into using its power of eminent domain to capitalize on the plight of homeowners with underwater mortgages. The dubious plan involved convincing municipalities like North Las Vegas that had been hit especially hard by the housing crisis to foreclose on houses and then sell them back to the original owners at a devalued price. Calling the plan penny-wise-pound-foolish -- the 11,000-member Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTORS® (GLVAR) went to work with an Issues Mobilization Grant from NAR and funds of their own to convince voters and the city council that this was a bad idea. They won. The council members reversed their decision and rejected the plan.
A proposed state sales tax on real estate services would have added $1,500 to the cost of buying and selling a $250,000 home, and the 17,000-member Minnesota Association of REALTORS (MNAR) was determined not to let that happen. Political strategists at NAR helped the state association use an Issues Mobilization Grant to craft a five-month, multi-phase campaign using a dedicated website, newspaper and online advertising, an online petition, patch-through phone calls, direct-mail and emails to homeowners. When the Governor dropped the tax on services from his proposal – thanks, in part, to the unrelenting pressure of MNAR’s campaign – the association kept up its offensive by shifting to a campaign aimed at preventing the legislature from including service sales taxes in any tax proposals later in the spring. It was a complete success.
- Read about OAR’s successful campaign to keep Oregon’s real estate tax provisions in place (373K PDF)
High in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, about an hour southeast of Sacramento, Amador County, CA, was facing serious water-system issues. And, a vocal anti-growth group was fighting improvements to the system tooth and nail. The 175-member Amador County Association of REALTORS® (ACAR,) understands that a safe, reliable source of water is not only vital to homeowners, but essential to its members’ ability to market properties. So it decided to fight back. With an Issues Mobilization Grant of $10,000 from NAR, this local REALTOR® association got its message to the people of Amador County through a direct mail postcard and internet advertising coordinated by NAR’s campaign team consultants. In the end, a new water delivery system was approved and constructed, and rates were restructured to ensure that all customers pay the same amount for service and system maintenance.
A proposed state sales tax on real estate services would have added $1,500 to the cost of buying and selling a $250,000 home, and the 17,000-member Minnesota Association of REALTORS (MNAR) was determined not to let that happen. Political strategists at NAR helped the state association use an Issues Mobilization Grant to craft a five-month, multi-phase campaign using a dedicated website, newspaper and online advertising, an online petition, patch-through phone calls, direct-mail and emails to homeowners. When the Governor dropped the tax on services from his proposal – thanks, in part, to the unrelenting pressure of MNAR’s campaign – the association kept up its offensive by shifting to a campaign aimed at preventing the legislature from including service sales taxes in any tax proposals later in the spring. It was a complete success.
- Learn about the Louisiana REALTORS ® victory and commitment to improving education in the Bayou (344K PDF)
“My Home is not UR ATM!” read one of the hand-lettered signs held high by a concerned citizen at Cincinnati’s City Hall. The lively annual debate over a proposed property tax hike was underway, and the Cincinnati Area Board of REALTORS® (CABR) had mobilized its troops. Although limiting property taxes has been an ongoing fight for the 4,200-member association, this was the first time it had REALTOR® Party resources behind it. In a two-step Issues Mobilization campaign funded by NAR, CABR produced a survey showing 74 percent of Cincinnati residents were opposed to the proposed tax increase. Then, they shared it with local radio, television, and newspaper outlets – and used it in testimony before the Council. Robo calls and REALTOR mobilization efforts added to the campaign, which resulted in the City Council backing off its ambitious proposal to a more modest one.
Early in 2012, when their county council proposed easing its budget woes by increasing the real estate recordation tax – for the second year in row – the Prince George’s County Association of REALTORS® took action. After attempts to negotiate a fairer solution didn’t work out, it turned to NAR for help. The 2,800-member association used an $11,000 Issues Mobilization Grant to mount an automated call and electronic letter-writing campaign. Assistance was provided throughout by NAR consultants and program staff. The Maryland Association pitched in with a newspaper ad. The carefully timed multi-media campaign resulted in a compromise that cut the proposed increase in the real estate recordation tax in half. In addition, the association is now recognized as a worthy player in local politics.
Last spring, when the City of Los Angeles proposed solving its $230 million fiscal year budget deficit by doubling the documentary transfer tax rate to $9 per $1,000 of assessed value, REALTORS® took action – fast. Eleven REALTOR associations covering the Los Angeles metropolitan area put together a coalition – 25,000 REALTORS® in all – to mount a successful campaign against the proposed transfer tax increase. And, by the way, they offered a viable alternative for raising the needed government funds. Using their own resources, along with funding from the California Association and NAR’s Issues Mobilization program, the coalition conducted polls, drafted alternative policy language and distributed effective mailers, which helped to get the transfer tax proposal off the March ballot.
The 2012 election cycle resulted in a resounding victory for 12,000-member Oregon Association of REALTORS® as voters supported the passage of Ballot Measure 79 to prohibit real estate transfer taxes. The vote was the culmination of a two-year campaign with NAR that began by collecting 164,000 signatures to qualify the issue for the ballot. Despite a difficult political atmosphere, research showed a path to victory through a strong education campaign. In the end, Measure 79 passed with 59 percent of the vote and was supported in 35 out of 36 counties throughout the state. This impressive victory featured a strong REALTOR® mobilization effort and a targeted campaign that personalized the messages necessary to illustrate the negative impact a real estate transfer tax would have on homeowners.
When a referendum to bring light rail to Hampton Roads came back for another round in April 2012, the Hampton Roads REALTORS® Association (HRRA) got busy – again. The 3,300-member association had supported light rail proposals before, but this time they kicked their campaign efforts up a few notches with an Issues Mobilization Grant from NAR of $74,000, as well as additional funds for polling and direct mail pieces. In addition, the state association and HRRA kicked in their own funds, making REALTORS® the single largest contributor to the cause. In the end, the referendum was carried in 90 of 95 local precincts, with the approval of 62 percent of the voters.
One month in to the Maryland State Legislature’s 90-day session this past winter, the Governor unveiled a proposal that would trim the state’s Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID). The 22,000-member Maryland Association of REALTORS® had to act quickly. NAR approved a $300,000 Issues Mobilization grant, which funded half the cost of an extensive advertising and public education campaign, which included polling, robo-calls, print and online advertising and plenty of media relations. The endeavor was capped by a huge rally organized by MAR outside the office windows of the Governor and key legislators in the Maryland Statehouse. Thanks to the quick and decisive action of the Maryland REALTORS®, and the strong support and deep resources from the national level, the issue resonated, the people spoke, and the proposal failed to launch.
When the City Council of Cape Girardeau got serious about implementing an onerous rental inspection program, the 292-member Cape Girardeau County Board of REALTORS® got busy. The board worked with the Missouri Association, which in turn asked for help from NAR. Through NAR’s Land Use Initiative Program, the Cape Girardeau Board got a comprehensive review of the proposal from legal professionals. In the end, the City Council asked the Cape Girardeau Board to help them draft an acceptable ordinance. Along the way, the board combated several unfavorable news articles with letters to the editor, explaining that by commissioning a thorough and unbiased legal review of the proposed ordinance, the REALTORS® were advocating for everyone’s best interests – including those of tenants and homeowners.
- Read more about Cape Girardeau’s successful campaign to improve their rental inspection ordinance (208K PDF)
When the Fort Collins, Colorado City Council began floating the idea of extending its term limits, the Fort Collins Board of REALTORS® (FCBR) suspected that the citizens may not be for it. The 775-member board worked with NAR’s Campaign Services staff and commissioned a poll to take a look. The poll revealed that citizens were not only against extending the term limits of its City Council, but also did not want to spend $100,000 in tax dollars to bring the issue to a special election. The board provided the poll results to the City Council members and gave the information to the local paper, which resulted in a front page story. The Council decided drop the idea.
The North Dakota Association of REALTORS® (NDAR,) joined an astonishing coalition of more than 80 groups to oppose a measure that would have abolished the state’s century-old property tax. That’s right, REALTORS® worked to “keep” the tax. Why? Because getting rid of the tax would have empowered the state legislature to replace the lost income by creating new revenue sources, over which the voting public would have virtually no say. Their “‘Keep It Local, North Dakota” used funds from the state association’s own Issues Mobilization along with a grant from NAR to pay for polling and campaign advertising, including television, radio, newspaper, and social media. They also conducted 11 news conferences and numerous debates. In the end, they won with 77 percent of the voters striking the measure down.
The price of living in paradise is occasional rough weather – and when storms the like of Hurricanes Hugo  and Marilyn  battered the U.S. Virgin Islands, the damage to property proved too much for owners of many of the islands’ historic homes. Over the years, the resulting abandonment of these properties has caused a blight that affects the quality of life, economic vitality, and property values of the once lovely historic rings of houses that distinguish the islands’ downtown areas. The 292-member Virgin Islands Territorial Association of REALTORS® [VITAR] led a campaign to get legislation passed that will not only preserve these endangered properties, but rehabilitate them to their highest and best use. A $44,000 Issues Mobilization Grant from NAR helped to fund a study, polling and advertising. The legislature is expected to vote on the measure this fall – and according to VITAR, it has a very good chance of passing.
In its first-ever experiment with political involvement, the 250-member Greater Twin Falls Association of REALTORS® proved that you don’t have to be big to be effective. The city of Twin Falls needed to expand its waste water treatment plant, in order to support the growth and attract new business. With help from the Idaho Association, as well as a $10,000 Issues Mobilization grant and campaign assistance from NAR, the Twin Falls Association worked with local businesses and citizens to promote a special ballot initiative to fund expansion of the plant. They used the grant to develop direct mailers, business flyers and a live reminder phone call to voting households before the special election. In the end, nearly 70 percent voted in favor of funding the initiative.
Late in the spring of 2012, in a heated and hard-fought legislative session rivaling any political intrigue that happens in Washington, the citizens of Kansas retained their ability to claim itemized tax deductions on their state tax returns, most notably their Mortgage Interest Deductions. The 7,500-member Kansas Association of REALTORS® combined NAR’s Issues Mobilization services, along with their own funds and grassroots support to make that happen. The Kansas REALTORS® fought the Governor’s proposed ‘flat tax’ plan that would have wiped away all itemized deductions, and they won – by two votes.
Several years ago, NAR launched a program to assist state associations in fighting private transfer fees. Today, 37 states ban them. Last month, NAR’s pressure at the federal level paid off as the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) issued a rule prohibiting the fees on mortgages handled by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Banks. FHA already bans the fees. The FHFA rule in conjunction FHA’s, builds on the state bans by ensuring the fees aren’t imposed on any loans with federal government involvement in all 50 states. Curtailing these burdensome fees is a REALTOR® Party victory that was built from the state houses to the federal agencies. The REALTOR® organization has long been opposed to private transfer fees since there is virtually no oversight on where or how fee proceeds can be spent and how long the fee may be imposed. This often places an inappropriate drag on the transfer of property.
- Read REALTOR Magazine article about NAR and State success in fighting private transfer fees
- Read NAR news release on FHFA rule
- Read article in Silicon Valley Community Newspaper
Louisiana REALTORS® joined with NAR political advocacy resources in a year-long campaign to win a permanent statewide ban on transfer taxes. In November 2011, the REALTOR® -supported measure won approval by 81 percent of the voters, making Louisiana the fourth state to amend its constitution prohibiting transfer taxes. Funding and technical support from NAR combined with extensive grassroots involvement to make this campaign successful.
- Learn more about the Louisiana REALTOR® Party victory
- View NAR President Moe Veissi discussing the victory
The Little Rock Association joined the local mayor’s initiative last summer to increase the city-wide sales tax from the lowest in the state (from .5 cent to a 1.5 cent sales tax). They utilized Issues Mobilization dollars to help fund the initiative. In addition, they raised $15,000 more by forming a vital coalition of real estate related professionals. They worked to support the city’s campaign, ultimately winning the ballot initiative. Every penny of the tax increase is being used for capital improvements – to make Little Rock a better place to live and work. The mayor followed up with a letter to NAR, thanking the REALTORS® for organizing this powerful coalition for the win.
- View/download slides (4.67M PDF)
The SouthEast Valley Regional Association of REALTORS® (SEVRAR) in Mesa, AZ used NAR‘s polling services to gather voter opinion on growth issues in four Arizona cities – Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Tempe. The association brought the polling information to civic leaders who could not have funded such a poll themselves. “It really solidified our role as stakeholders in the community,” said Andy Fegley, SEVRAR’s Government Affairs Director. One of the most important findings was that 97 percent of the residents felt that real estate is key to the economic recovery of the area. Shortly after the poll results were released, SEVRAR’s RPAC Major Donors went from just one to 22! As of, March 2012, they are at 37!
- Read more about SEVRAR’s poll (114K PDF)
The New York State Association used NAR issues mobilization funds and resources to launch a successful campaign that put a statewide cap on real estate property taxes. My REALTOR® Party resources, along with aggressive involvement by REALTORS® throughout the state, helped to get the legislation passed and signed by the governor. The measure caps annual property tax increases at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.
Community Involvement and Outreach
Inspired by a national report on challenges faced by African Americans in the housing market, the 9,500-member Austin Board of REALTORS® formulated a plan to do something about it in their own back yard. They began by securing a Diversity Grant from NAR to host a two-day conference to which they invited a variety of local minority organizations and stakeholders. Hoping for 50 participants, they had more than 80, and they’ve begun acting on ideas that came out of the conference brainstorming sessions…
The 83,000-member Texas Association of REALTORS® (TAR) has a long, proud history of embracing the ethnic diversity within the state, but they decided to take it one step further and capitalize on it. In mid-August 2013, TAR invited the Texas chapters of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals to join them for a summit to focus on affordable housing and other advocacy goals the two groups have in common. With a $5,000 Diversity Grant from NAR, they found that the fight for the American Dream is one they can build on – together!
Thanks to a $5,000 NAR Diversity Grant, members of the Pennsylvania Association of REALTORS® (PAR) are benefiting from an innovative website feature that helps them to maximize their ethnic and cultural sensitivities, neighborhood by neighborhood. “The Diversity Explorer” was developed for the 29,000-member association in anticipation of the release of the 2010 U.S. Census data. Through interactive charts of targeted markets throughout Pennsylvania, members get a quick overview of their areas’ changing demographics. REALTORS® can use statistics about immigrant cultures in their own back yards to reach out to these populations, helping them to better understand issues of homeownership there.
As industries across the board are ‘going global,’ the Illinois Association of REALTORS® (IAR) knows that real estate is no different. IAR doesn’t just recognize such trends, it helps its members stay ahead of them. For the past four years, the 41,000-member association has been using $5,000 Diversity Grants from NAR to help host a series of Multicultural Summits, equipping its members with an introduction to doing business in the global market, as well as a better understanding of cultural diversity, and serving international clients within their own local markets. The summits also have sparked member interest in serving on the association’s Business Diversity Committee and in being a part of discussions about cultural awareness in the real estate industry.
- Learn more about IAR’s Multicultural Summits (241K PDF)
Raising awareness about the link between good schools and good communities – and how to strengthen both – was the focus of a day-long forum called “Connecting the Dots Between Where Kids Live and Where They Learn." The 29,500-member Virginia Association of REALTORS® used a Housing Opportunity Grant to co-sponsor the day-long forum where 200 attendees explored ways to improve school performance, which in turn, increases housing desirability and values.
The 690-member Santa Fe Association of REALTORS® (SFAR) wanted to help the city and housing providers make wise decisions about affordable housing in their area, where pricey second homes are the norm and many workers commute from surrounding areas. Using a $5,000 Housing Opportunity Grant, SFAR produced the 2013 Affordable Housing in Santa Fe. The 48-page report presents current information about the local economy, homeownership, rental housing, homelessness, housing trends, funding, and new affordable housing programs.
The City of Aurora, on the west side of Chicago, has been lauded as a highly livable city. It has a strong down-payment assistance program, and plenty of affordable housing -- yet a high percentage of the employees working in Aurora commute from elsewhere. The 15,000-member Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® and the 1,500-member REALTOR® Association of the Fox Valley partnered with the city and local lending institutions to get the word out. They used a Housing Opportunity Grant from NAR to host a housing expo and trolley tour they called "Experience Aurora." The positive results are already appearing!
No one ever said it would be quick or easy. But the Ada County Association of REALTORS® (ACAR) stuck to its conviction that focusing on workforce housing is good for everyone in a community. The 3,000-member association is finally beginning to see results from its years of diligent Employer Assisted Housing efforts in and around Boise, Idaho.
When the economy crashed in Gaston County, NC, it crashed hard. Unemployment grew and the housing market suffered. As conditions began to improve last year, the 270-member Gaston Association of REALTORS® decided to help the public understand the opportunities to be had in their recovering market by hosting a housing fair in the town’s brand new convention center. With the help of a $5,000 Housing Opportunity Grant from NAR, they drew nearly 500 people to the April event. Attendees visited booths of industry professionals ranging from lenders and home inspectors to landscapers and cabinet refinishers. The fair was such a hit that plans are already underway to host another one next year.
Out in western Kentucky, the small but resourceful Hopkinsville-Christian and Todd County Association of REALTORS® understands that the American Dream of homeownership may be a win-win for employers and employees, but that sometimes dreams need a helping hand. Last year, the 68-member association drew 30 participants from nearby small boards to an Employer Assisted Housing (EAH) class. This year, they used a $5,000 Housing Opportunity Grant to form a team and act on what they learned. Their program, “Hopkinsville HOPE,” short for “Home Ownership for Performing Employees,” now has a web site and they are conducting workshops for local employers.
Leaders of the 125-member White Mountain Board of REALTORS® (WMBR) knew from the moment they learned about NAR’s Housing Opportunity Grants that they could put one to good use in their rural region where many jobs do not pay enough to cover housing within a reasonable commuting range. The WMBR used a $5,000 grant from NAR to host the Mount Washington Valley Workforce Housing Design Charette. The intensive design program brought together teams of planners and housing development professionals to rough out development concepts reusing and/or revitalizing existing structures, as well as developing raw acreage. Particular attention was given to how zoning regulations either work or might be modified to improve the region’s prospects for affordable workforce housing. The sessions drew 78 members of the public and 26 housing industry professionals.
For years, the 230-member West Metro Board of REALTORS® (WMBoR) has helped support the Neighborhood Stabilization Program administered by the City of Carrollton Housing Authority. By rehabbing abandoned homes and selling them with down payment assistance to qualified buyers, the program has been a real success in preventing and reversing blight in in the West Metro region, about 50 miles from Atlanta in the foothills of the Appalachians. But no one even knew about WMBoR involvement. So board leaders applied for and received a $2,500 Housing Opportunity Grant from NAR to draw attention to the program and their involvement in it. They erected a publicity booth at MayFest, a popular annual Carrollton event, to promote the success of the program and accompanied it with special signage to post active listings.
- Read how WMBoR put the HOP Grant to work and launched other advocacy projects (426K PDF)
- View WMBoR video highlighting its REALTOR® Party projects
Where there are homes in safe areas with access to good education, good transit and other services, that’s where the jobs go. It was this kind of big thinking that led the 2,800-member Greater Nashville Association of REALTORS® (GNAR) to gather a coalition of regional partners in the housing industry last summer, to co-sponsor The Greater Nashville Housing Summit. The July 3 event at GNAR headquarters was the first of its kind, drawing housing experts and policy makers from around the state for a forward-looking “state of the housing market” program. Media relations, both before and after the Summit, were funded by an NAR Housing Opportunity Grant of $2,500, which also covered promotional graphics and printed materials, as well as a wealth of research information.
The 4,500-member Denver Metro Association of REALTORS® (DMAR) realized that Employer-Assisted Housing was a topic that would serve both the membership and the community, so they applied for and received a $5,000 grant from NAR to fund a course in October 2010. Then, they took it to the next step by establishing the Greater Brighton Employer-Assisted Housing program. Today, the program serves this tightknit community northeast of Denver by showing employers who might not have ready cash to offer down-payment assistance that benefits like a day-off for moving, or the loan of a truck, are creative low- or no-cost ways to give their employees a housing benefit. Besides funding the course itself, the EAH grant from NAR paid for course materials, promotional flyers, tri-fold brochures to distribute to employers, and the website.
The city of Waterbury, Conn. had been facing a growing epidemic of neighborhood blight for decades. Some properties had been abandoned; others harbored criminal activity. Porches, lawns, and sidewalks along entire streets had fallen into disrepair. Leaders of the 650-member Greater Waterbury Board of REALTORS® met with the mayor and launched a neighborhood stabilization program to do something about it. Funded by a $5,000 Housing Opportunity Grant from NAR, which was doubly matched by the City of Waterbury for a total of $15,000, the first annual Waterbury Citywide Front Porch Day in July 2012 brought together over 300 volunteers to clean up ten blight-ridden Waterbury streets. Follow-up meetings are now occurring with neighborhood groups and a date for the 2013 Front Porch Day will soon be announced.
- Read more about GWBR’s Front Porch Day Program (1.42M PDF)
The REALTOR® Association of Greater Fort Myers and the Beach, Inc. is working with the Lee County Housing Development Corporation to provide free Homebuyer Education classes to the communities it serves. Course materials are provided by NeighborWorks® America and include topics such as homeownership readiness, money management, the purchase process, and home maintenance. Under the direction of 2012 President, Marion Briggs, the 4,000-member association used a $5,000 Housing Opportunity Program grant to produce a video featuring testimonials of students who describe the benefits of homebuyer education and their experiences as homeowners. The video has been shared with the public by various community-based organizations and lenders.
The 3,000-member Ada County Association of REALTORS® (ACAR) first used an NAR Ira Gribin Grant to develop a three-pronged housing assistance program it called Welcome Home Idaho -- providing down payment assistance for working families; zero-percent loans to help with fees and interest; and Employer Assisted Housing materials and training for the community’s REALTORS®, elected officials, and business leaders. Then, it moved on to use NAR Housing Opportunity Grants to put on a housing summit; a Fair Housing campaign; a housing trust fund for lower-income homebuyers; and more.
The 1,400-member Southern Maryland Association of Realtors® (SMAR) received a $5,000 NAR Housing Opportunity Program Grant to partner with the College of Southern Maryland to present Money Smart. This free event offered sound financial advice in tough economic times. Industry experts presented sessions covering topics related to real estate and mortgages; personal banking; and taxes, insurance, and financial planning.
Land is at a premium in Missoula, Montana, which is situated in a picturesque valley at the convergence of five mountain ranges. This stunning topography imposes natural limits on development options for housing – or anything else. It also means that workers who cannot afford to live in the city must literally cross mountains to get between work and home. Mayor John Engen had made affordable housing a priority and the Missoula Organization of REALTORS® stepped up to plate to help. MOR co-sponsored a housing summit and put on an Employer-Assisted Housing Class using NAR’s My REALTOR® Party resources.
When the Michigan Association of REALTORS® (MAR) received an Ira Gribin grant from NAR a few years back, it funded a statewide initiative to study the benefits of placemaking in workforce housing. “As REALTORS®, we have been all about land use planning for a long time, but now we clearly need to focus on placemaking, specifically, as the real key to reversing the fortunes of the housing market here in Michigan.” says 2012 MAR President Beth Foley. Placemaking is a progressive movement that creates improved and distinctive public spaces by involving community input. In February 2012, when Governor Rick Snyder announced his own support for placemaking policies to help spur the state’s flagging economy, state leaders asked MAR to lead the way. Using a $15K Smart Growth Action Grant from NAR as seed money, the association did just that by hosting “MI Great Places,” the state’s first Placemaking Leadership Forum.
In this economy, it’s not easy getting anyone to part with money. But down in Mississippi, thanks to a statewide program of education and outreach, REALTORS® are finding some success, despite the hard times, in convincing employers that helping their employees on the road to home ownership is a win-win situation. The Mississippi Association used a $60,000 workforce housing grant from NAR to help increase awareness of a new state law that provides tax incentives to employers who assist their workers in becoming home owners.
The Nevada Association used its Housing Opportunity Grant from NAR to help sponsor "Under One Roof" – a forum addressing employer-assisted housing programs. The January 28 event drew dozens of employers, as well as government and community leaders to encourage more employers to help their workers access quality housing through employer-assisted housing, a benefit that helps employees meet their housing needs. Nevada REALTOR® Dawn Lane, who organized the event, explained that employer-assisted housing is a key component to successful businesses. "Employees who own their own homes nearer to work stay with a company longer, are more productive, have fewer absences and have more stable home lives," she said.
The Massachusetts association used NAR’s Ira Gribin Workforce Housing Grant in 2011 to help fund an advocacy campaign to sustain the Commonwealth’s Affordable/Workforce Housing Statute. The REALTOR®-supported statute enables local zoning boards of appeals to approve affordable housing developments under flexible rules. The Massachusetts association and a diverse coalition of housing groups successfully beat opponents who had obtained sufficient signatures for a recall referendum. Had it passed, this referendum would have repealed a law that helped to create more than 56,000 homes across Massachusetts for low- and middle-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities over its 40-year history. (Note: While this particular grant is no longer available from NAR, Housing Opportunity Grants and Issues Mobilization funds could be used for programs like this one.)
- Check out the Massachusetts Association campaign website
- Read MAR Election Day Blog Post
- Hear Campaign Podcast by MAR President Kevin Sears
- View PowerPoint Presentation on the campaign (6.4M PDF)
The Wisconsin Association and its partner, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority teamed up to create — Wisconsin Housing Works — a web site devoted exclusively to workforce housing issues. The Wisconsin Association tapped NAR’s Employee-Assisted Housing (EAH) resources to develop this website, which informs and educates real estate professionals, lender partners, employers, and employees on the value of home ownership. The site lists EAH offerings in the state, describes how to create workforce housing programs and makes available training materials. The website is sparking calls from employers and municipalities for additional information on how they can create their own programs to expand home ownership knowledge and opportunities.
The Housing Opportunity Grant Program has a track record of success. In partnership with NAR, local associations are able to educate communities about how to expand housing opportunities as well as actually assist those who need a boost to get into homes of their own.
- Check out how this grant program has worked in three communities -- Charlotte, NC; Springfield, MA; and Fredericksburg, VA
The city of Charleston, South Carolina has the oldest historic district in the nation, and the area's REALTORS® well understand the importance of historic preservation. But when Charleston County proposed overly restrictive amendments to its Historic Preservation Code early this year, the 4,150-member Charleston Trident Association of REALTORS® (CTAR) couldn't support it. The association tapped into NAR’s Land Use Initiative to provide an analysis of what would and wouldn’t work, which prompted the county to appoint a task force, with CTAR’s past president to chair it.
After hosting a successful, yet strenuous, walk-a-thon as part of its first annual Health Fair, the 835-member Northern Kentucky Association of REALTORS® (NKAR) saw the need for some places to rest along the way. Not a group to rest on its laurels – even after celebrating their 100-year anniversary this year—NKAR used a Placemaking Micro-Grant from NAR, along with funds of their own, to pay for two REALTOR-branded park benches along the county’s new walking/bike trail.
The 3,400-member Knoxville Area Association of REALTORS® (KAAR) decided it needed some help when the city began revising its local sign ordinance. The proposal wasn’t looking pretty for the real estate community when they turned to NAR’s Land Use Initiative for valuable legal review and analysis. In the end, they had a reasoned dialog with city policymakers and got a fair and reasonable sign ordinance that reflects industry standards. Plus, the process helped KAAR build a stronger relationship with their local government.
The Austin Board of REALTORS® took its experience in helping to re-write Austin’s outdated land-use development code to the next level by setting the stage for development of a near-downtown waterfront area. With a $15,000 Smart Growth Grant from NAR, the 9,500-member board sponsored a multi-day gathering of community stakeholders and national thought leaders to establish a master plan for the South Central Waterfront area, which is very near the state capitol. In addition to helping create a long-range plan to make the space both useful and beautiful, ABR’s relationship with key city departments has been strengthened immeasurably.
After two years, the 'Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper' placemaking challenge launched by the Michigan Association of REALTORS® (MAR) is proving that little things make a big difference. In 2012, MAR hosted "Michigan Great Places," a placemaking leadership forum run by Project for Public Spaces (PPS). Bolstered by a Smart Growth Action Grant from NAR, the state association then challenged its local associations to devise site-specific projects to revitalize neighborhoods. From installing walking path signage, to creating a community book exchange, to supporting a mobile garden, REALTORS across the state are putting the state’s micro placemaking grants to work.
Successful projects benefit from a solid foundation, an abundance of expertise, and a bright idea. In this case, the 7,100-member St. Louis Association of REALTORS® (SLAR) had it all. Coming on the heels of a successful smart growth project to promote walkable communities, SLAR decided to turn their attention to raising awareness about sustainable housing. They used a $15,000 Smart Growth Grant from NAR to conduct an Energy Efficient Housing Contest, which garnered support from local governments, non-profits and industry partners.
The 82-member Carbon County Association of REALTORS®, based in the borough of Lehighton in the foothills of the Pennsylvania Poconos, knew their three-stoplight town needed help. After suffering the loss of its traditional industries – garment mills and the railroad - decades ago, the four-block business district was in a bad state of decline. After learning about the REALTOR® Party’s Smart Growth Grant Program, the association leaders applied for help, and they got it.
Wisconsin's 575-member Commercial REALTOR® Association (CARW) walks the walk when it comes to its commitment to economic development and wise use of the land. In 2012, CARW put a NAR Smart Growth Grant to work in providing research and input to Wisconsin’s Economic Development Corporation. CARW’s participation helped to develop a new strategic plan for economic growth, job creation, and related matters including transportation, land use, and the environment. Then, last year, CARW used a second Smart Growth Grant to work with the City of Milwaukee in creating a plan to rebuild or renovate an aging sports arena in the downtown area.
One weekend in early November 2013, the 3,000-member Hampton Roads REALTORS® Association [HRRA] co-hosted a block party launching a plan to turn a tired commercial/ residential area into a vibrant arts district. Using a $15,000 Smart Growth Grant, HRRA helped to pay for the “Better Block Weekend” including arranging for six vacant houses within a five-block radius to have open houses and creating a pop-up REALTOR® office in an empty storefront. The support and involvement of REALTORS there helped to create the exciting vision. Over time, with continued effort, that vision will become a reality.
The charming village and agricultural township of Lima, in the Finger Lakes region of New York, was in danger of falling victim to reckless sprawl and development. 'Big box' stores of dubious aesthetic value were creeping in, detracting from the architecture that had been in place for well over a century. The 2,500-member Greater Rochester Association of REALTORS® (GRAR) put a smart growth grant from NAR together with one from the National Endowment for the Arts to support a weekend-long community design workshop. By working with other groups in the area, GRAR helped to draw attention to the importance of creating better public spaces – specifically in Lima. A portion of the grant will now be used for implementation of the ideas coming out of the workshop.
The village of Seville, Ohio had been hard hit by the recent recession, and before that, by the imposition of a set of extremely limiting zoning codes that left its once-charming main street commercial district 33 percent unoccupied. It was anchored at each end by shuttered gas stations, constituting unsightly brownfields. A recently closed elementary school loomed vacant nearby, not just an empty property, but representing the absence of significant tax revenue from the village coffers. Within a year of receiving a $15,000 Smart Growth Action Grant from NAR through the 618-member Medina County Board of REALTORS® (MCBOR), Seville has bounced back in a big way.
In Memphis, Tenn., as in many other American cities, the urban core and older suburban neighborhoods were crisscrossed by high speed multi-lane road networks, facilitating automobile and truck traffic but completely isolating certain areas of the city. The system was contributing to related problems of neighborhood blight, poverty, obesity, and poor air quality. The 3000-member Memphis Area Association of REALTORS® (MAAR,) decided to do something about it. They used a $15,000 Smart Growth Grant from NAR and worked with Smart Growth America to help Memphis become the 500th city to adopt a Complete Streets policy. Already, in downtown areas where streets have been put on "road diets," slowing the pace of traffic, increasing bike lanes, and making pedestrian activity safer; businesses along these altered roads are reporting higher activity.
The 3,000-member Greater Nashville Association of REALTORS® is committed to making its communities healthy and livable. And, that includes putting resources behind their convictions. Most recently, they used a $10,000 Smart Growth Grant from NAR to support NashvilleNext, a three-year process to help the region’s most challenged communities. The Nashville REALTORS® are working with the local government and national smart growth experts to breathe new life into Antioch, a suburban, light-industrial area, with an outdated mall and inadequate public transit.
With just 625 members, the Traverse Area Association of REALTORS® (TAAR) is a small but mighty force in northwest lower Michigan. Decades ago, it helped develop the database system that is now the heart of the electronic Multiple Listing System. Now, with no fewer than three NAR Smart Growth Grants in play, TAAR is establishing itself as a team of well-informed local citizens, with access to real information and resources where community planning is concerned. From its participation in a multi-faceted regional land-use plan called The Grand Vision, to its funding of a smart growth poll on zoning, to helping implement a local watershed plan, TAAR is showing that REALTORS there do much more than just sell houses.
The 20th century was very good to High Point, N.C., the capital of America’s furniture industry. For decades, though, thanks largely to overseas competition, its population has been contracting and the city itself is stagnating. But, the 500-member High Point Regional Association of REALTORS® (HPRAR) is helping to turn that around. With a $15,000 Smart Growth Grant from NAR and a $1,500 contribution from the HPRAR REALTORS® Commercial Alliance, the REALTORS there worked with a public-private partnership this May to host a series of planning charrettes, or concentrated strategy sessions. The week-long program was conducted by renowned architect and urban planner Andrés Duany, and resulted in exciting new ideas from using the vast downtown parking acreage (only fully utilized during the High Point Market) for temporary outdoor festivals – to a system of streetcars.
- Read more about HPRAR’s Smart Growth efforts (411K PDF)
Development in Montgomery County, MD, just north of the nation’s capital, is growing fast. The Greater Capital Area Association of REALTORS® (GCAAR) wants to make sure it grows smart, as well. Two Smart Growth Grants from NAR have been helping it do so. The 8,500-member association used the first one to begin a member education program, which became a celebration of Montgomery County’s smart growth in action. The second enabled GCAAR to participate in a coalition of county officials, developers, and others to advocate for a comprehensive mass transit plan. Funds were also used to create a magazine compiling smart growth and local development information.
Delaware, the second-smallest – but sixth most-densely populated – state in the nation, has a vested interest in the concept of smart growth. Leaders of the 3,000-member Delaware Association of REALTORS®, in conjunction with state government leaders began brainstorming about creating a master ‘planning book’ for the state. Then they decided to take a step back and look at an even bigger picture.
They organized the Complete Communities: Delaware Summit 2012, held Nov. 13 in Dover. The Delaware Association co-sponsored the event with the state’s Department of Transportation and the Office of State Planning Coordination, and the University of Delaware’s Institute for Public Administration. A Smart Growth Grant from NAR helped to pay for two of the featured speakers About 130 people attended the all-day conference, representing all three counties and 57 towns in Delaware.
While the 9,000-member Orlando Regional REALTORS® Association (ORRA) has been energetically supporting SunRail, central Florida’s first commuter rail project, association leaders felt some first-hand exposure for their members and local decision makers would kick it up a notch. Using a $1,500 Smart Growth Grant from NAR, ORRA was able to arrange for and promote a train ride for nearly 170 REALTORS®, leasing agents, elected officials, Chamber of Commerce members and others. The ride included presentations about the new depots and transit-oriented development projects planned along the route. The grant helped to provide substantial collateral materials for all participants, including a notebook containing “Transit Oriented Development 101,” produced by the Center for Responsible Transportation.
The St. Louis Association of REALTORS® (SLAR) combined U.S. government resources and an NAR Smart Growth Grant to produce a two-part program on walk-able communities -- one that it hopes may serve as a national model. Tapping the expertise of a national “walk-ability expert,” the 7,000-plus member association hosted two events stressing the clear connection between walk-ability and property values, The kick-off event of Walk/Live St. Louis 2012 was a half-day public session at the St. Louis Federal Reserve auditorium. The second session featured a two days of walking audits and visits to metrolink stations, and included mayors and other elected officials, city managers and municipal staff. The programs showcased REALTORS® “in a whole new way, according to SLAR organizers, “showing them as a collaborative organization committed to making communities more walk-able, bike-able – and safe.”
In the lovely resort town of Hilton Head, South Carolina, the natural environment is carefully protected, and the built environment is subject to strict regulations. But its low-key commercial areas were in need of polishing. The 850-member Hilton Head Area Association of REALTORS® worked with the town’s mayor and a $5,000 Smart Growth Grant from NAR to help rewrite an outdated Land Management Ordinance. The result is a balance between development and preservation that is benefitting the quality of life for all residents and tourists to the town.
Thanks to a Smart Growth Grant from NAR, the Santa Fe Association of REALTORS® (SFAR) is boosting the re-development of a dated and underutilized commercial corridor. Santa Fe REALTORS® could see potential in the mile-and-a-quarter stretch anchored by the Santa Fe University of Art and Design at one end and a hospital at the other end and decided to do something about bringing it to life. SFAR commissioned a Housing Advocacy Study that proposes a vibrant new design for the area -- including up to one thousand housing units. In February 2012, the Santa Fe City Council embraced the plan by passing a resolution that keeps the redevelopment project moving forward.
From commuter-frustration to air quality, the Greater Nashville Association of REALTORS® (GNAR) understands the critical impact that transportation issues have on the quality of life in their region, -- and they’re doing something about it. With an NAR Smart Growth Grant, GNAR provided $10,000 in funding to the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee in support of the Transit Citizen Leadership Academy. The goal is to educate key community leaders on the complexities of mass transit. By preparing them now, the planning that lies ahead for a system of mass transit in Middle Tennessee will be a well-informed, cooperative process. As GNAR Association Executive Don Klein explains, “The idea is that, by the time it’s time to vote on funding, we won’t be just sitting around and talking about it. We will have created a critical mass of meaningfully informed community leaders who will be able to explain, ‘Yes, it’s going to be expensive, but it will be more expensive not to build it.’”
Since 2005, the Atlanta Commercial Board REALTORS® (ACBR) has been working to make quality growth a priority – not only for their 2,800 members, but for their entire metro area. In 2011, the ACBR had the opportunity to take their convictions to the next step — to help turn a smart growth plan into a viable commercial/residential development. The property in question was a rail station in Edgewood -- an older suburb of mostly single-familyhomes southeast of downtown. Through a series of collaborative sessions with community stakeholders, an NAR Smart Growth grant, funds of their own, and public/private partnerships they made it happen.
- Read “A Force for Making Smart Growth Realty” (page 6 of Commercial Connections, an online publication)
The Greater Chattanooga Association of REALTORS® recently donated it’s $10,000 Smart Growth Grant from NAR to support a 40-year growth planning process involving 16 counties in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia. An array of area organizations and businesses are working with the local governments to develop a framework for managing future growth in the area’s economic, environmental, educational, residential and commercial sectors.
- Read Nooga.com article for details
- Read Chattanooga.Com article for more details
- View Regional Growth Plan website
The Taos County Association partnered with NAR and the REALTORS® Association of New Mexico (RANM) to successfully fight two onerous land-use proposals. One would cloud titles of thousands of properties and the REALTOR® effort was able to stall it for now. The other would have placed unfair development restrictions on local property owners, and the measure was defeated. The Taos Association coordinated with the New Mexico Association to use NAR’s Land Use Initiative Program along with consulting support to defeat these proposals. It was the ultimate three-way partnership.
- Read the RANM REALTOR Voice article for details (115K PDF)
- Watch the Taos Immediate Past President express his thanks
Building REALTOR® Party Strength
The 600-member Billings Association of REALTORS® (BAR) has a long-held belief that REALTORS® do much more than sell houses – they build communities. And, their actions prove it. Launched 10 years ago, BAR’s Quality of Life Program raises nearly $40,000 for local charities like Dress for Success, YMCA, and Boys and Girls Club. Their two annual fundraising events – a run and a casino night -- are coordinated through a web site they created using the Convio/REALTOR® Party Grassroots System. While nearly 270 REALTOR® associations around the country use the Convio system, most use it for advocacy and RPAC. BAR is proving that it works well for community outreach, too. Additionally, the association’s Quality of Life program was recently granted a $5,000 Smart Growth Grant from NAR to work with the nearby City of Laurel to update their growth management plan.
The 24,000-member Houston Association of REALTORS® (HAR) and the City of Houston jointly released Houston Living, a revolutionary new mobile app designed to give consumers instant access to information about city government, local events, real estate and more. Using a $25,000 Game Changer grant from NAR, the app connects the public to libraries, parks, schools, events, real estate listings, and city officials.
The 3,100-member Memphis Area Association of REALTORS® (MAAR) is determined to fight the blight that is overwhelming a number of its urban neighborhoods. Thanks to an NAR Game Changer Grant, MAAR is now partnering with the mayor’s office on what seems like a “win-win-win-win” solution: a pilot program that seeks not only to reduce neighborhood blight – but to increase neighborhood pride, spur economic development, and, remarkably, to boost the local school lunch program. The new program is testing the viability of urban farming on vacant lots in a neighborhood of South Memphis, using hoop houses to extend the growing season. The hope is that immediate neighbors can be engaged to be responsible for the farm-lots, and that the harvest of healthy produce will be sold to local public schools for use in lunches
With 26,000 members, the Miami Association of REALTORS® (MIAMI,) has the potential to wield a lot of power in the political advocacy arena, but it was having trouble getting members involved. So, in March of 2012, MIAMI came up with a game-changing plan. The association applied for and won a $25,000 Game Changer Grant to create a “Market Solutions through Political Advocacy” team. The team works to heighten member awareness of political issues; recommends local races to screen; and advocates for candidates during elections. It’s working. In the last year they’ve identified a number of local candidates to get behind and increased their Major Investor count from 10 to nearly 60.
While the Las Vegas housing market has been especially challenging for real estate professionals, the 11,000-member Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTORS® (GLVAR) was eager to ramp up its charity work to help area homeowners in need. GLVAR used a Game Changer grant of $25,000 from NAR to partner with Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada, the local chapter of a well-established national organization that provides home maintenance, repairs and upkeep to low-income, elderly, disabled and veteran homeowners in need. In addition to making a monetary gift, GLVAR members rolled up their sleeves and helped to make critical home repairs for those who can’t do it themselves.
This is a big election year all over, but in Utah, the political focus is especially strong, with the Governor running for re-election, a new congressional seat up for grabs, and the state’s ‘adopted son’ running for President. In an effort to make sure REALTORS® get out and vote, the 11,500-member Utah Association of REALTORS® received a $15,000 Game-Changer Grant to launch its Vote-by-Mail initiative. Anecdotal evidence suggests that voters who cast ballots by mail appreciate the time it gives them to research the candidates and their platforms and determine which best represents their views, with the ballot right at their fingertips. The Vote-by-Mail program urges the UAR membership to register to vote by mail. Having done so, each member who has registered receives a ballot from the county clerk, fills it out, and returns it by mail or at the polls on Election Day.
Last year, as part of its wildly successful initiative to prohibit any future state-wide transfer taxes, Louisiana REALTORS® (LR) created a website to bolster and communicate its position. After the vote, the website remained: a highly effective platform that had connected with thousands of Louisiana citizens interested in property-rights and home-ownership issues. The challenge was to keep all these folks engaged. Through LR’s work with the REALTOR® Party, the association took the website to the next level. With a $25,000 Game Changer grant they transformed it into an online, Louisiana-specific, home-ownership resource center – one that would serve as a model for other state associations.
With three out of five Reno city council seats up for grabs, the 1,900-member Reno Sparks Association of REALTORS® (RSAR) was eager to take some bold action to get out the vote this year. They decided to use the RSAR offices as an early voting site! The $2,950 Game Changer Grant they received from NAR paid for flyers to local businesses, and signage. By providing this public service, they helped to raise public awareness about what REALTORS® do, as well as show that they are engaged in the political processes that affect them. They also used NAR’s Voter Registration Initiative to help get their members registered to vote.
The Illinois Association of REALTORS® (IAR) is using its $19,000 Game Changer Grant to help support a new bi-annual smart growth newsletter -- On Common Ground in Illinois. Loosely modeled on NAR’s On Common Ground smart growth magazine, the IAR publication specifically addresses issues of interest to Illinois residents. By producing and distributing the newsletter to officials in more than 1,300 Illinois municipalities, IAR hopes and expects to be viewed as the trusted source of information on important real estate issues like impact fees, foreclosure data, and market information, helping to advance the REALTORS® position and private property rights at the local level.
REALTORS® are not shy about capitalizing on opportunity, and the Florida REALTORS® were no different when they found out that the Republican National Convention would be held in their own back yard. The 115,000-member association used a $25,000 NAR Game Changer grant, along with funds of their own, to help welcome the 60,000 delegates, guests, media and elected officials to the Tampa Bay Area. By co-sponsoring a welcome video, as well as a four-day, live web TV broadcast showcasing life and economic opportunity across the state, Florida REALTORS® put marketplace opportunities and homeownership front and center. Association leaders agreed that “REALTOR® issues” are everybody’s issues and having a presence at both political conventions this year made good sense all around.
When you have a national political convention coming to town for the first time in your state’s history, it’s best to know how to harness some of that attention for your cause. The North Carolina and Charlotte Regional Associations put their heads together and decided digital bill boards were just the ticket. They jointly applied for a $25,000 NAR Game Changer Grant and put it with $25,000 of their own to purchase one month of time on 10 billboards in five counties in the Greater Charlotte area—all on major thoroughfares that visitors would pass daily en route to and from the convention site. As one association leader put it: “We know Charlotte is a great place to live, and delegates, media and visitors from all over the U.S. found that out. Even if visitors to this area don’t come back and call Charlotte home, we've made sure they remember the REALTORS® welcomed them to our great city and state.”
The lobbying strategy of the Marin Association of REALTORS® (MAR) reflects Benjamin Franklin’s advice that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Four years ago, MAR initiated a lobbying campaign to advocate fair and equitable alternatives to onerous point-of-sale retrofit mandates. The focus of the campaign was the launch of a computer program that graphically shows it takes as much as 70 years for local housing stock to switch ownership. This means there is an urgent need to implement speedier, more effective solutions to address sewer lateral and other environmental-related issues. The index is proving useful in lobbying for such solutions around the state. Now that MAR has won a $7,000 Game Changer Grant, they will take the index to the next level by funding its conversion to a mobile application for smart phones and tablets.
- Learn more about the Marin Association’s Housing Turnover Index (92K PDF)
- Back to REALTOR® Party Initiative Home Page
Clocking in at just 235 members, Idaho's Greater Pocatello Association of REALTORS® (GPAR) nevertheless thinks big when it comes to RPAC fundraising. Earlier this year, the association put an RPAC grant to work by hosting a “Surf & Turf Dinner and Raffle” where they raised more than $20,000, and inspired 21 members to step up to the next investor level – including two who joined the President’s Circle.
The 541-member Grand Junction Area Association of REALTORS® (GJARA) in western Colorado put baseball and a fundraising grant together to raise $15,200 for RPAC – all in one night! GJARA booked a sky box at Grand Junction’s new baseball stadium, which hosts the rookie league for the Colorado Rockies, and then planned a fun evening for members who could attend for a $100 investment in RPAC. The event was so successful, GJARA is planning to open future RPAC fundraising events to surrounding REALTOR® associations.
The Loveland-Berthoud Association of REALTORS® (LBAR) in northern Colorado may be small, but its 370 members understand the importance of supporting RPAC. The Chili Cook-off and Live Auction they hosted this year with an RPAC Grant helped them raise a whopping $7,321 – and they had a lot of fun in the process.
For the fourth year in a row, the Bismarck Mandan Board of REALTORS® [BMBOR] in central North Dakota has leveraged NAR grant money to add bang to its RPAC bucks. In 2013, the 330-member board enhanced its RPAC fundraising performance by hosting a casino night, which helped bring RPAC investments to more than $30,000 for the year. Whether it was the festive casino theme – “RPAC—It’s a Sure Bet” -- or the existing culture of RPAC-investing in Bismarck, a whopping 60 percent of their members were RPAC investors last year, well exceeding state-set goals – and more than double the national average!
The 4,000-member Nebraska Association of REALTORS® signed on as one of the first of 38 state and local associations to embrace NAR's online RPAC fundraising system. In 2012, its first year up and running with the system, Nebraska raised just $750 online for RPAC. In 2013, however, they raised over $18,500: 105 percent of their Fair Share Goal. In the past, Nebraska would send out one standard RPAC fundraising appeal, annually. Now, it participates in five online campaigns throughout the year, tailored to different populations and with each message building on the previous one.
For 20 years now, the 280-member REALTOR® association in Monroe County, Mich., (MCAR) on the western shore of Lake Erie, has been hosting an annual auction to raise money for RPAC. This year, with the help of a $2,500 grant from NAR taking the strain from its operating budget, MCAR exceeded its RPAC goal by more than 33 percent, raising in excess of $8,000. From a week-long stay at a member's cabin, to a boat trip captained by another member, to homemade chocolate chip cookies, the auctioned items drew spirited bidding wars and hefty RPAC investments.
On a pretty spring afternoon in April 2013, the RPAC “bean counters” at the Greater Tampa Association of REALTORS®’ (GTAR) had a real field day, and we’re not just talking chili. The 6,000-member association held its first annual fundraising extravaganza – featuring a chili cook-off – that brought in over $14,000, pushing GTAR’s contributions easily over its RPAC goal for the year. They held the event at a waterfront city park, hired a live band, and added an auction. A $2,500 RPAC Fundraising Grant from the NAR helped to buy prizes, including a television, airfare for a donated getaway, an iPad, a fishing rod and reel, and a rolling cooler packed with goodies. Plans are already underway for next year’s event.
To increase investments in the REALTORS ® Political Action Committee (RPAC,) the Utah Association of REALTORS ® (UAR) has been capitalizing on one of the state’s most valuable assets: its striking natural beauty. That, and its Harley Davidson-riding members. The culture of a motorcycle rally is not about speed. It’s about driving out under the big open sky and leaving the stresses of the everyday world behind. The breathtaking scenery of Utah’s canyons, mountains, and pristine lakes erases those clean away. The added bonus is that participating members enjoy the satisfaction of supporting RPAC, too. On June 17-18 this year, UAR will host its fourth annual RPAC Rally Ride, an event that has expanded to capacity, drawing top agents to what has become an elite gathering of major investors to the political action committee.
- Read about UAR’s RPAC Rally Rides (446K PDF)
Some gals have all the luck! Sure enough, at the Association Executive Institute in San Diego this spring, Lady Luck rewarded two participants who had generously invested in the REALTOR® Political Action Committee – by simply participating in the drawing. The stakes were high (the prizes were iPad minis!) but both winners graciously point out that the chance of winning a nifty techno-gadget was not the incentive. Lauren Hansen, CEO of IRES, the MLS serving northern Colorado, and Carol Heins, AE for the Mid-Fairfield County Association in Connecticut, became Major Investors as a result of their investments during the sweepstakes. Both winners noted the importance of investing in their members’ business and remembering who they work for.
It’s not every day that the president of the St. Charles County Association of REALTORS® gets hoisted 15 feet off the ground in the basket of a boom-truck. But that’s what happened September 12, 2012 when the 14,000-member association, launched its annual RPAC fundraising event with a much-anticipated Golf Ball Drop. Members had paid $5 apiece for the 330 marked balls that were dumped overboard. The member whose winning ball landed nearest the target got a prize. A lively auction, dinner and games rounded out the event, which raised more than $18,000 and added nine Major Investors and 11 Major Investor pledges. A $2,500 RPAC fundraising grant from NAR helped to pay for the event and to raise 50 percent more than the previous year’s event.
When you’re small, it helps to be resourceful, creative, and well-connected. It also doesn’t hurt to have access to a few pick-up trucks, professional auctioneers, and someone willing to roast a pig. The 460-member Midwestern Ohio Association of REALTORS® (MOAR) proved this in 2012, by parlaying an RPAC Fundraising Partnership Program grant from the NAR into three-times the amount, which accounted for 70 percent of its total RPAC contribution for the year.
Murder for fun and profit? Seems unlikely, in an organization with as high ethical standards as NAR. But the 1,400-member Fredericksburg Area Association of REALTORS® (FAAR) pulled off a fundraising coup by “killing off” the association’s President, Chip Taylor -- at a “Murder Mystery Dinner” at the local country club. With an RPAC Fundraising Grant from NAR, the association hired a company to script the event and defrayed some of the food costs. They had a raucous good time and raised more than $4,000 for RPAC, with additional pledges still coming in. Who says Crime Doesn’t Pay?
The Oregon Association used an RPAC Fundraising Grant and the RPAC Online Fundraising Program to help bring their RPAC collections to more than $30,000 in 2011. Targeted online communication and raffles, combined with extensive work by the Oregon Association leadership and staff made their fundraising efforts more successful than ever.
- Learn more details about the Oregon experience (1.34M PDF)
In Tennessee, the Young Professionals Network leadership demonstrated unequivocally that the industry's youngest members are not just about light-hearted happy hours: They can take on serious issues and raise serious funds – and put on a great party while doing so! The Greater Nashville Association of REALTORS®' YPN chapter hosted a fundraiser this spring at the Tennessee Governor's Mansion, bringing together REALTORS® from across the state in a prestigious setting, and raised approximately $35,000 for RPAC.