Realtors® massed on the Washington Mall on Thursday to show their strength in a year in which their trade organization, The National Association of Realtors (NAR) seems anxious on several levels. An estimated 15,000 Realtors gathered at the foot of the Washington Monument to, in the words of NAR President Moe Veissi “protect the American Dream of homeownership.”
According to a press release regarding the Rally to Protect the American Dream as the event was characterized, “Realtors® are working to ensure that people who want to own a home or invest in real estate and can responsibly afford to do so will continue to have the opportunity to do that.”
NAR is currently concerned about discussions to include a requirement for a 20 percent downpayment in the proposed definition of Qualified Residential Mortgage and proposals being floated to eliminate or limit the current tax deduction for home mortgage interest. The association also wants reform of the secondary market and improved liquidity in both commercial and residential lending.
The rally also helped NAR demonstrate its political clout. The association, at one time the largest trade group in the country before the housing collapse drove many of its members out of the business, has been concerned about its influence especially since the Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case. Last year it raised the political action portion of its dues by $40, a move that did not sit well with many members, citing the need to compete against the millions in soft money for political advocacy the ruling was expected to unleash. NAR hoped to raise $80 million with the increase.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics NAR is number four on its list of “Heavy Hitters” with 41.9 million in political donations since 1989. They were a major force in electing Isaacson to the Senate in 2004 and in his 2010 re-election.
Those who attended the rally heard from former Realtor and Senator Johnny Isaacson (R-GA) and Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD). Isaacson told the crowd that homeownership has always been part of the American dream, “It is my hope that this rally encourages Congress and the president to move forward with policies that are supportive of housing, which is vital to job creation and the recovery of our economy,” he said.
Hoyer said, “Stabilizing the housing market remains a central issue for Democrats, who understand we will not have robust economic growth without a vibrant housing market and that access to homeownership remains a critical component of the American Dream.”