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IREM urges members to engage federal legislators

On Wednesday, March 11, more than 50 IREM members were in Washington, DC, for IREM’s second annual Capitol Hill Fly-In. They were well prepared to speak to their Congressmen after an in-depth orientation by the knowledgeable and talented government affairs team at the National Association of Realtors the day before.

If I had written this blog on March 12, the day immediately after our visits with Members of Congress, it would have been very different. It would focus on the two issues that the IREM delegation carried to Capitol Hill: (1) reauthorization and reform of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and (2) passage of the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would enable those engaged in legitimate cannabis businesses to bank with federally insured financial institutions. These are important issues, and speaking with Senators and Representatives to advocate on them­­­­­–as the Chicago delegation did when we visited the offices of Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Sen. Dick Durbin, and Rep. Jan Schakowsky­–was time well spent.

But within 48 hours of the Capitol Hill Fly-In, IREM’s focus, and the focus of the entire nation, shifted. It was now on dealing with the scourge of COVID-19, and the health and economic crisis it represents.  Suddenly, IREM members and property managers everywhere­–not only in the United States but around the world–had a new, urgent, common concern. First and foremost, they’re concerned with how they’ll protect their people: their employees, their tenants and residents, so many others who enter their buildings to buy groceries or visit their doctors or repair their HVAC systems. They’re also concerned about the assets entrusted to their care, and the owners and investors who have put their trust in them.

IREM has collaborated with other like-minded organizations in communicating these concerns and the need to address them on Capitol Hill. Of special note:

  • IREM joined with more than 70 associations to call on policymakers to enact legislation and regulations that will help secure the short- and long-term vitality of the U.S. economy during this unprecedented disruption by: providing immediate and readily accessible unsecured credit to businesses of all sizes; suspending the filing of business tax returns and the payment of all business taxes to the federal government for the duration of the pandemic; and amending the Tax Code to assist with losses.
  • IREM is part of a coalition of national organizations that sent a letter to congressional leaders to provide an emergency rental assistance fund, to urge the use of caution when issuing blanket moratoriums on evictions, and to allow for mortgage forbearance for rental property owners.

The pressure must stay on. IREM is asking all of its members to reach out to federal legislators during this critical time to request immediate assistance for the real estate industry and all of its stakeholders. Tell them how this pandemic is impacting their constituents: those who live and work in the buildings you manage, the owners of those buildings, many of them individual investors, as well as your management business and all of those who work in it.

Urge them to provide direct federal rental assistance to families and individuals who will face a loss of income as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak–as well as to the property managers and owners who will have their own financial obligations to satisfy if those properties are to remain viable. Ask them to support reasonable eviction prevention targeted specifically to circumstances resulting from COVID-19. Ask them to provide supplemental financial assistance for both HUD and Rural Housing Service programs to ensure that sufficient funds are available to maintain existing agreements that house nearly five million households.

Tell your story to the Members of Congress who represent you.  Ask for their help.

About the Author
Nancye Kirk is IREM’s head of special projects and visited her federal legislators during the Capitol Hill Fly-In earlier this month.

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