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NAR CHAMPIONS REAL ESTATE ISSUES AT PRESIDENTIAL CONVENTIONS

 NAR CHAMPIONS REAL ESTATE ISSUES AT PRESIDENTIAL CONVENTIONS
 WASHINGTON, Aug. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Placing real estate issues high on the domestic agenda was the top priority for the National Association of Realtors during the recent Republican and Democratic national conventions.
 NAR President Dorcas T. Helfant spoke with various media representatives at both conventions, underscoring the important link between real estate and the national economy. "Our nation's economy is only as strong as its real estate industry. Federal legislation to increase home ownership opportunities and broaden real estate investments would give the industry a boost. And, any boost for real estate is a boost for the economy," she said.
 NAR's representation at both conventions was one of the largest of any trade organization. More than 100 Realtor delegates attended the Republican National Convention and nearly 100 attended the Democratic National Convention.
 Although the current environment of low mortgage rates has kept the housing industry stable, Helfant, a Realtor from Virginia Beach, Va., noted that some prospective buyers still remain unable to buy; and, she pointed out that favorable financing has failed to shore up the ailing commercial real estate industry. "Low rates aren't a cure-all," she said.
 NAR submitted recommendations to the Republican and Democratic parties earlier this year. The association's statement says: "One of our highest national policy priorities must be to increase home ownership and both public and private investment in real estate. This should encompass the entire housing ladder, from the homeless to the first-time home buyer, as well as investors and owners of commercial and residential property. Within this overall goal, we believe it is most important for the federal government to make it easier for families to buy their first home, to change tax policies that have discouraged private investment in housing and real estate, and to strengthen our nation's financial system."
 Both the Republican and Democratic party platform statements express support for housing, including proposals advocated by NAR. The Republican Party platform specifically supports a plan to allow first-time home buyers to use funds from Individual Retirement Accounts for a down payment on a home. It also calls for the enactment of a $5,000 tax credit to assist people buying their first homes.
 These provisions, outlined by President Bush earlier this year, "are encouraging signs that the plight of the first-time home buyer is being recognized at the federal level," Helfant said.
 Legislation permitting use of IRA funds for home purchases and providing a first-time home buyer tax credit is pending in Congress.
 The Republican Party platform statement also supports reviving real estate investments by repealing certain tax code provisions that have proved detrimental to the commercial segment of the industry. The statement advocates lifting the current passive loss rule limiting the deductibility of rental losses against income.
 "It will be virtually impossible to have a sound real estate market unless the current passive loss rule is changed," Helfant said. She noted that the current restrictions have caused a loss in property value of up to 20 percent.
 The Republican Party statement also contains another element supported by NAR -- lowering the capital gains tax rate. "Many property owners who would like to sell are holding on to properties, rather than selling them and paying the capital gains taxes they would owe under the current law," Helfant said. "A lower rate could help spur more property sales."
 Both the Republican and Democratic party platform statements support programs to expand the nation's stock of affordable housing, as well as to enable low-income housing tenants to own their own homes. Both concepts have been endorsed by NAR. "Helping people improve their housing situation gives them a stake in their communities," Helfant said.
 The Republican Party statement specifically supports government mortgage programs, and the Democratic Party platform pledges to support policies that keep mortgage credit affordable. According to Helfant, one way the federal government can fulfill such goals is to retain the accessibility of the Federal Housing Administration's (FHA) single-family mortgage insurance program. Changes instituted last year have made FHA more costly for buyers to use, and are shutting off people with the greatest need for the program. A major change, implemented by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), limits the amount of closing costs that can be financed in transactions involving FHA-insured mortgages. This restriction has added hundreds of dollars to the costs FHA borrowers must pay at settlement.
 Currently, bills are pending in Congress to force HUD to lift the limit on closing costs. This legislation, which NAR supports, also makes another important change to FHA -- a provision to adjust the mortgage insurance limit, so that it reflects local housing costs. Raising the current limit of $124,875 would enable FHA to serve more borrowers in areas where housing costs are much higher. "The importance of FHA is not a partisan matter. It's up to Democrats and Republicans to make sure FHA stays viable," Helfant said.
 The National Association of Realtors, "The Voice for Real Estate," is the nation's largest trade association, representing nearly 750,000 members involved in all aspects of the real estate industry.
 -0- 8/21/92
 /CONTACT: Trisha Morris, 202-383-7560, or Liz Duncan, 202-383-1043, both of the National Association of Realtors/ CO: National Association of Realtors ST: District of Columbia IN: SU: CPN


TW -- DC009 -- 2139 08/21/92 12:24 EDT
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Date:Aug 21, 1992
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