“THE MONITOR” January – February 2016

Virginia Peninsula Association of REALTORS®
Monthly Public Policy Report
January – February 2016

Local Issues

Newport News
VPAR is coordinating with the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University regarding public dissemination and media potential for the recently produced housing needs study and market needs analysis. The study is a resource to the decision makers in the region, particularly in the City, and we want to position the Association as a leading organization in formulating future housing policy.

Mark your calendars for Friday, May 6th! The City is hosting its annual Residential REALTOR® Day where VPAR members can hear from City leaders, tour the “Bull Island” and have a Fun Friday! Been there, done that? Don’t worry! VPAR is working with the City to reformat the popular event so that it is new to even repeat attendees. More to come….

York County
Last year, the Virginia Association of REALTORS® (VAR) partnered with Homes for our Troops (HFOT), a national non-profit organization that builds specially adapted homes for severely injured post-9/11 veterans. Each home is built with features that accommodate the needs of the veteran and offered mortgage-free so that the veteran can focus on recovery and rebuilding a healthy life. Operating for 11 years, Homes for Our Troops has built over 190 homes across the United States and currently has five projects underway in Virginia. The organization is top-rated for financial stewardship and operations and works carefully with each veteran on homeownership readiness and responsibility.

In August 2015, the Virginia Association of REALTORS® became a regional corporate partner of Homes for Our Troops in a lasting commitment to the housing needs of Virginia veteran and military families. With hundreds of contributors and over $60,000 in the first few months of partnership, REALTORS® across the state are engaged in supporting the projects underway and the veterans in their communities.

One of the first homes that Virginia REALTORS® and HFOT built is located in York County. The event during which the key is presented to the injured veteran will be held on March 6, 2016. VPAR has been conducting outreach to area elected officials, inviting them to attend this special morning. VPAR members can learn more details by visiting https://www.hfotusa.org/slate.

Regional Issues

Local voters will go to the polls in Hampton and Newport News on Tuesday, May 3rd. Hampton elections will include voting for Mayor and three At-Large City Council seats, with Mayor George Wallace and Council Members Linda Curtis, Billy Hobbs and Chris Snead all seeking re-election. Other candidates likely will be coming forward before the March 15th filing deadline.
In Newport News, three incumbents will be seeking re-election to City Council. In the Central District, incumbent Pat Woodbury will be challenged by Mike Mullin. Councilman Rob Coleman in the North District currently is running unopposed, as is South District Councilwoman Tina Vick.
VPAR’s Public Policy Committee will be conducting candidate interviews for the purposes of endorsing pro-housing, pro-business candidates and supporting their campaigns with funds from the REALTORS® Political Action Committee (RPAC) of Virginia.

State Issues
At the time of this writing, the 2016 General Assembly Session has reached the halfway mark and is in the final two weeks of legislative work. REALTOR® bills are in strong shape as the House and Senate finalize committee action:
HB 577 Agency/Licensing Law Revisions

Passed the House 97-0 02/03/16
Passed the Senate 40-0 02/25/16
On Governor’s Desk

HB 577 Interpleader/Escrow Accounts

Passed the House 98-0 02/02/16
Reported from Senate Courts of Justice Committee 02/24/16

HB 684 POA/COA Amendments

Passed the House 99-0 02/10/16
Reported from the Senate General Laws & Technology Committee 15-0 02/22/16

SB 453 Licensing of Home Inspectors

Passed the Senate 30-9 01/29/16
Passed the House 100-0 02/22/16
On Governor’s Desk
A more detailed legislative report will be forthcoming as more bills report out of Committee and move off of the floors.

Federal Issues

On Feb. 10, NAR 2016 Vice President Sherri Meadows testified before the House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity at a hearing entitled, “A Review of VA’s Loan Guaranty and Specially Adaptive Housing Grant Programs (SAH).” The testimony focused on long-term REALTOR® support for the VA home loan guaranty and the benefits it provides our nation’s veterans. According to the 2015 NAR Homebuyer and Seller Survey, one in five buyers was a veteran or active duty service member. NAR recommends all REALTORS® ask their clients if they have ever served, as this program provides zero-downpayment loans and favorable terms to eligible veterans.

In the testimony, Meadows asked for three enhancements to the program, to make it even more useful for veterans: 1) increase the loan limits for VA. VA is not just another loan program – it’s an entitlement. Veterans should not be prohibited from using their guaranty in high cost areas; 2) ease restrictions on what the veteran can pay in the mortgage transactions. Veterans are often disadvantaged when bidding on a home, due to their inability to negotiate certain fees; and 3) incentivize lenders to offer an FHA 203k-type product for veterans. This type of loan includes the costs of rehabilitation and repairs, and could allow veterans better access to homes that need some work.

NAR also supported increasing efficiency in the specially-adapted housing (SAH) grant programs, and urged the Committee to make the VA loan as useful as possible for all our nation’s veterans, so it may be a real benefit to those who have so bravely served our country.

Watch the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VW_srZ1yUcw

In early February, the House of Representatives passed legislation which included a provision to eliminate the cap on VA loan limits. The bill, H.R. 3016, “Veterans Employment, Education, and Healthcare Improvement Act”, sponsored by Rep. Wenstrup (R-OH), included an amendment added by Rep. Zeldin (R-NY) in Committee that would allow veterans to purchase a home in high cost areas, by eliminating the maximum loan amount on VA loans. As stated in the accompanying report, “The Committee is confident VA’s current strict underwriting standards and low foreclosure rates will ensure that veterans still have the required good credit and income to qualify for the loan, and that this change will not result in a significant increased amount of foreclosures.” NAR has long supported the VA home loan guaranty program, and believes that as an entitlement program, our nation’s veterans should have the freedom to purchase a home wherever they choose to live.

Should you have questions on these or other issues, or for additional details, please contact Susan Gaston, VPAR’s Legislative Consultant, at 757-871-1445 or at susan@gastongroup.com.