Homeownership is expected to retain its political luster through the 2014 election cycle, even as lawmakers struggle to reach consensus on major policy issues like immigration and healthcare, said two top political strategists at today’s Federal Legislative and Political Forum during the Realtor Party Convention & Trade Expo.
Steve Schmidt, who served as a communications strategist for the presidential campaigns of John McCain and George W. Bush, joined David Plouffe, a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, to offer predictions for the upcoming midterm elections and the impact they will have on Congress’ ability to pass meaningful housing legislation this year.
“Over the next six years, neither party will have majorities in the U.S. Senate or House. We’re looking at six to eight Senate races that will be decided within four points or so,” said Plouffe. “Senators are frustrated; they’re serving in an institution that’s less popular than the Ebola virus. At some point, they are going to have to come to the middle and cooperate because that’s what the electorate wants.”
Plouffe and Schmidt discussed the chances of Congress taking up tax reform or considering changes to the mortgage interest deduction this year. Both agreed that while a tax package will likely be discussed in 2015, it’s doubtful that it will include language to eliminate the mortgage interest deduction.
According to Schmidt, the debate over the mortgage interest deduction will focus around who can benefit from it. “The issue with the deduction is going to be the amount – there’s going to be a lot of debate about whether people with million dollar homes should get the deduction. Realtors® need to clearly stake out their position now and be firm on it,” he said.
As the nation’s leading advocate for housing and homeownership, Realtors firmly believe that preserving the mortgage interest deduction is vital to the stability of the American housing market and economy. NAR will remain vigilant in opposing any plan that modifies or excludes the deductibility of mortgage interest.
Both strategists offered advice to the thousands of Realtors who will be on Capitol Hill this week to advocate for key real estate priorities.
“The more personal, local, and shareable a message is the more effective it will be,” said Plouffe. “When you localize something, when it’s about neighbors and family-owned businesses, people pay attention. And remember, Realtors are a lot more popular than politicians, people will listen to you.”
“Walk softly and carry a big stick,” added Schmidt. “You represent a bipartisan cross section of America, which is very compelling and shows the power of your industry. You have the ability to assemble a diverse coalition of individuals who are vehemently supportive of four or five priorities.”
In meetings with U.S. Senators and congressional staff, Realtors will promote the value of homeownership and urge lawmakers to advance legislation that strengthens the housing market, protects commercial investment, and bolsters the economic recovery.
“No one amplifies the voice of real estate better than Realtors,” said NAR President Steve Brown, co-owner of Irongate, Inc., Realtors in Dayton, Ohio. “We are on the front lines of issues affecting the housing market and we see the consequences and benefits of the laws that influence it.”
Realtors will advocate key issues during their Hill meetings, including the importance of the Federal Housing Administration’s loan programs, which helped 500,000 families buy their first home in 2013, and the need to reinstate mortgage debt cancellation relief, which expired at the end of 2013. This crucial tax provision protected underwater homeowners from paying taxes on mortgage debts forgiven by a lender.