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President-elect Anita Davis Talks Housing at the White House

Article img 1Each May, REALTORS® head to Washington, D.C., for the Midyear Meeting, NAR's annual legislative conference. 

This year during the conference, some 13,000 gathered at the Washington Monument for the "Rally to Protect the American Dream," including hundreds of Women's Council members.  

With weak home prices in many areas, political action is on the minds of many in real estate. And the rally proved to be a powerful show of support for homeownership.

Anita DavisAlso in Washington, Women's Council's President-elect Anita Davis, ABR, CRS, GRI, PMN, was invited to the White House to attend a special forum on housing on May 17. 

Because her state of Maryland has been one of the hardest hit in home values and foreclosures, the White House's Office of Public Engagement organized this special event to bring together a diverse group of Maryland leaders to discuss what’s working and what needs to be fixed when it comes to federal programs on housing. Davis was the only residential REALTOR® in attendance, and other participants were leaders in a range of areas dealing first-hand with housing issues. 

While the group consisted of Maryland leaders, Davis estimates that 90 percent of the information was nationally relevant. Participants discussed available and proposed programs to keep people in their homes such as refinancing, loan modification and principle reduction.

Several panelists, including representatives from HUD and the Treasury delivered presentations, and then the panelists went from table to table to join other participants in roundtable discussions. 

"When the White House provided this forum, I was afraid they would just speak at us to tell us what programs are available," Davis said. "But they came out to the tables with pen and paper and said 'let's have a discussion,' and we addressed what's working and what's not working."

Davis said it has been interesting to hear all the different perspectives, especially some of the legal aspects that you don't often consider. The week before, Davis was invited to speak at a conference of housing counselors and stayed the whole day to listen to the programs. One on neighborhood stabilization caught her attention.

"I've communicated with the leader of one community organization in Maryland who knows me in my role as a workforce housing agent," Davis said. "They've been allocated grant money (NSP2), and they are rehabbing old vacant homes and putting them back on the market. This grant money has been allocated in numerous cities, and in some cases the wrong neighborhoods were targeted, causing renters to be put into the homes instead of buyers. 

"That's an example of where intention was great. They understand that the process needs to be revamped and are reaching out to more varied sources before moving forward with the next stage of the project. Feedback from forums like these has proved successful so they will continue with this and other ways to receive input from practitioners."

And as an industry veteran, Davis was able to provide a REALTORS® perspective. "I was especially able to bring forward an awareness of issues with FHA and the condo situation," Davis said. "I spoke with a woman from HUD and explained a two month process of getting a condo community FHA approved and expressed my frustration with the process. She handed me her card and said, 'call me with the specifics, and I'll see what caused the delay because that can help us determine how we can make the process run more smoothly.' It really made me feel like there was true concern and they really wanted to hear about our experiences so they can improve them."

"The most positive part for me was that the panelists and the organizers all said they want this to be an ongoing discussion with all the participants involved," Davis said. "We all exchanged our contact information. I've already been invited to online events, and we will pick each others' brains going forward."

REALTORS® who want to get involved in the political process need not wait to be asked. There are numerous ways to participate in advocacy opportunities. Be sure to check out NAR's REALTOR® Action Center for ideas.

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