DCAR testifies in support of financial literacy bill
On October 6, 2022, DCAR Public Policy Committee Chair Anthony Graham testified before the Committee of the Whole to express DCAR’s support for the Financial Literacy Education in Schools Amendment Act of 2021. The bill would establish a two-year pilot program in financial literacy as an elective course to 11 and 12th graders in all literacy as an elective course to 11th and 12th graders in all DCPS high schools.
Graham emphasized the importance of foundational financial knowledge and the value it brings in allowing people to navigate the housing path of their choice.
Black Homeownership Strike Force releases draft of recommendations to increase homeownership
Mayor Bowser’s Black Homeownership Strike Force (BHSF) held its final meeting on August 25. Discussed at the meeting were a list of 10 policy recommendations to meet Mayor Bowser’s goal of adding an additional 20,000 Black homeowners in the District by the end of 2030.
Four goals that are the most relevant to REALTORS® are highlighted in yellow in the policy recommendations. DCAR will share the BHSF’s final report when it becomes available.
Council extends foreclosure moratorium to aid struggling homeowners
In consultation with DCAR, the D.C. Council passed emergency legislation on June 28 to revise the foreclosure moratorium the Council passed earlier this year, which was set to expire on June 30. The need for this moratorium extension was identified by DCAR and councilmembers because applications for the Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) Homeownership Assistance Fund (HAF) only became available on June 22. The result would leave vulnerable homeowners without adequate time to apply for assistance through HAF.
The emergency legislation passed last week:
- removes the 60-day deadline for submitting a homeownership assistance fund application
- protects homeowners from foreclosure actions if they submit an application for HAF before Sept. 30, 2022
- requires financial entities to provide homeowners notice of the HAF program
- exempts the time period from March 11, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2022 from the three-year period a condominium association is permitted to enforce a lien against a unit owner for assessments due.
Eligible homeowners can apply for grant funding through HAF to cover mortgage payments and other property or housing expenses, including utilities, insurance, internet assistance and housing association fees. If you know someone struggling to make ends meet, encourage them to submit an application at haf.dc.gov.
D.C. Council passes remote notary bill
In a win for REALTORS® and the public, the D.C. Council passed legislation on July 12 that allows public notaries to certify paper copies of electronic records and to notarize documents virtually.
During testimony at the bill’s first hearing in March 2022, DCAR emphasized the need for flexibility and access to individuals seeking notarial services and highlighted the usefulness of online notarization for traditionally underserved communities. DCAR continued to actively support the bill through its final passage last week.
DCAR testifies in favor of soil survey modernization bill
On May 19, DCAR testified before the D.C. Council’s Transportation and Environment Committee in favor of legislation aimed at updating the way REALTORS® obtain the soil characteristics on properties for real estate disclosures.
Councilmember Mary Cheh’s office drafted the bill in consultation with DCAR’s Government Affairs team. Under the new bill, REALTORS® would be able to use the most up-to-date soil survey from the Natural Resources Conservation Service website, where they’ll be able to rely on data found in a searchable map. The current statute requires the soil disclosure to be done using an outdated 1976 color-coded static map that includes a key showing the different soil types in the District by geographic area.
“The most critical aspect of this bill Is equipping real estate professionals operating in the District with this tool, which will help avoid circumstances where a contract can be rendered void because of a totally preventable mistake,” DCAR said during the committee hearing.
DCAR calls on D.C. Council to support Bowser’s proposal to increase investment in public safety
On April 19, DCAR, along with eight other business organizations, sent a letter to D.C. Council members expressing their support for Mayor Muriel Bowser’s recommendation to hire an additional 500 Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) officers contained in her proposed FY’23 budget.
The letter to council members states, in part, “The bottom line is that today’s MPD is a force that the District can be proud of. D.C. residents – and especially those in vulnerable communities – want to be safe. MPD is essential to deliver the safety residents expect and want.”
DCAR testifies before D.C. Council committee on remote online notarization
DCAR testified before the D.C. Council’s Housing and Executive Administration, urging the Council to make remote online notarization (RON) permanent.
The pandemic shined a spotlight on how crucial virtual services are to the real estate industry. DCAR explained how RON would remove barriers and provide D.C. residents with access to notarial services, as it allows individuals to meet with notary publics virtually to execute documents. D.C. is one of the last states that has yet to adopt RON.
DCAR will provide updates as they become available.
D.C. Council consults with DCAR on bill aimed at making it easier to obtain soil survey data
The D.C. Council has introduced legislation aimed at updating the way REALTORS® obtain the soil characteristics on properties for the purposes of real estate disclosures. Councilmember Mary Cheh’s office drafted the bill in consultation with DCAR’s Government Affairs team. The current statute requires the soil disclosure to be done using an outdated 1976 color-coded static map that includes a key showing the different soil types in the District by geographic area.
Under the new bill, REALTORS® would be able to use the most up-to-date soil survey from the Natural Resources Conservation Service website , where they’ll be able to rely on data found in a searchable map.
DCAR will follow this issue and provide updates as they become available.
DCAR rolls back TOPA tolling extension
As part of the District’s Public Health Emergency (PHE) declaration, a toll, or pause, was put into effect for the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) for the duration of the PHE. As a result, pending sales of rental properties were slowed or halted due to the inability to have meetings.
On Friday, Jan. 14, DCAR learned of a foreclosure moratorium bill authored by Councilmember Janeese Lewis George. Councilmember Anita Bonds included a narrowly written amendment that would extend the toll for the organizing phase of the TOPA process to March 31.
Shortly after, DCAR sent a letter to D.C. Council members urging councilmembers to consider passing the bill without the tolling extension, explaining that the omicron variant shouldn’t be a barrier for tenants and tenant advocates navigating the rules and procedures of the TOPA process when virtual platforms and other methods exist for holding meetings.
Councilmember Elissa Silverman reached out to DCAR after the letter was sent to broker a compromise on the amendment’s duration. Due to DCAR’s advocacy efforts and subsequent negotiations, the tolling duration was rolled back to Feb. 15. The bill now heads to Mayor Bowser for her signature.
2021: A year of accomplishments for DCAR
Before ringing in the new year, we want to share with you DCAR’s top accomplishments in 2021. This year, DCAR:
- Achieved major advocacy wins to protect your business and make the District a great place to call home
- Cultivated and built relationships city leaders
- Represented REALTORS® before the D.C. City Council
- Engaged with District residents and community organizations
- And so much more
Thank you for your contributions to DCAR’s success – we appreciate having you as a member of our association!
D.C. Council returns from recess; foreclosure moratorium extended
The D.C. Council reconvened with a flurry of legislation this week for their first legislative meeting since the summer recess. DCAR anticipates this fall will be highly active, with debates centered around ranked choice voting (RCV), flood insurance, property management and other issues. The DCAR Public Policy Committee is laser-focused and is monitoring committee movement.
In other news, the Council extended the foreclosure moratorium until February 4, 2022, allowing enough time for the $50 million in federal relief to get to those homeowners who need it most. Read more about the Homeowner Assistance Fund (HAF).
NAR highlights DCAR’s advocacy success in protecting tenants, on-site personnel from reckless renters
This past spring, DCAR noted with alarm that dangerous incidents in rental properties were being reported, but housing providers were powerless to evict the perpetrators because of an especially strict eviction moratorium in place during the public health crisis. DCAR helped the Housing Committee of the D.C. City Council to craft an amendment to allow for the removal of clear and present dangers from rental housing. Read the full article.
DCAR celebrates disbursement of rental assistance funds hitting key target
D.C. officials announced last week that more than $143 million, or 70 percent, of the $200 million federal rent relief money had been dispersed to D.C. residents. Under federal guidelines, D.C. was at risk of losing the funds if enough weren’t distributed before the end of September.
The results are a solid win for DCAR members. Read more.
DCAR signs Digital Equity Pledge
This week, DCAR signed a pledge from the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development (CNHED). By doing so, we are committed to finding ways to close the digital divide for all Washington, D.C. residents, regardless of income levels and resources, to ensure everyone has access to high-speed internet.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD-assisted renter households have particularly low connectivity rates. Forty-five percent of Washington, D.C. households earning less than $25,000 per year do not have access to high-speed internet and 34% of households earning $25,000-$50,000 per year do not have access to high-speed internet.
The pledge states, in part:
Together, we can create a District where residents can:
*Get a fair shot at career opportunities
*Assist their children with online learning or homework
*Access essential online life and health services, such as vaccinations or check-ups
*Engage safely with family, friends, small businesses and their greater communities
Additional information from CNHED about digital equity and inclusion can be found here.
DCAR testifies on District’s FY 2022 budget
On June 25, DCAR testified before the D.C. City Council on the District’s FY 2022 budget, praising the emphasis that is placed on housing and noting the $24.5 million slated to help low-income, first-time homebuyers with down payment and closing costs assistance.
Further, DCAR pointed out that while the budget provides $102 million toward temporary shelter renovations, city officials must work diligently and compassionately to provide assistance to homeless District residents who currently reside in tents.
DCAR also noted that the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has made innovative improvements, but critical issues remain. With the present plan to fund the split of DCRA into two departments, DCAR offered its assistance when that process is completed. With REALTORS® having day-to-day interactions with DCRA, they can provide constructive feedback on ways the agencies can improve the experiences of customers. Video of DCAR’s testimony is available here.
DCAR continues testifying on key REALTOR® issues
On May 20, DCAR testified and raised several concerns regarding the Eviction Records Sealing Act and the Fair Tenant Screening Act. In particular, the DCAR Public Policy Committee is deeply troubled with the Fair Tenant Screening Act because it proposes heavy, undue burdens on small housing providers. Read testimony.
On May 21, DCAR was a part of an expert panel representing small housing providers to discuss how the district can equitably end various moratoria enacted during the public health emergency. Read testimony.
Most recently, on May 25, DCAR voiced praise and constructive criticism for the chairman’s Eviction Protections and Tenant Screening Act. This legislation incorporates amenable ideas from the two legislative items heard on May 20 and presents a compromise. Read testimony.
Exemption to the eviction moratorium
Through our call for action and targeted grassroots lobbying, the D.C. Council passed Councilmember Anita Bonds’ emergency legislation, on a 12-1 vote, allowing evictions for health and safety purposes. The legislation is now on Mayor Muriel Bowser’s desk, where we expect she will soon sign it into law.
Pausing an increase in license fee renewals
The D.C. Real Estate Commission was on a path toward adopting a $60 license fee renewal increase when DCAR organized a call for action (CFA) to oppose the increase – with eye-popping results.
307 DCAR members participated in the CFA and emailed the Commission in protest, asking why this was being adopted during a public health emergency. DCAR members also crowded the virtual room at the April 13 commission meeting to make our association’s presence known. As a result, the Commission walked back the $60 increase.
Your voice makes a difference
We can’t stress enough how pivotal call-for-action campaigns are to advocacy efforts. The last two CFAs are testaments to how quickly DCAR members can mobilize. We urge you to continue to pay close attention when we activate campaigns—it’s a call to arms to protect our industry and we need your help! Thank you for everything you continue to do to support the issues that matter most to you.
DCAR members out in front
March Madness isn’t reserved for basketball fans only. At the D.C. Council, March is packed with performance oversight hearings, which help the Council make budget decisions for the following fiscal year, that last well into the evening. In total, DCAR provided comments at six separate hearings. We want to recognize and thank the members that represented DCAR: President Fred Bates, Anthony Graham, Bonnie Roberts-Burke and Jean Poitevien (who waited for nine hours to testify!).
Testifying in the District of Columbia
DCAR testified in the recent D.C. Council government oversight hearings that small housing providers need help and need more resources to help navigate the web of new and existing regulations. Take a look at the testimony from March 5 and March 9.