Washington Report

A lobby for homeowner interests

 

kenharney@earthlink.net

Do 75 million homeowners need their own advocate before Congress and federal agencies on issues such as the mortgage interest tax deduction, retention of low down payment loans, and the start of tougher financing rules next January?

Who knows? But a group of mortgage and real estate industry veterans, joined by leaders of national community development, fair housing and consumer groups, are set to launch an unusual effort — a national nonprofit organization modeled after AARP, the seniors lobby, solely to speak for the home-owning public.

It’s called America’s Homeowner Alliance, and is scheduled to be formally announced within the next two weeks. The mission, according to its sponsors, is to “protect and promote sustainable homeownership for all segments” of the population — from moderate-income renters saving money for a down payment to long-established owners.

Members will be asked to pay annual dues of $20 — AARP’s dues by comparison are $16 — and will receive access to an extensive program of rewards and discounts from more than 1,000 participating companies who offer home-related products and services. They range from Home Depot to Lowe’s, Best Buy, Sears, Verizon, major appliance manufacturers, furniture and housewares stores, and encompass what sponsors say will be more than 1 million products. Members will earn points on every product purchase and be able to redeem them for merchandise, travel or other benefits.

The new group, which will be headquartered in St. Louis, is the brainchild of Phil Bracken, former executive vice president for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage and now chief policy officer of government relations for Radian Guaranty, a private mortgage insurer. His specialty as a lender has been financing and promoting affordable homeownership, especially for entry-level buyers, and he has chaired or co-chaired groups such as the Consumer/Lender Roundtable in Washington, D.C. Bracken will serve as chairman of the Alliance. Its president and CEO will be Tino Diaz, who heads a management consulting firm in Florida and is a former chairman and president of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.

The group’s directors and advisory board represent a mix of industry and consumer group leaders, including several from Asian, Hispanic and African-American real estate organizations, plus the Consumer Federation of America.

In an interview, Bracken said the Alliance is needed “because no one currently represents homeowners’ interests,” even though trade groups representing realty brokers, lenders and builders take positions on legislative and regulatory issues that often coincide with those interests.

Lisa Rice, a vice president of the National Fair Housing Alliance and a member of Bracken’s advisory board, said that despite those supportive positions taken by trade groups, the fact remains: “Realtors represent Realtors; builders represent builders. There is no group that is only looking out for and taking care of homeowners.”

Bracken said he expects to mount a multichannel marketing outreach campaign using social media and the efforts of organizations participating in the Alliance starting in September. He hopes to have 250,000 members within 12 months. By the end of the second year, the goal is 500,000 members and after five years, 5 million members.

“This is a long-term effort,” he said, noting that it has taken AARP decades to grow into the powerhouse it is today. Like AARP, which focuses on a diverse and large pool of people 50 and older, the Alliance is targeted at a base of millions of consumers who often have common interests — current property owners and millions of renters who would like to become homeowners.

How will the Alliance handle bread-and-butter real estate issues such as the mortgage interest deduction, which is a target this year for tax reformers who complain that homeowner write-offs add too much to the federal deficit and chiefly benefit upper-middle income and wealthy property owners? Bracken says the group will strongly favor retention of the deductions — a position that coincides with the Realtors and home builders.

But at least one of Bracken’s board members, John Taylor, president and CEO of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, hints at the sort of internal policy splits that seem inevitable for the Alliance with its diverse makeup. Taylor said in an interview that if Congress wanted to cut out deductions for second homes to help reduce the federal deficit, he would be in favor — and would urge the Alliance to work with tax reformers on that issue.

(The Alliance’s website, which will go live once the group is formally launched, is www.myaha.com.)

Kenneth Harney is executive director of the National Real Estate Development Center.

Read more Home & Garden stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Trays are a great and stylish way to keep your home organized and beautiful.

    Decorating

    Style at Home: 5 terrific ways to use trays

    If you went on a scavenger hunt for a tray in my home, you’d find one in every room. In the 33 years I’ve worked in interior design, some of the decorating foot soldiers I use to style my home have come and gone (anyone remember tassels?). But trays are here to stay.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">BUTTERED UP: </span>The glass dome on this Victorian butter dish is known as ‘Rubina.’

    Treasures

    Unusual Victorian butter dish still valuable

    Q: This butter dish was given to my grandmother over 50 years ago. It is 5 inches in diameter. The markings on the bottom part of the metal are “Rogers Smith & Co.” with “Meriden Ct, Quadruple, 7, USA.” Are you able to give us any information on this piece?

  • Washington Report

    Is spring the time to list your home?

    It’s common knowledge verging on holy writ in real estate: Spring is the absolute best time of the year to sell a house.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category