MAY 16, 2012 9:30am ET

10,000 Realtors March on Washington with a Message: Housing Is Key

MAY 16, 2012 9:30am ET
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Truckloads of Realtors—more than 10,000 of them, according to their leader—will swarm Capitol Hill Thursday with this familiar message for lawmakers: Housing is key to the economic recovery.

“Tell Congress in no uncertain terms that to get the economy moving again, it must stimulate housing and the peripheral real estate market,” Moe Veissi, the Miami real estate broker who heads the National Association of Realtors, exhorted his minions at NAR’s annual Midyear Legislative Meetings in the nation’s capital.

With more than one million members, NAR is very likely the nation’s largest trade organization. And it intends to beat its political drum louder than ever. “We will gather (at the base of the Washington Monument) like no one has before,” Veissi declared. “And we will tell Congress that housing always leads the country out of a recession.”

In speech after speech to a standing-room-only crowd in the gigantic ballroom at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel—appropriately located at DC Metro’s stop for the National Zoo—Realtor nation was pumped with bombast. “It is our responsibility to raise our voices that home ownership is something to celebrate,” proclaimed first vice president Steve Brown. “We have to tell our side of the story. Home ownership matters, and it always will.”

As outlined by Scott Louser, an NAR vice president and to liaison to government, the hordes’ No. 1 goal is to persuade Congress to reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program to issue policies. “We only have 16 more days to get this done,” said Louser, noting that the program’s current authority  expires May 31. “This market cannot afford to wait.”

Secondly, NAR wants to extend tax relief provisions for home owners whose lenders forgive a portion of their mortgage debt. Through the end of this year, borrowers can exclude forgiven mortgage debt on the federal tax return. But if the law isn’t extended, starting in 2013, they’ll have to count it has income.

Tax relief is an issue “that has been flying under the radar screen until this week,” Louser said. “There’s nothing worse than paying taxes on money you never received.”