Capitol Hill Outlook: Top 2016 Issues, Part II
In the second of two parts, leading industry groups weigh in on their 2016 policy agendas.
By Amanda Marsh
Though the presidential campaign is the biggest game going today in Washington, D.C., leading industry organizations have much more on their radar than the next occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. In the second of three parts, leading industry groups offer insight into the 2016 legislative landscape for commercial real estate.
The Institute of Real Estate Management is encouraging Congress to alleviate the hardships experienced by sponsors of affordable housing projects and to adequately fund the Department of Housing and Urban Development, reported Aaron Bosshardt, president of Bosshardt Realty and chair of IREM’s legislative and public policy committee. In March 2015, the Tenant Income Verification Relief Act passed the House, allowing residents on a fixed income to verify income once every three years. This replaces the current requirement for annual verification, which is overly burdensome for housing authorities, Bosshardt pointed out.
Gaston & Wilkerson Management Group’s Donald Wilkerson, senior vice president of IREM’s executive committee, cited a concern stemming from a mid-2016 Supreme Court decision. In a 5 to 4 ruling, the high court declared that the disparate impact housing theory is valid under the Fair Housing Act. As a practical matter, the ruling means that a credit check or background check could have a disproportionate effect on a class of people protected by the federal housing statute, even if those checks have a legitimate purpose.
“No doubt it will lead to lawsuits claiming discrimination, when no discrimination was intended,” Wilkerson observed. The ruling could also increase insurance costs and impact mortgage underwriting and rates, he noted.
Businesses that keep and maintain personal information are increasingly becoming targets of security breaches. Proposals to address these breaches often require business owners and managers to take burdensome and expensive actions. The Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2015 would impose minimum security requirements and guidelines for how to notify customers in the event of a data breach. Similar legislation was introduced in the 113th Congress, and the current bill is stalled. IREM supports legislation that avoids creating undue burdens, whether on property owners and managers or their clients, Bosshardt noted.
Wilkerson sees little chance of cooperation on tax reform or other issues in this election year, given the partisan atmosphere in Congress. Instead, he said, “I think it will be a year to position and educate issues for 2017 when tax reform will likely become a priority.”
Among other issues on the agenda at Building Owners and Managers International is modifying the Americans with Disabilities Act to effectively put an end to drive-by lawsuits for ADA violations. Instead of a quick “sue and settle” with building owners, the person filing a complaint would have to give the owner time to respond and correct the violation.
While the Urban Land Institute is not a lobbying organization, it’s keeping an eye on policies that impact its 32,400 U.S. members. From a sustainability standpoint, ULI is not only watching what’s happening nationally, but locally. For instance, laws in regards to building energy disclosure and benchmarking are now on the books in 31 jurisdictions in the U.S., noted Sarene Marshall, Executive Director of ULI’s Center for Sustainability. And over 900 cities are currently under consent decrees for Clean Water Act violations, so we’ll see more localities addressing storm water risks. How cities approach water efficiency will also be on the front burner, particularly in the drought-plagued West and Southwest.