Is Congress Deaf to Real Estate?

Kurt PfotenhauerSr. VP, Government Affairs Mortgage Bankers AssociationWashington, DC

To rely on the wisdom of our subscribers–always a safe bet–Congress isn’t exactly in bed with the real estate industry. Last week’s Feedback Poll, which asked if those who populate Capitol Hill are deaf to real estate’s needs, revealed that 84% of our visitors think they are, the remainder voting in favor of Congress’ listening ability. This aligns exactly with a poll we conducted last year, specifically asking if Congress truly understood the impact of TRIA. Again, 84% voted thumbs down. But a disconnect between the fed and the industry may not be so much of a bad thing, as commentator Pfotenhauer attests.

“When I entertain this question, and I do get it from time to time from our members, I remind them to be careful what they wish for. Considering how well commercial real estate is doing right now, you don’t want the government in your business. You want to be free to innovate and grow where consumer demand allows you to grow.

“There are some issues, obviously, that are bigger than this industry, and the government has to weigh in on them. The prime example would be the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. We’ve got a threat to the entire nation that happens to have a unique impact on our industry because of the liability involved in any potential terrorist attack. It is right and appropriate for the federal government to step up and take responsibility for its part. We can’t price for that risk.

“The fact of the matter is that we got the bill passed after Sept. 11 and we got it reauthorized. And Congress will reauthorize this bill again, and this time I think we’ll get it reauthorized for a significantly longer time than in the past. We’ve moved off the question of whether or not we need terrorism risk insurance and moved onto the question of what it should look like. That’s a really significant shift from where we started.

“In all, Congress is paying attention exactly where it needs to and please go on ignoring the rest of our business.”

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