The Southern Maryland Association of REALTORS® Public Policy Statement
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Guiding Philosophy • Home Ownership Matters • Growth Policies & Economic Development • Education • Environment
Closing Costs • Impact Fees & Development Excise Taxes • Transportation Investment
The Southern Maryland Association of REALTORS® advocates for private property rights and serves with competency, integrity and professionalism. In support of this mission, the members of the SMAR Legislative Committee develop a guiding philosophy on key issues that affect the communities where Southern Maryland REALTORS® live and work. This guiding philosophy provides the foundation for the background rationale and position statements that are promulgated during an open process of Committee dialogue, debate, and finally, consensus of opinion. This document is to be viewed as dynamic and one intended to change, grow, and develop in sync with our mission as well as our community and business environments.
REALTORS® are dedicated, within the framework of a democratic free enterprise system to support and protect property rights and to place home ownership within reach of all who are financially able. Stable ownership of real property positively impacts neighborhoods, communities, and Southern Maryland’s economic stability.
REALTORS® recognize that for some the renting of a home may be the best short term economic choice. REALTORS® support laws and regulations which strengthen the relationship and understanding between landlords and tenants. This mutual understanding is supported with the professional guidance, advice, and service offered to both customer bases by REALTORS®.
REALTORS® recognize that an important component for stable and dynamic neighborhoods is a fully functional and strong Home Owners Association or Condominium Association where one has been established. A neighborhood with a weak and/or underfunded association or one with lack of owner support and participation is vulnerable. Such a neighborhood is in danger of declining physically with resulting property value loss.
REALTORS® are dedicated to assist home owners in distress by providing assistance, advice, options and, where needed, referral to skilled professionals in allied disciplines to help homeowners remain in their homes or make the next best alternative decision.
REALTORS® support managed growth policies which encourage a balanced supply and demand of housing opportunities, business friendly economic growth and development policies, quality educational opportunities, adequate multi-modal transportation and a state-of-the-art communications infrastructure, while protecting the environment and quality of life that has made Southern Maryland a desirable place to live and work.
REALTORS® are committed to the proposition that all persons, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, familial status, disability, gender, sexual orientation, or socio- economic status have a right to own real property. The “dream of homeownership” should be an achievable goal for those who are financially able.
REALTORS® support Fair Housing law. We believe equal opportunity in housing can best be achieved not only through observance of the law but through education, and mutual cooperation of the real estate industry and the public in a free and open housing market.
REALTORS® support broad-based general tax revenues to meet the cost of necessary government services to provide for individual and community needs which cannot be provided by individuals or private organizations.
REALTORS® oppose imposition of narrow-focused fees and taxes such as, impact fees, excise taxes, real estate transfer and recordation taxes, department-generated user fees, and other 'hidden taxes' that increase the cost of housing and reduce opportunities for homeownership.
Home Ownership Matters
Since 2000, the Maryland Association of REALTORS® has calculated a Housing Affordability Index (HAI) for first-time homebuyers. An index of 100 indicates that a first-time homebuyer has the income necessary to purchase a typical starter home with a 5% down payment. In the 4th quarter of 2014, the HAI jumped Maryland to 83.0. This means that in the 4th quarter of 2014 Maryland first time homebuyers had 83 percent of the income they needed to purchase the typical starter home. A higher HAI helps to ease the road to homeownership, especially for Millennials. This is good news for first-time home buyers and the real estate market in Southern Maryland.
- REALTORS® oppose a regulatory environment that creates an imbalance in the supply and demand of homes.
Growth Policies & Economic Development
Economic growth and development is critical to the long-term health and vibrancy of Southern Maryland. A diversity of economic activity will create jobs and ensure the future growth of Southern Maryland. The three Boards of County Commissioners must consistently pursue policies, which will support small business and attract the economic opportunities necessary to expand our tax base, create higher paying jobs, and deliver necessary services. REALTORS® are committed to the proposition that economic growth can take place while simultaneously protecting property rights, the environment and the integrity of a county’s comprehensive plan.
Currently, developers incorporate public amenities into new projects. Those projects include roadways, and water and sewer infrastructures. Imposing impact fees unfairly shifts the burden of financing public facilities, used by the public at-large, to one small segment of the community. In addition, these fees are passed on to homebuyers forcing them to pay twice for public facilities -- first through increased home prices, and then through real estate property taxes.
- REALTORS® support the improvement and expansion of broadband and wireless communications in Southern Maryland. A state-of-the-art communications infrastructure is an important component of a modern economic development plan. Widely available wireless and broadband communications network in Southern Maryland is not an optional accessory in today’s business environment.
Probably no single factor other than cost discourages home purchases in a community more than the real or perceived poor quality of education and educational infrastructure. Striving for an excellent public education system throughout Southern Maryland public schools is critical to the continued economic growth and prosperity of the region.
- REALTORS® support school funding mechanisms that provide a broad based and
predictable stream of income for the sufficient operations of our school systems.
A healthy environment is critical to sustaining the high quality of life we enjoy in Southern Maryland. The effects of global pollutants are as serious a threat to environmental quality as is the deteriorating condition of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries that surround our region. Everyone is a stakeholder in the environment and the public and private sectors must work cooperatively together to develop practical solutions which provide environmental benefits without damaging the local economy.
- REALTORS® oppose unfunded environmental mandates imposed by government especially downzoning and devaluation of private property, bans on individual private septic systems, and point-of-sale mandates that require a seller of real property to perform environmental audits or retrofit real property to conform to environmental regulations in order realize a conveyance.
The burden of costs such as property tax escrows, real estate transfer taxes and recordation fees have a negative impact on homeownership and economic growth.
High closing costs discourage housing opportunities for first-time homebuyers and others from making their home in our community. As a result, Southern Maryland loses the opportunity to attract new business investment to respond to the increased demand for goods and services. Charles, St. Mary’s, and Calvert Counties need to attract and retain the talents of people who can expand their tax bases.
Reducing closing costs will eliminate a major hurdle faced by homebuyers and will keep Southern Maryland an affordability attractive place to live. New homeowners stimulate demand for new goods and services thereby fueling economic expansion.
- REALTORS® oppose all efforts to impose or increase local transfer and recordation taxes as a means to increase general county revenues, and supports the elimination of all taxes on the transfer of real property.
Impact Fees & Development Excise Taxes
Economic vitality is critical to sustaining Southern Maryland. A healthy housing market builds strong communities, enhances the tax base, and creates new employment opportunities. The imposition of impact fees and development excise taxes discourages new businesses from locating in Southern Maryland, existing businesses from expanding here, and inflates the cost of new housing.
Impact fees and development excise taxes place the burden for funding public facilities on a small segment of the housing community; however, the entire county benefits from these improvements. Good public policy allocates the financial responsibility for public facilities equitably among the broadest base possible.
Impact fees, excise, sales, and property taxes are imposed on building materials for new home construction and lot development. In most cases, the builder passes these costs on to the homebuyer which increases the cost of new housing.
- REALTORS® are committed to working with County officials to identify alternate means of financing additional public facilities such as tax credits for providing certain public improvements.
Expansion of our capacity to transport people represents the most important investment in the future growth of our economy and the community-at-large in Southern Maryland. By investing in a multi-modal transportation network, the quality of life is maintained and enhanced and economic potential is increased with the ability to move people efficiently to shopping, work, and schools. The failure of transportation systems in Southern Maryland to meet the ever-growing demands placed on it has reached a critical point.
Failure to make improvements to the transportation system inhibits economic growth and lowers the quality of life.
- REALTORS® support the expansion of Metrorail beyond its current termination points in Prince George’s County.
- REALTORS® support light rail and rapid transit bus routes.
- REALTORS® support using the Metrobus and the local County bus systems.
- REALTORS® support construction of safe bikeways and sidewalks.
- REALTORS® support making infrastructure improvements a priority in the capital budgets of all three Southern Maryland counties.
- REALTORS® support the improvement and upgrade of Route 301 through Waldorf and La Plata.
- REALTORS® support improvements and upgrades to the Harry Nice and Thomas Johnson bridges.