Agenda SummaryEqual Opportunity – Cultural Diversity Committee DeAnza Ballroom I - Level One Portola Plaza Hotel Monterey, California 1:00 PM – 2:50 PMPresiding: Eva Garcia, Chair Janet Houde, Vice Chair Raymond Rodriguez, Vice Chair David Barca, Executive Committee Liaison
Staff Coordinators: Carmen Petrinca, Membership Development Manager Jeff Keller, Public Policy Analyst
I.Call to Order / Introductions – Eva Garcia
II. Legal Update – Gov Hutchinson, C.A.R. Assistant General Counsel / Staff VP
III. Political Update – Jeff Keller
A. HUD Update- HUD awarded $45.5 million to fund their Youthbuild program: In November of 2006 HUD announced that they would fund their Youthbuild program at $45.5 million dollars for the year. Youthbuild targets “at-risk” youth and helps them earn their high school diploma and train them for a future in the construction trade. These youth also volunteer and get hands-on training building 702 homes for lower income families, many of which are facing homelessness. California programs were granted $4.66 million in funds (10% of the total funds allotted).
- Internet-based Real Estate and FHA: RecentlyHUD has been looking into complaints that illegal discriminatory housing ads were being placed on websites such as Homestore.com and Craigslist. Craiglist was sued by a Chicago civil rights consortium over these ads, but the ruling camedown in favor of Craigslist. The lawsuit claimed that Craigslist was ultimately responsible for these ads and needed to institute stricter reviews. Craigslist said that is relied on users to flag inappropriate ads and that once brought to their attention they would remove such ads. The court ruled in favor of Craigslist and said that under the Communications Decency Act Craigslist was considered an “interactive computer service”. While this ruling was a success for Craigslist, the court did reiterate that biased ads still violate the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and that all websites, when notified of such violations, must take action. FHA does not allowfor any published notice to indicate preference based on race, color, religion, sex, handicap, family status, or national origin.B. Coldwell Banker targets Hispanic Home Buyers: Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage has announced their Casa Coldwell Banker program, which aims to increase their numbers in Spanish-speaking agents, client education programs in Spanish, and Spanish-language marketing materials. Coldwell Banker is one of a recent string of brokerages companies that have started to increase their appeal to Spanish-speaking homebuyers through increased efforts in multilingual marketing materials, special classes to help minority groups with specific cultural concerns they may have, and with an increase in agents who can speak foreign languages.C. GSE Oversight & High-Cost Conforming Loan Limits: During the 110th Congress the issue of Government Sponsored Enterprise (GSE) regulatory reform will continue. Newbills will be proposed and C.A.R. will continue to make sure that a high-cost conforming loan limit amendment, allowing a newly created independent GSE regulator to set high-cost conforming loan limits by an area’s median home price, up to 150% of the national conforming loan limit, will be added to any bill. This would increase the conforming loan limit to $625,500 in California’s highest-cost areas.D. Concerns over Housing Laws: There have been some concerns over recent housing laws that have been passed and what REALTORS® can do when they believe an unjust, impractical, or illegal law has been passed by a local city council. The example we will use is a recent scenario that transpired in Escondido, CA.
In October of 2006 Escondido passed an ordinance that would penalize landlords who rent to illegal immigrants by suspending their business license for the units in question as well as fine them up to $1000/day for each tenant who continues to live in those units upon 10 business days after discovering that they were illegally in the country. In order to determine the tenants’ immigration status, the city planned to use the federal Systemic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program; an electronic database used by government programs and businesses to verify an individual’s eligibility to work or receive public assistance.
In November 2006 a federal judge ordered an injunction on the city ordinance so he could review the issue and see if it violated any state or federal laws. In December 2006 the city council of Escondido decided to remove the ordinance as they were facing alegal bill that could reach $200,000 and believed that there were enough holes in the ordinance that it might not stand. Additionally, they decided to wait and see the outcome of a similar ordinance in Hazelton, PA.
When questionable ordinances such as this appear in local cities, some REALTORS® wonder what recourse they have available to them. The first step would be to contact the local association where the law is being debated, or has been enacted, and speak with their Government Affairs Director (GAD). Not all local boards will have a GAD, but many now do. The GAD is the best resource to start with and will often have the most information concerning local ordinances. If the local board does not have a GAD, then you can contact C.A.R’s Local Government Manager, Richard Laezman. Either the local GAD or C.A.R. will either have more information or be able to research the issue. They can then assist you in determining the next step that should be taken.E. Conforming Loan Limits: The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) announced on November 28, 2006, that the 2007 conforming loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will remain at the 2006 level of $417,000 for one-unit properties. OFHEO bases the annual change in the conforming loan limit on the October-to-October change in the average house price in the Monthly Interest Rate Survey (MIRS) of the Federal Housing Finance Board (FHFB). From October 2005 to October 2006, the FHFB reported a decline in the average home price from $306,759 to $306,258; or a decline of 0.16 percent. This is the first decline in the MIRS since 1992-1993. The conforming loan limits will also remain at the 2006 levels of $533,850 for two-unit loans, $645,300 for three-unit loans, $801,950 for four-unit loans, and $208,500 for second mortgages.
OFHEO has stated it will defer this year’s decrease to the 2008 conforming loan limit. While this is good news for California that the loan limit is not decreasing this year, there is a majority of areas in California still hurt by that stagnant loan limit. California’s median home price increased 2% to $548,680 during the period of October 2005 to October 2006.
IV. Census Bureau Statistics – Jerry Wong, U.S. Census Bureau
V. Diversity Toolkit – John Wong, Chair, EOCD Committee, NAR