2015 Legislative Landscape: New Year – Same Issues
Washington, D.C. – While the 2014 election upheavals created new dynamics in the state legislatures, the 2015 legislative sessions may revisit some familiar themes and issues for the rental housing industry. A recent survey of NAA affiliated associations reveals that property taxes and budgets are recurring issues of concern for affiliates across the country.
Though there was a trend of Republican victories nationwide, the rental housing industry cannot assume that a pro-business legislative agenda that is friendly to the industry will follow. In many cases the elections amounted to split legislative control between upper and lower state houses, or a split between the legislature and governor.
Even in states where there is complete partisan alignment, economic pressures could translate into policies that are burdensome and may increase costs for property owners. With a few notable exceptions, states are still cutting corners to make up for the budget shortfalls of past years. As the industry has seen in the past, rental housing remains an easy target for extra money for localities and schools.
Though we are only in the first few weeks of 2015, we are already seeing movement on some of these issues. Some examples include the following:
Pennsylvania - School districts in parts of the state have been making spot appeals of property tax assessments to raise revenue. The spot appeals appear to target multifamily rental housing. In response, rental housing advocates are looking for a legislative solution to stop the practice. However, though both chambers of the General Assembly are controlled by Republicans, Tom Wolf, a Democrat, upset the Republican Governor last November. It’s possible that pro-business allies in the House and Senate may be thwarted by a gubernatorial veto.
Washington State - Wary of new fees and taxes, apartment owners plan to take a defensive position. However, Washington has a split legislature – a Democratic House and a Republican Senate – so it is unlikely anything will pass without agreement from both sides. The Republicans only have a one-vote majority, and Governor Jay Inslee is also a Democrat.
Texas - While having a multi-million dollar surplus and unified Republican control, efforts are underway to alter processes related to commercial property valuations and sales price disclosure.
All survey respondents had one additional common trait: plans for a legislative lobby day at their respective state legislatures. Whether mired in gridlock or dealing with a large crop of new legislators, it is important that advocates for the rental housing industry remain engaged with their state representatives by educating them and providing guidance on the numerous issues affecting our industry.
Source: National Apartment Association Government Affairs Survey