NAA Capitol Conference Sets New Records, Kicks Off Advocacy 365
Apartment Industry Advocates,
Back in November, the House of Representatives, as is its tradition, released the work schedule for the coming year. Besides the standard recess periods around holidays and the month of August, there would be six additional weeks of recess where members would be in their districts, not in Washington. As is my tradition since joining NAA, I checked the 2016 Capitol Conference schedule to see if one of these extra recess periods overlapped with our Lobby Day. Indeed, it would. The Senate would be in session on March 9, but the House would not. While I had confidence that our members knew the value of meeting with Congressional staff, I was worried that our attendance would be hurt by the lack of Representatives in Lobby Day meetings. Boy, was I wrong!
This month 718 individuals attended the 2016 Capitol Conference and 558 of those participated in Lobby Day. This is an 11.5 percent and 40 percent increase from 2015, respectively! Even more, these figures do not include individuals who did not come to Washington, D.C. but are conducting meetings at home. Counting in-district meetings before the Capitol Conference and our Lobby Day meetings on March 9, 386 offices were touched in person by NAA members. Most of the remaining 150 Congressional offices received a personal letter and issue materials and the few that remain will be contacted directly, in-district later this month. In short, the industry mobilized like never before and the offices of all 535 members of Congress are hearing our messages on improving the Section 8 program for apartment owners, increasing the availability of flood insurance coverage and placing housing accessibility before frivolous litigation.
We certainly made an impact this year on Lobby Day; however, we are only getting started. Lobby Day is the jumping off point for what we are calling “Advocacy 365.” This program reflects a commitment to advance the cause and concerns of apartment owners and operators year-round. That means building relationships with policymakers, being active in local, state and federal grassroots campaigns, supporting political programs and recruiting colleagues in the industry to add their voices to the effort. This kind of commitment is what makes the difference when policy decisions are being made. Resources are being developed now to support the work of NAA affiliates and their members on Advocacy 365. Look for those to be deployed soon.
Speaking of effective advocacy, part of being effective is knowing what relationships the industry has with policymakers as well as the strength of those relationships. To that end, we will soon deploy the RAP Index, a survey tool which helps identify key contact relationships between our members and federal and state policymakers. I strongly urge you to take a few minutes and complete this very short survey that you will receive via email later this month. You will be helping us build a strong and vibrant advocacy team on behalf of the industry and your business.
Finally, I’m pleased to announce the completion of NAA’s toolkit “Emotional Support Animals: A Practical Guide to Reasonable Accommodation Requests.” The toolkit contains the basics of fair housing law as it relates to assistance animals, frequently asked questions, sample forms and scripts for front-line staff to utilize in various scenarios involving reasonable accommodation requests. There is no substitute for your own legal counsel when it comes to complying with fair housing laws; however, this material is useful in educating staff who receive these requests. You can find the toolkit on the NAA website.
Thanks for reading. Talk with you next month.