A newly formed national nonprofit seeks to become the voice of homeowners, much in the same way that AARP is the voice of consumers over the age of 50.
America’s Homeowner Alliance, whose advisory board includes representatives from well-regarded consumer and community groups as well as housing industry professionals, formally launched this month. It hopes to attract 250,000 members within a year.
There have been membership-driven homeowner advocacy groups and grass-roots alliances formed in the past, ones whose efforts revolved around some of the same issues that the alliance hopes to take on for homeowners, like the mortgage interest deduction. None of those organizations has generated anywhere near the name recognition of AARP, though, which claims more than 38 million members.
But with more than 75 million homeowners in the United States and millions of renters who one day might purchase a home, and much discussion about seismic changes to how people buy and maintain homes, group founder Phil Bracken thinks the alliance’s timing is right.
Bracken, a 15-year Wells Fargo executive, said he started working on the organization two years ago, after his retirement. He is chief policy officer of government and industry relations for Radian Guaranty, the mortgage insurance subsidiary of Radian Group.
“While consumer groups and other housing industry organizations clearly have an interest in advancing sustainable home ownership, this isn’t their exclusive role,” Bracken said. “They have many other things they advocate and work on.”
An annual membership in the national organization costs $20. By comparison, membership in AARP costs $16 a year. For that sum, homeowner alliance members will get access to a points-based rewards purchasing program at chains like Home Depot, Lowe’s and Sears, which might provide the hook to entice some consumers.
Its advocacy efforts will include research and lobbying to defend the mortgage interest deduction; preserve low down payment mortgages and the popular 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage product; push for more lending for home construction; and encourage more private capital in the mortgage market. Some members of the group will register as lobbyists, Bracken said.
“There really are only two things that affect public policy in America,” he said. “Those are money and votes. Homeowners can’t compete on money. The voice of the people is the platform for moving public policy over the next 20 years.”
The alliance also hopes to act as an ombudsman, and it plans to call out the bad actors in the housing industry as well as publish a list of “preferred providers” that will act like a Better Business Bureau related to home ownership.
Tino Diaz, former chairman of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, will serve as the group’s president.
The advisory board includes members from nonprofits like the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, Consumer Federation of America, National Fair Housing Alliance and National Urban League, as well as groups dedicated to serving the interests of specific demographic groups. Representatives from Quicken Loans and Ginnie Mae also are part of the advisory board that will sign off on the group’s public policy positions.
Not so rosy: The latest unemployment report showed the nation’s jobless rate hit a 41/2-year low in August, but the number of jobs created was less than expected and there was evidence that people gave up looking for work.
There was another number tucked into that report that has Trulia chief economist Jed Kolko worried about the housing market: The percentage of employed people ages 25 to 34 is at its lowest point in the past 12 months.
“Without jobs, fewer young adults will buy, rent or even move out of their parents’ homes, which holds back future household formation and longer-term demand for new construction,” Kolko said. “Young adults are struggling in the job market.”
(Source: Chicago Tribune Company, LLC)