Two Wichita real estate officials took residential and commercial real estate's hot issues to lawmakers last week in Washington, D.C.
Tessa Hultz, CEO of the Wichita Area Association of Realtors, and John McKenzie, president of Wichita's Coldwell Banker Plaza Real Estate, were part of the Kansas delegation to the National Association of Realtors' Midyear Meetings.
They met with Rep. Jerry Moran, Sen. Sam Brownback and staff members for Rep. Todd Tiahrt and Sen. Pat Roberts.
Issues discussed included:
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* A long-term extension of the National Flood Insurance Program
* Increasing liquidity in residential and commercial mortgage markets
* Strengthening the Federal Housing Administration mortgage insurance program
* Making higher residential loan limits permanent
McKenzie, who called the meetings productive, focused on supporting increases in FHA loan limits, which are now set at $271,050 for a single-family home in Wichita, extending and supporting legislation to continue rural development loans and easing requirements for commercial loans.
Flood insurance is one of Hultz's major issues.
"Short six-month extensions do not provide market certainty that buyers and small-business owners need. Without the insurance, taxpayers end up footing the bill since affordable property insurance is not available in the areas that would be covered by NFIP," Hultz said.
The group also pushed for stronger support of residential and commercial real estate lending.
"Both the House and Senate have already taken actions to increase the commercial lending cap on credit unions from 12.25 percent to 25 percent of total assets to provide funding for commercial properties that need to refinance," Hultz said.
"We also asked the representatives to urge the Federal Reserve and Treasury to encourage banks to provide term extensions for performing properties."
Tiahrt spokesman Sam Sackett said the congressman advocates strengthening real estate markets.
"The discussions in Congressman Tiahrt's office earlier this month focused on ways to prevent credit from tightening further for those who should be able to get loans," Sackett said in an e-mail.
"Tight markets contribute to a sluggish economy, and the congressman believes we should be doing everything possible to help re-establish confidence in the real estate market, which plays an important role in our regional economy."
Tiahrt also has supported pro-liquidity measures in the real estate market, Sackett said, including a call for easing restrictions on bank real-estate portfolios.
Moran said in an e-mail that tight credit remains a concern.
"The federal government has kept interest rates low to make loans more affordable, but nearly every other action of this administration has had the effect of reducing credit availability," Moran said.
"Many community banks are often unable to lend because of the inconsistency of examiners and the uncertainty of the new financial regulations now before Congress. This is having a significant impact on our ability to recover."