Thousands of Realtors are headed to Congressional offices today to discuss their dislike of federal preemption of state banking regulations, their desire to block banks from providing real estate brokerage services, their belief that the nation needs more affordable housing and their need for small business health insurance plans.

The march on Capitol Hill is an annual event as part of the National Association of Realtors’ annual midyear governance meetings and trade expo being held in Washington, D.C. this week.

One of NAR’s top priorities is to urge Congress to use its oversight powers to bridle what NAR called “excessive, overly zealous federal regulators.” The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in February ruled that federal regulations preempted state banking laws, including some that protect borrowers from predatory lending.

Jerry Giovaniello, NAR SVP of government affairs, told Realtors in a briefing that Congress needs to limit “activist regulators” who support the banks agenda to enter the real estate brokerage business.

“We are not challenging preemption. But these kinds of decisions that overturn the way we’ve been doing business for 200 years should be decided by Congress, not by regulators,” Giovaniello said.

On another issue, NAR supports a proposed homeownership tax credit that targets lower-income urban centers, rural communities and Indian reservations. The credit would apply to developers and investors who construct or rehabilitate housing that would be available for purchase by families who earn less than the median area income. The credit would create 50,000 new units of housing each year and about 122,000 new jobs annually, according to the association.

The association also supports the Small Business Health Fairness Act, H.R. 4281, which would allow small businesses and trade associations to offer uniform national health insurance plans. The bill is scheduled for a vote in the House this week.

Giovaniello said Realtors should remind lawmakers that NAR represents 1 million Realtors and is the largest trade association in America.

“And we vote,” he said.

He also pointed out that NAR’s new office building is located three blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

“That’s a strong statement about our involvement in public policy. We’re in their community,” he said.

The association will dedicate that new building in a ribbon-cutting ceremony today.

Construction of the building was completed last month and creates a “dramatic presence” at 500 New Jersey Avenue with a “breathtaking view of the U.S. Capitol,” which is only three blocks away, the association said in a statement.

The building is the first newly constructed building in the District of Columbia to meet the high levels of environmental performance as set by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The building recently received two awards from the Washington Business Journal for best architecture and best financing. It was also named runner up for best urban office project and best sustainable growth project.

The building will house Chicago-based NAR’s Washington, D.C., operations. Work on the interior of the $46-million structure is under way to make it ready for occupancy by this fall. NAR will occupy five floors of the 12-story building using about 40,000 square feet with the balance of the 93,000 square feet to be leased.

Groundbreaking on the class “A” building began in October 2002 on a reclaimed contaminated site previously occupied by a gas station. The removal crew dug out and hauled away more than 24 feet of dirt to approved waste sites before construction began.

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