Monthly Archives: July 2019

Texas legislature Ends Forced Annexation

Patrick Henry’s famous words, “No taxation without representation” were part of what fueled the American fight for independence from Great Britain during the Revolutionary War.

More than 250 years later, the State of Texas has finally rid itself of a similar practice that was allowed by its own cities since it joined the Union.

In May, the Texas legislature passed HB347 and it was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott stopping Texas cities from being able to annex suburban property into the city limits without voter approval.

“We were on the right side of the issue encouraging people not to give up their vote—it’s simply un-Texan.”

This practice, known as forced annexation, was a common practice for decades in Texas which allowed cities to impose new taxes and regulations on people who lived just outside the city’s limits.

The only recourse those property owners had previously was to petition and vote to become an individual county that requires voter approval, a process that was tedious, not always successful, and an outright headache.

Tired of this overreach by Texas cities, residents in eight counties were able to not only get a measure on the ballot, but vote to end forced annexation in their county in the past year alone.

In November 2018, voters in six Texas counties successfully ended forced annexation in their counties, with an average 75.5% approval.

Then, in May 2019, two more counties (Montague and Ellis) voted to end to forced annexation in their counties—both with about 90% approval.

“Protecting private property rights and our right to vote goes straight to our hearts as REALTORS® to advocate for property owners,” said Melody Gillespie, a REALTOR® and property owner in Montague County who was integral in the campaign to end forced annexation in her county. “We were on the right side of the issue encouraging people not to give up their vote—it’s simply un-Texan.”

“When citizens and lawmakers work hand in hand big things can be accomplished. This new statute will protect landowners for decades to come.”

The bill, authored by Rep. Phil King of Weatherford, was more impactful than Senate Bill 6 which also addressed this issue, but limited it to only the 10 largest counties in Texas.

“Today’s bill signing has been over two years in the making,” King told the Weatherford Democrat. “When citizens and lawmakers work hand in hand big things can be accomplished. This new statute will protect landowners for decades to come.”

In Ellis County, property owner Louis Ponder also coordinated campaign efforts in partnership with local REALTORS® to end forced annexation in their county.

“Voters agree that we deserve a say in whether our property is annexed,” Ponder said. “No one should lose the opportunity to have their voice heard through their vote.”

The huge approval numbers at the county level told lawmakers that the bill was a must-pass for this session.

And lawmakers agreed, passing the bill with overwhelming, bi-partisan support in both chambers.

Dedra Vick, who lead the campaign to end forced annexation in Parker County, attended the governor’s bill signing and told the Weatherford Democrat, “This could not have been done without the work of all our local, grassroots community getting out and working so hard for over a year.

“The numbers of citizens against forced annexation across Texas were staggeringly high. As a result, all Texans now have a say in whether their property is annexed into city limits.”

U.S. Supreme Court Restores Property Rights, Prevents Local Governments from Taking Land

After 34 years, the U.S. Supreme Court restored constitutional property rights in June, preventing states and local municipalities from taking property as public land and creating an easier path for property owners toward resolution.

The Court’s 5-4 decision in the case of Knick vs. Township of Scott, ruled that property rights protected under the Fifth Amendment are of equal value to the rights protected in the rest of the Constitution.

Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said, “Fidelity to the Takings Clause and our cases construing it requires overruling Williamson County and restoring takings claims to the full-fledged constitutional status the Framers envisioned when they included the Clause among the other protections in the Bill of Rights.”

“Property owners often had to jump through several hoops just to get their claim heard in federal court. This red tape of procedure was diabolically unfair.”

Rose Knick, who lives alone on a rural farm in Pennsylvania, simply wanted to prevent her Township from assessing steep fines after in 2014 they insisted her property was public land because of the number of gravesites that still exist on her property, declaring the property a public cemetery, per the language in a newly created ordinance.

The Township threatened to fine Knick $600 per day that she didn’t open up her property to the public seven days a week.

She never expected this to make it all the way to the Supreme Court, but she filed a lawsuit to defend her constitutional rights.

The Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause provides that the government can take private property for public use only if it pays for it.

However, since 1985, property owners – like Knick – have encountered trouble when attempting to claim this constitutional right when fighting the local government in federal court.

It was 34 years ago, in Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, that the Supreme Court ruled that a property owner had to first sue for “just compensation” for the taken property in state court before trying to defend their fifth amendment property right.

In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that Williamson County was incorrect because once a property owner lost in state court they would be barred from getting a second chance to sue over the same issue in federal court.

However, the court did not overturn Williamson County and because of that property rights were relegated to second-class status.

Property owners often had to jump through several hoops just to get their claim heard in federal court. This red tape of procedure was diabolically unfair.

For instance, the local governments often filed to have the case moved from the state court to federal court and once it moved there, the government would argue the federal court couldn’t hear the case because of the Williamson County decision.

In the Knick case, she filed her claim in federal court, but was told by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals that she would have to start over in state court because of the reasoning from the Williamson County decision that said a federal court could not recognize the violation of constitutional property rights until after a lawsuit was filed in state court and the property owner lost there. But because she filed in federal court and had to start over, she couldn’t go back to federal court.

It was a vicious circle, but the Supreme Court agreed to review it in 2018. Finally, after hearing oral arguments in 2019, the Court finally admitted that the decision in Williamson County was “exceptionally ill founded.”

Order was restored, and the fifth amendment language was re-instituted, disallowing the government to take private property without paying for it.

“A bank robber may give the loot back, but he still robbed the bank,” Roberts wrote.

This new decision also opens up the federal courts and concurrently recognizes that wrong inflicted on individuals when the government turns private property into public property without first paying for it.

New Executive Order Takes on Housing Affordability Issues

In June, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to create a new White House Council to tackle affordable housing issues across the country.

The new council will be chaired by Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and will consist of members from eight different federal agencies.

The hope is that with all these agencies working together, interagency processes will be streamlined and as a result, development of affordable housing will occur faster.

“Areas of the country that deal with the biggest gap between supply and demand of affordable housing also have the most restrictive regulations put on them by the state and local governments.”

“Four nearly four decades, U.S. household incomes have increased at a slower rate than home prices, a problem that was only made worse by the Great Recession,” said John Smaby, President of the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). “Today, despite historic economic growth and recovery, misguided regulations and gaps in new home constructions have stopped far too many Americans from purchasing a home.

“NAR thanks President Trump for taking much-needed steps to address housing affordability in this country, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the White House to ensure the American dream remains attainable for all those who seek to become homeowners.”

The newly formed council will meet with leaders from state and local associations to identify the issues that impact affordable housing development and to determine how many of those issues are directly related to federal, state and local regulations on the cost of that development.

The council will focus on finding new ways of cutting regulatory costs.

“This is a matter of supply and demand, and we have to increase the supply of affordable homes by changing the cost side of the equation.”

Areas of the country that deal with the biggest gap between supply and demand of affordable housing also have the most restrictive regulations put on them by the state and local governments. In fact, more than 25% of the cost of building a new home is directly related to costs associated with state and local regulations.

“With housing affordability near a 10-year low, the President’s executive order on this critical issue underscores that the White House is ready to take a leading role to help resolve the nation’s affordability crisis,”  Greg Ugalde, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), told Housing Wire. “Given that homeownership historically has been part of the American dream and a primary source of wealth for most American households, the need to tackle ongoing affordability concerns is especially urgent.

“NAHB will continue to work with the White House and Secretary Carson to find innovative solutions to increase the production of sorely needed quality, affordable housing.”

Only seven homes were built for every 10 households formed in the U.S. from 2010 to 2016, according to the Census Bureau.

“With the signing of [this] Executive Order, President Trump is prescribing a powerful treatment that correctly diagnoses the source of America’s affordable housing condition,” Carson said. “This is a matter of supply and demand, and we have to increase the supply of affordable homes by changing the cost side of the equation.”

Carson added that increasing the housing supply of housing by eliminating long-choking regulations, will reduce housing costs and grow the economy.

 

Median Sales Prices Increase in the Chattanooga Region

Greater Chattanooga Housing Report – June 2019

Prices in the Greater Chattanooga area continued to gain traction. The Median Sales Price increased 7.5 percent to $214,900. Days on Market was up 4.7 percent to 45 days. Sellers were encouraged as Months Supply of Inventory was down 11.1 percent to 3.2 months.

Posted by Home Ownership Matters on Thursday, July 18, 2019

Locally, in June New Listings in the Chattanooga region decreased 7.9 percent to 1,283. Pending Sales were up 11.1 percent to 982. Inventory levels shrank 6.3 percent to 2,794 units.

Prices continued to gain traction. The Median Sales Price increased 7.5 percent to $214,900. Days on Market was up 4.7 percent to 45 days. Sellers were encouraged as Months Supply of Inventory was down 11.1 percent to 3.2 months.

Read the full report from the Greater Chattanooga REALTORS®’s June 2019 Housing Market Statistics Report.

Protecting the American Dream

While the nation recognized National Homeownership Month in June, the fight to protect and preserve the American Dream endures all year long. Perhaps better than any other group, Realtors® recognize and understand how homeownership has the potential to change lives and enhance futures for people from every background and in every corner of this country.

Homeownership encourages people to build roots and invest in their neighborhoods. It is well documented that homeowners volunteer, serve on community boards and are even more likely to vote in local elections. What’s more, studies have shown that the children of homeowners perform better in school and go on to earn more money as adults.

Across the U.S., real estate accounts for one-fifth of our Gross Domestic Product. That figure totals more than $3 trillion – and represents a key driver of our national economy.

Read the full article on Politico: Protecting the American Dream: Homeownership must remain national policy priority

New York Home sales prices, inventory climb as interest rates continue to fall

May 2019 New York State Housing Market

New York home sales prices, inventory climb as interest rates continue to fall.

Posted by Home Ownership Matters on Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Home sales prices continued to rise in New York State in May, while the inventory of homes for sale also inched upwards for the sixth consecutive month, according to the housing market report released by the New York State Association of REALTORS®.

There also continues to be good financial news for home buyers. According to Freddie Mac, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage rate dropped for the sixth straight month to 4.07 percent in May, the lowest rate since January 2018.