A key development and highlight for CAI Government Affairs in 2015 was the increasing number of CAI members advocating on federal government issues. CAI members responded in record numbers to federal legislative alerts, contacting members of Congress at critical times. CAI member phone calls, e-mails, and letters had a significant impact, amplifying CAI lobbying activities in the Congress. In one instance, CAI members flooded key Senate offices with more than 1,400 messages over the course of two critical days.
Importantly, 2015 saw growth in CAI’s Federal Issues Summit. In October, more than 45 CAI members traveled to Washington, DC to discuss CAI’s federal policy issues and spend a day lobbying on Capitol Hill. In just one day, CAI member advocates met with the offices of almost 80 U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators.
CAI federal advocacy faced critical challenges in 2015, which will continue in 2016. Looking ahead, CAI Government Affairs will be actively lobbying in the following areas—
- Qualifying all community associations for federal disaster assistance
- Preserving association governance over HAM radio towers and antennas
- Federal Housing Administration (FHA) approval rules for condominiums
- Preserving state association lien priority statutes
Disaster Assistance for Associations
A highlight for CAI member advocacy in 2015 was the introduction of legislation ensuring all community associations qualify for federal disaster assistance. U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) has emerged as the leader in Congress in the fight for equity in disaster assistance for community associations.
Due to Rep. Israel’s tireless efforts, the U.S. House Committee on Transportation approved disaster assistance reform legislation that included a provision requiring that FEMA work to qualify community associations for disaster assistance. Rep. Israel also successfully included a similar requirement in legislation funding FEMA operations in 2016.
Most important was Rep. Israel’s introduction of H.R. 3863, the Disaster Assistance Equity Act of 2015. H.R. 3863 qualifies community associations for federal debris removal assistance following a disaster and allows condominiums and cooperatives access to federal disaster funds to repair critical common infrastructure.
In 2016, CAI members will press Congress to approve H.R. 3863. By speaking with one voice, CAI members can ensure all community associations have access to federal disaster recovery resources.
HAM Radio in Community Associations
U.S. Representatives Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) and Greg Walden (R-OR) have introduced legislation, H.R. 1301, that voids community association rules applying to HAM radio towers and antennas. Reps. Kinzinger and Walden have been joined in this effort by U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), who is championing identical legislation, S. 1685, in the U.S. Senate. CAI opposes federal legislation that needlessly interferes with the community association governance process.
H.R. 1301 and S. 1685 replace association rules governing HAM radio towers and antennas with a federal standard that currently applies to county and municipal governments. Under this federal standard, it would be difficult for a community association to establish uniform height, placement, and size restrictions on HAM radio towers and antennas that could withstand a legal challenge.
Over CAI’s objections, on November 18th, the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee approved S. 1685. As a direct result of CAI member advocacy, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) and U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) opposed S. 1685. Senator Nelson and Senator Schatz are senior members of the Commerce Committee and serve in leadership positions. With Senator Nelson and Senator Schatz actively opposed to S. 1685, it is unlikely the legislation will be approved in its current form by the full U.S. Senate.
CAI will continue to pursue a compromise that respects the right of community associations to set standards concerning HAM radio towers and antennas, but also ensures amateur radio licensees can pursue their hobby. According to CAI member research, a super majority of community associations permit HAM radio broadcasting, but require prior approval of external towers and antennas. Preserving these rules and procedures is a key federal priority for CAI in 2016.
Federal Housing Administration Condominium Standards
Following the financial crisis, the Federal Housing Administration revamped its approval process for condominiums. This new approach has resulted in a substantial decline in the number of condominiums approved to participate in FHA’s mortgage insurance program. With FHA’s participation in the condominium market now at historic lows, qualified condominium unit owners are being denied access to FHA-insured mortgages.
U.S. Rep. Blaine Leutekeymer (R-MO) has introduced legislation, H.R. 3700, to reverse FHA condominium policies such as the agency’s prohibition on transfer fees, limits on commercial space in condominiums, and owner occupancy requirements. H.R. 3700 also requires FHA to extend the current 2-year project certification and streamline the recertification process. These reforms will allow more condominiums to receive FHA approval.
CAI strongly supports H.R. 3700. CAI members can support a healthy and vibrant condominium market by contacting their federal representatives to urge support for this critical legislation.
Preserving Association Lien Priority Statutes
The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), a powerful independent federal agency, is working to overturn association lien priority statutes. To illustrate the agency’s scorched-earth approach, FHFA has sued community associations in Nevada that lawfully foreclosed association liens. The agency also threatened Nevada lawmakers, stating FHFA believed that lenders may reasonably refuse to issue mortgages in the state unless legislators repeal Nevada’s priority lien statute.
CAI’s Amicus Committee has filed numerous briefs countering FHFA’s arguments against lien priority in courts across the country. In Washington DC, CAI members have met with senior FHFA officials, including the Director of FHFA, the Honorable Mel Watt. Director Watt has stated FHFA will continue to oppose association lien priority and will actively seek federal preemption of lien priority statutes.
In 2016, CAI anticipates FHFA will support a campaign by mortgage bankers to repeal or substantially revise association lien priority laws in the various state legislatures. While CAI will continue to urge FHFA to drop its misguided campaign against community associations, CAI members in priority lien states should prepare for a coordinated campaign to eliminate lien priority statutes.
Please refer to the latest legislation for updates on dates and deadlines