The first quarter of 2023 brought a new Congress, a new Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a Republican majority in the House, and a Democratic majority in the Senate. CAI’s advocacy team, including the incredible team from Cornerstone Government Affairs, Phoebe Neseth, Esq., and I were on Capitol Hill having one-on-one meetings, attending fundraising events, receptions, and meet-and-greets. We’ve met with members of Congress and their staffs to discuss condominium safety; Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac condominium and housing cooperative lending requirements, FEMA disaster assistance, and amateur radio towers and antennas.
Condominium Safety Access to Government-Backed, Low-Interest Loan Products
Following the tragedy at Champlain Towers South in Surfside, Fla., building safety is a top CAI advocacy priority. Property insurance, mortgage underwriting rules, new ordinances and laws will result in more condominium building inspections that will spur needed maintenance and critical repairs of buildings. These repairs could be costly for homeowners, especially in buildings where maintenance has been deferred previously due to financial constraints. CAI advocates for legislation providing for a low-interest loan program authorizing FHA to insure condominium association building rehabilitation loans.
Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Condominium and Housing Cooperative Lending
After the Surfside, Fla., tragedy, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac adopted emergency underwriting guidelines for condominium unit mortgages and housing cooperative share loans at the direction of Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). The temporary condominium and housing cooperative guidelines became effective in 2022 and have caused significant problems including delays and outright lender denials for homeowners looking to purchase in a condominium building.
Under FHFA requirements, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are set to release final guidelines soon and industry stakeholders fear the final guidelines will create even greater problems for condominium ownership. With condominiums and housing cooperatives offering an affordable housing option to many first-time homebuyers, retirees, and low-income families, restricting access to credit will create inequity in homeownership.
CAI is advocating for Congress to urge FHFA to consider CAI and other industry stakeholders concerns and change the requirements to ensure access to mortgage lending in condominiums and housing cooperatives.
FEMA Disaster Assistance
The Disaster Assistance Equity ACT supports the 74 million Americans living in community associations impacted by a presidentially declared natural disaster—flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire, blizzard, drought, or earthquake. Under current law, community associations that own their own roads and/or facilities are NOT afforded the same FEMA recovery resources as other communities even though they pay the same federal taxes. CAI is advocating for legislation to be re-introduced this Congress that would give homeowners living in community associations access to FEMA resources.
Condominium and Housing Cooperative Owners: The bill creates access to FEMA funds for repair or replacement of essential major common area elements and facilities such as boiler rooms, elevators, and roofs.
Homeowners Associations: The bill creates access to FEMA resources (via the local municipality) for debris removal from privately owned roads within homeowners associations to ensure access in and out of the community for public safety. The bill would provide equal access to disaster recovery services for all homeowners paying local, state, and federal taxes.
Amateur (HAM) Radio Towers & Antennas
Amateur radio, sometimes known as HAM radio, is a hobby pursued by approximately 700,000 individuals nationwide. The HAM Radio lobby is working to have legislation introduced that will preempt community association covenants (private contracts) for the installation of HAM radio towers and/or antennas. CAI doesn’t support this legislation recognizing the community association is the best place for these covenants to be created and/or amended. The HAM radio lobby introduced legislation at the federal level on several occasions, and we expect they will try to introduce it again this year. CAI opposes preemption to community covenants.
HAM radio operators typically engage in radio broadcasts for recreational purposes, include working with communities as part of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery efforts. This cooperative effort works with the existing law and doesn’t need to change to support a community’s disaster response.
CAI wants Congress to know we oppose this legislation and encourage the House Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate Commerce Committee to stop this legislation.