Outlook Remains Mixed for the Apartment Industry

Posted By: Greg Brown (deleted) NAA Updates,

Washington Update

Apartment Industry Advocates,

Add my name to the long list of individuals who did not take the candidacy of Donald Trump seriously and publically doubted whether could win a Presidential general election. My sin is even greater since I am inside the beltway and in “the business” of politics and policy. This is my job! How could I have not seen this coming?

I could lay the blame for missing the signs of a Trump victory at the feet of pollsters and pundits on whom I rely to give me the best data and intelligence on the minds of the electorate, but that would be a cop out. Realistically, I think my bias against someone like Donald Trump was in place long before he became a threat. I, like so many in the machine of Washington, D.C., am disconnected from the working class voter in places like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Ohio who gave President-elect Trump the White House. While my life and the lives of most of those with whom I am close have hummed along in the present economy, millions of others have watched their jobs disappear with little perceived care or concern from the political system and more precisely the two political parties. Their anger crossed party identification and found a home with Mr. Trump.

Okay, so an epic fail on the part of people who should know better. Stipulated. What happens next? What can we expect from a Trump White House? And GOP majorities in both Houses of Congress? With hindsight now available to us, I think managing expectations is important here.

Mr. Trump promised a lot of things on the campaign trail – the wall, mass deportations, a blockade against Muslims (or some nuanced variation of that), special prosecutor for Hillary Clinton, large-scale tax reform and shredded trade agreements. In the first week of his pre-administration, Mr. Trump has already softened his rhetoric on several of these items. The wall may turn out to be a fence or simply stronger border-security measures, “mass” deportations will be focused on criminals (something the Obama Administration does now) and continued pursuit of the Clinton email scandal is fading from the priority list. Certainly many in the body politic will be pleased if these moderations hold; however, others in the Trump coalition will not be happy. Time will tell if he sticks to his new position on these issues, especially with Steve Bannon, the voice of the alt-right in the President-elect’s ear.

What else happens in a Trump first term will also be heavily influenced by the Congress, of course. And also contrary to expectations, the GOP held its control of the Senate and took only glancing blows to its majority in the House. We have one-party, Republican rule for the first time since 2006. While the control of the levers of power is not absolute (recall the cloture rule in the Senate), it is strong enough that we can expect a more streamlined path to passage for some legislative priorities – Obamacare repeal and regulatory reform, among others. For others, the path remains difficult but is more doable than was anticipated under a Clinton Administration – see tax reform.

For our part, the outlook remains mixed for the apartment industry. Regulatory reform and independent moves by the President-elect to pull back on regulations issued by the Obama team will likely address several areas of concern such as Waters of the United States, the overtime rule and IRS rules on valuation of family-owned businesses. Bigger-picture issues such as the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, some areas of tax law and immigration reform have the potential to cut both ways for owners and operators of apartment homes. Thus, it is critically important that everyone get involved in NAA’s Advocacy365 program and commit to carrying the message of the apartment industry to their representatives in Congress.

Advocacy365, as the name implies, is a year-round effort; however, there is one particular day when the industry combines forces in Washington, D.C. to show our strength and press the case for our concerns. The 2017 NAA Capitol Conference and Lobby Day takes place on March 7 and 8 at the JW Marriott in downtown Washington. There will be a briefing on the issues, training on how to be an effective advocate and expert perspective on the new Administration from Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. There are more than 50 new Representatives and Senators who need educating on our industry and our issues and 485 incumbents returning for a new Congress and Administration who want to know where we stand. Please join us.

This is an historic time for our country and we should take stock of that. There is also the reality of public policy concerns that must be our focus in the immediate term. I hope you all will join me in ensuring those concerns are addressed to the benefit of owners, operators and residents.

Talk to you next month.