By Greg Stitz, OAR Director of Research
One-third of Ohio REALTORS responding to OAR’s June Housing Confidence survey see a decrease in the amount of debt their buyers are bringing to the table, a 4 percent improvement from the 29 percent observed last June when the same question was asked. 40 percent of respondents observe no change, down from 45 percent last year. Additionally, 27 percent observe buyers’ debt load increasing (26 percent last year).
Survey results are based on responses to a monthly survey, designed to capture the effects of the existing economic conditions and trends on the real estate industry, sent to a pool of 1,500 OAR participants. Click here to participate in future OAR Housing Confidence Surveys.
By Lorie Garland, OAR Assistant Vice President of Legal Services
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits discrimination in housing against persons based upon their membership in a protected class, including race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or familial status. Generally allegations of a fair housing violation involve intentional acts of discrimination. In disparate-impact claims, however, there is no intent to discriminate. Instead, in this type of claim it is alleged even though there may not have been an intent to discriminate, the FHA is violated if a policy has a disproportionately adverse effect on a protected class. Previous cases alleging such a violation have been brought against lenders and insurance companies and the plaintiffs have relied on statistical evidence to prove that the defendant’s program or policy had a discriminatory effect on certain classes.
Although the FHA does not expressly create a cause of action based upon a disparate impact, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Circuit Courts have consistently ruled that a discriminatory effect can be the basis of a fair housing violation. The United States Supreme Court was asked to rule on this issue in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. On June 25, in a five to four decision, the Supreme Court held that disparate-impact claims can be brought under the FHA.
The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (Department) is the state agency that distributes federal low-income tax credits to Texas developers. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. (ICP) is a Texas-based nonprofit corporation that assists low-income families obtain affordable housing. The ICP brought a disparate-impact claim against the Department due to the Department’s allocation of low-income tax credits. The ICP claimed the Department reinforced patterns of segregation by disproportionately approving tax credits in black inner-city neighborhoods over predominately white suburban neighborhoods. The ICP contended that the Department must modify its selection criteria in order to encourage low income housing in suburban communities.
The District Court found that ICP had proven a disparate-impact and that the Department had failed to meet its burden to show that there were no less discriminatory method to allocate the tax credits. The Department appealed the decision. On appeal, the Fifth Circuit found that disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the FHA. However it remanded the case finding that the District Court had improperly required the Department to prove there were no less discriminatory method to allocate the tax credits. The Department then requested the U.S. Supreme Court to rule on whether disparate-impact claims can be brought under the FHA.
The Supreme Court found disparate-impact claims cognizable under the FHA for several reasons. First, the Supreme Court looked at the wording of the FHA. The Court found that the text of the FHA supports disparate-impact claims as the text refers to the consequences of actions, and not just to the mindset or intent of the actor. Therefore, the court concluded that the results-oriented language of the FHA favors recognizing disparate-impact liability.
The Court also reviewed the text of two similar laws that had been enacted earlier, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, both of which have been found to permit disparate-impact claims. The Court concluded that by use of similar language Congress intended the same interpretation. Under all three laws discriminatory effect can be the basis of a violation.
Next, the Court held that the 1988 amendments to the FHA confirms that Congress intended disparate-impact claims to be cognizable under the FHA. At the time of the amendment, Congress knew that all of the Circuit Courts had upheld this cause of action. Also, some of the provisions of the amendment would have been unnecessary had Congress assumed disparate-impact claims did not exist under the FHA. The Court concluded Congress ratified disparate-impact liability with the 1988 amendments.
Finally, the Court found the recognition of disparate-impact claims to be consistent with the purpose of the FHA, to eradicate discriminatory housing practices. However, the Court cautioned that disparate-impact claims must be properly limited to avoid serious constitutional questions. Liability cannot be based solely on a showing of a statistical disparity. A plaintiff must show the defendant’s policy caused the disparity. Housing authorities and providers must be provided the opportunity to explain the valid interest their policy serves and must be permitted to maintain a policy if proven it is necessary to achieve a valid interest. A plaintiff must show the policy is “artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers” to prevail on a disparate-impact claim.
The Supreme Court affirmed the Fifth Circuit decision and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings consistent with the ruling.
Although the facts of this case involve tax credits, its implications go far beyond that type of housing program. It will remain to be seen how the Supreme Court’s ruling will be utilized to challenge other programs and policies which may have discriminatory effects even though no discriminatory intent is proven.
By Carl Horst, OAR Director of Publications/Media Relations
The Ohio Association of REALTORS reports the number of single-family homes and condominiums put under agreement in May 2015 increased 6.3 percent from the level posted during the month a year ago.
The rate of purchase contract signings in May fell a slight 1.2 percent from the market’s April 2015 pace.
Ohio’s May Pending Home Sales Index of 156.3, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, increased 6.3 percent from May 2014 (147.1). Activity in May decreased 1.2 percent from the pace of agreements reached in April (158.2).
“The Ohio housing marketplace is continuing to steadily exhibit signs of improvement, as our May pending sales index reached a best-ever level for the month,” said OAR President Greg Hrabcak. “Additionally, the Ohio market has now tallied 13 consecutive months of year-over-year gains in agreements reached.”
Compared to 2008, a historically healthy market that marked the end of five consecutive record years for existing home sales and the onset of the recession, May’s Index score of 156.3 marks a 56.3 percent increase.
A pending sale or a sale “under agreement” is when the buyer and seller agree on terms of the sale of a home and have a signed purchase and sale agreement, but have yet to close and be recorded as such.
OAR, the largest professional trade association in the state with more than 28,000 members, is the only organization that compiles this state wide information from selected Multiple Listing Services each month. The tracking of “pending sales” provides reliable information about where the market is heading in coming months.
By “Coach” Marilou Butcher Roth
Just today I had another conversation with a client about not having enough time! I know I have written about this before and I also know that “timing” is everything when it comes to seeing and taking in information, so I will use this opportunity not just for a play on words but to address (again) this very important topic!
First, let me just say — you DO have enough time. There, now that is out of the way! The question is, what are you doing with your time…do you have yourself convinced that you need more hours in the day? Are you spending your time on activities you enjoy, or ones that you dread?
Please take a few moments and create two lists of those items that are truly important to you — I call them absolutes. One list is for business items and one for personal items. Be extremely discriminating about what you add to these lists, making sure they are items that you are either currently doing or that you want to be doing on a daily or weekly basis. For example, make sure you add “Finding New Business” to the list as that needs to be an ongoing activity on the business side. Perhaps you would like to add a spot for errands on the personal side. Identify each item that you feel warrants this important position in your weekly schedule.
Remember to keep the projects separate. Projects are items that have a beginning and end to them, i.e. creating take-aways for listing consultations. Create a list just for projects and then make sure somewhere in your week you have listed “Project Time.”
This is not hard — it just requires your commitment and awareness. You need to be completely honest with yourself as to what makes your list of absolutes! Remember, this is for YOU, not for anyone else!!
Marilou Butcher Roth is the owner of The MBR Group, a coaching and training company working primarily with REALTORS who have a desire to work and live from a more inspired place. She is also the Broker/Owner of Group REALTORS in Cincinnati.
Marilou is a member of the OAR Board of Directors and past chairman of the organization’s Communications Committee. Feel free to contact Marilou to see if coaching is right for you: Marilou@mbr-group.com
By Scott Williams, OAR Director of Government Affairs
The Ohio General Assembly Conference Committee issued its budget report today containing several wins for REALTORS across Ohio.
First and foremost the report does not include any expansion of the state sales tax to services, which would have potentially included many services retained by homebuyers further driving up their out-of-pocket costs, not the least of which would have included sales tax on REALTOR commissions. Increasing the sales tax would have also driven up the cost of operating a real estate brokerage as many of the services they utilize, accounting, legal would have been subject to the sales tax.
The report also makes no changes to the state’s commercial activity tax (CAT). Originally the proposal would have increased the CAT rate and there were several discussions about creating a separate higher rate for service providers. Keeping both the rate increase and bifurcation out of the report is a significant victory, the original trade-off in the adoption of CAT — the elimination of the Tangible Personal Property tax and corporate franchise tax — provided little to no benefit to our membership, prior to the CAT the state also eliminated the 10 percent roll back on commercial property.
Another significant win for REALTORS is the expansion of the small business tax credit for individuals who claim their business income on their personal returns. Currently that exemption from taxation covers 50 percent of income up to $250,000 the report increases that to 75 percent in FY 16 and 100 percent in FY 17. This will allow REALTORS who operate as LLC, sole proprietorship and similar pass through arrangements to earn income exempt from state taxation.
Additional changes that were significant to the real estate industry include:
- The removal of language that would have otherwise reduced the funds the Ohio Housing Trust Fund receives by 50 percent.
- Restores the Ohio Historical Tax credit, but requires a study be conducted this year to explore changing it from a tax credit to a grant program.
- Authorizes $29 million dollars for the Buckeye Lake Dam project and includes a $500,000 small business loan program.
The overall cut in taxes would be $1.85 billion with an across-the-board 6.3 percent cut to income taxes, bringing Ohio’s top bracket to 4.997 percent meeting the Governor’s goal of having a top rate below 5 percent.
Overall this budget provides an opportunity for continued growth in the real estate market and continues Ohio down the path to economic recovery.
“Ohio’s REALTORS are committed to building a better and stronger real estate marketplace, one that allows property owners to realize the American Dream and propels the overall economy of Ohio forward,” said OAR President Greg Hrabcak. “We commend lawmakers for striving to boost Ohio’s competitiveness through tax reform and believe the changes contained in the General Assembly’s budget package will ensure that state’s real estate sector continues to establish a solid foundation for a sustainable, growing marketplace.”