JCSU & Piedmont Public Policy Institute Host June 7 Forum on Impact of Land Use Regulation on Housing Costs
REBIC joined the leadership of the Charlotte Regional REALTOR® Association (CRRA) in Washington, D.C. last week to discuss housing issues with North Carolina’s U.S. Senators and Congressmen during the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR)’s annual Legislative Midyear Meetings.
Our visit to Capitol Hill began in the historic Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building, home to some of the most dramatic Senate proceedings of the past century, including the Watergate Hearings and investigations into Pearl Harbor and the sinking of the Titanic.
At a breakfast hosted by the North Carolina Association of REALTORS® (NCAR), we joined members from across our state for an hour-long dialogue with Senators Richard Burr (R) and Kay Hagan (D), who appeared separately to make remarks and answer questions about their positions on key housing issues.
Then, following a visit to the Senate Gallery to watch our nation’s highest legislative body debate, we visited separately with Congressmen Robert Pittenger (R) and Mel Watt (D) in their Capitol Hill offices.
Realtors® asked our Mecklenburg County representatives to preserve the Mortgage Interest Deduction (MID) in the federal tax code, to protect and strengthen the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)’s mortgage financing policies, and to restructure Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to ensure that affordable home loans continue to be available to all consumers.
REBIC and CRRA will continue to engage our federal legislators on these critical issues in the months to come. Thanks to all our Realtor® members who took the time to join us in Washington last week to bring the important message of homeownership to our nation’s capitol!
The end of Crossover Week in Raleigh means the 2013 session of the North Carolina General Assembly is at last approaching the home stretch, even as Sine Die appears to be at least another month away. So as our legislators gear up for what’s certain to be a hectic race to the finish line, let’s review the status of some bills that could impact the real estate industry, and where they go from here.
- HB 150 (Zoning/Design & Aesthetic Controls): Would prohibit local governments from enacting design requirements on single-family homes, townhomes and duplexes. Where is it now? After passing the House overwhelmingly in March, the bill was favorably reported out of Senate Commerce in April. It now sits in Senate Rules, after being pulled from the floor calendar just hours before a scheduled vote.
- HB 773 (Local Gvmts/Buildings/Structures/Inspections): Would tighten restrictions on local Rental Registration programs, including mandatory universal registration of rental properties, posting requirements and misdemeanor penalties. It would effectively rollback most of Charlotte’s expansive Rental Registration program. Where is it now? Passed the House on May 14th, now awaiting a hearing in Senate Commerce.
- HB 802 (Landlord/Tenant/Shorten Eviction Time): Would shorten, by as much as two weeks, the eviction process for a non-paying tenant. Where is it now? Passed the House on May 14th, now awaiting a hearing in Senate Judiciary.
- HB 120 (Building Codes/Local Consistency): Would extend the existing building code revision cycle for residential construction from 3 to 6 years, and prevent local building code departments from requiring any more than the 8 inspections currently authorized under the state’s Administrative Code. Where is it now? Passed the House overwhelmingly in March, now awaiting a hearing in Senate Commerce.
- HB 201 (Reinstate 2009 Energy Conservation Codes): Would repeal the 2012 North Carolina Energy Conservation Code for commercial buildings, and reinstate the 2009 Energy Code. An amendment approved in committee would preserve the 2012 Residential Energy Conservation Code, as most home builders had already amended their construction plans to comply. Where is it now? Passed the House on May 14th, now awaiting a hearing in Senate Commerce.
- HB 480 (Environmental Permitting Reform): Would creating minimum design criteria and fast-track permitting for stormwater permits. Where is it now? Passed the House in March, now awaiting a hearing in Senate Commerce.
- HB 276 (Zoning/Board of Adjustment Changes): Would give property owners and land developers better standing when they bring a case before their local Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). Where is it now? Passed House in April, now awaiting a hearing in Senate Commerce.
- HB 200 (Require Certain General Reappraisals): Would require Mecklenburg County to conduct a full revaluation of properties in its tax digest and issue refunds to property owners when necessary. Where is it now? Passed House on May 2, now awaiting a hearing in Senate Finance.
- HB 74 (Periodic Review & Expiration of Rules): Would require the sunset and evaluation of most state regulations every 10 years. Where is it now? Passed the House on May 14th, now awaiting a hearing in Senate Rules. A similar Senate bill (SB 32), failed to make the May 16 crossover deadline.
- SB 612 (Regulatory Reform Act of 2013): Among other things, would prohibit cities and counties from enacting ordinances that are more stringent that existing state or federal regulations. Where is it now? Passed the Senate on May 2nd, now awaiting a hearing in House Reg Reform.
- SB 638 (NC Farm Act of 2013): Would effectively eliminate permit requirements for isolated wetlands. Where is it now? Passed the Senate on May 9th, now awaiting a hearing in House Agriculture.
And don’t forget: there are at least three separate Tax Reform Plans floating through the General Assembly — some even have actual legislation attached. Because these plans deal directly with fiscal and budget issues, they were not required to meet the Crossover deadline, and may not even be voted on in committee until after Memorial Day. So while thousands of North Carolina families head out on vacation in June, it’s entirely possible that our state legislators could spend the month in the same place they’ve been since late January: inside that sprawling white building on Jones Street in Raleigh.
The CONNECT Our Future project, a fourteen county area of North and South Carolina and led by the Centralina Council of Governments (CCOG), is embarking on an effort to prepare a regional growth framework, one that grows jobs and the economy, improves quality of life and controls the cost of government. The project is supported by a substantial US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Sustainable Communities Grant and local in-kind public and private matching resources. As part of this effort, the CCOG is creating a Comprehensive Regional Housing Strategy.
A critical piece of the housing evaluation is a survey to identify whether barriers to fair housing choice exist, such as limitations in available choice in rental markets, public and private policies and practices that inadvertently lead to housing discrimination, or poor practices in mortgage lending, insurance, or appraisal industries.
A second survey seeks feedback on the overall Housing Needs in the Charlotte Region.
We hope that you will take advantage of the opportunity to take part in this important research effort. Each of the online surveys should take less than 10 minutes to complete.
Please feel free to forward this post and the online survey link to anyone else you feel would like to participate in this research!
Before a packed press room at the State Legislative Building, Senate President Pro-Tem Phil Berger (R-Eden) joined Senators Bob Rucho (R-Matthews) and Bill Rabon (R-Southport) to outline the Tax Fairness Act, their vision for achieving a more than 3-point reduction in North Carolina’s personal income tax rate, along with a nearly 1 percent cut in the corporate rate. The reductions would occur over 3 years, and be largely funded through a dramatic expansion of the state sales tax to more than 100 services that are presently exempt. Which services specifically would be taxed is unclear, and likely to remain that way until actual legislation is filed sometime before the end of May.
The absence of a bill also leaves everyone guessing as to the other provisions in the proposal, but here’s what we could surmise from the press conference:
- The personal income tax would drop from a top rate of 7.75% to a flat rate of 4.5% in 3 years. AGIs below $15,000 would be exempt by year 3 of the plan.
- The corporate tax rate would drop from 6.9% to 6.0%, and the calculation for multi-state corporations would change to a “Single Sales Factor” would tax only those sales in North Carolina.
- The state portion of the sales tax would expand, but the rate would drop from 6.75% to 6.5%.
- The state’s Franchise Tax will be expanded to all business entities, including LLCs and sole proprietorships. No mention of what the rate would be, but similar proposals have Franchise Taxes ranging from 0.125% to 0.135%, with a minimum annual fee of $500 and a maximum of $5,000 (except for holding companies, which would pay more).
- Businesses that pay the Franchise Tax would enjoy an exemption from the sales tax on all Business-to-Business transactions.
- Berger mentioned that all federal tax deductions are protected — which is nice, since the State of North Carolina has no authority to repeal them. There was no mention of protecting any state tax deductions, such as the Mortgage Interest and Property Tax deductions, which might lead one to assume they are NOT protected in the proposal.
“Make no mistake,” Berger said, “there are a variety of special interests who would prefer to preserve the status quo, and the special treatment that they’ve been accustomed to for decades, at the expense of the average family. It’s not our role as elected officials to pick the winners and losers in our economy.”
The Berger/Rucho plan is already feeling heat over its proposed sales tax expansion, which would effectively be a tax increase on those families that don’t currently pay any income tax in North Carolina. Berger directed anyone with questions to try out the Tax Calculator on his Tax Fairness Act website, but a day later, the Civitas Institute, a pro-Tax Reform group, was calling that same Calculator “misleading,” after press reports showed that lower-income households would pay more.
Another indication of the uphill battle facing the proposal is the decidedly lukewarm reception it received by House Speaker Thom Tillis and Governor Pat McCrory. Neither were represented at yesterday’s press conference, and Tillis could muster no greater compliment than calling the proposal a “positive first step.”
REBIC will continue to track this proposal, along with the others that are slowly winding their way through the General Assembly. We’ll let you know as soon as actual legislation is produced, but until then, you can watch a video of yesterday’s press conference HERE.
You are invited to an historic event on May 21: A public forum featuring four decades of Charlotte mayors. Current Mayor Anthony Foxx and former mayors Pat McCrory, Richard Vinroot, Sue Myrick, Harvey Gantt and Eddie Knox will come together on one stage to discuss their hopes and dreams for the future of Charlotte in this public event sponsored by the Charlotte Observer, PNC Bank and Central Piedmont Community College.
This historic discussion comes at an intriguing time in Charlotte’s history. A crucial mayoral election looms while concerns swirl over the city’s future: growth without annexation, the widening gap between the affluent and poor and rising tensions over control of the airport and a persistently high unemployment rate.
Award-winning documentarian and TV journalist Steve Crump will moderate the evening. Audience members will be allowed to ask questions. The free forum begins at 7 p.m. at CPCC’s Dale F. Halton Theater in the Overcash Building, 1206 Elizabeth Ave. Complimentary parking is available in the adjacent parking deck. See map here.
Doors will open at 6, and a dessert, wine and coffee reception will follow the forum. Registration is encouraged. Audience questions will be taken prior to the forum, using the registration form below.
Any questions? Contact Observer editor Jen Rothacker, 704-358-5081, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
What: Public forum: An Evening with Charlotte’s Mayors
Sponsors: The Charlotte Observer, PNC Bank and Central Piedmont Community College.
When: 7-9 p.m. May 21.
Where: CPCC’s Dale F. Halton Theater in the Overcash Building, 1206 Elizabeth Ave., Charlotte.
Cost: Free, but registration required.
Parking: Free in the Overcash parking deck, located off Fourth Street. See map here.
Seating: Doors open at 6 p.m.
For more information: Observer editor Jen Rothacker, 704-358-5081 or email@example.com
Did you know that, under Charlotte’s current regulations, a restaurant that does nothing more than provide live piano music for its guests could run afoul of its zoning provisions? Or that a restaurant owner who hires a balloon artist to entertain children during dinner could have his establishment classified as a nightclub?
With its vague definitions of restaurants and nightclubs, the City’s existing zoning code creates a great deal of confusion for owners and operators of dining establishments, as well as for the commercial brokers who need clarity to understand whether or not a particular use will be allowed on a client’s property. But an effort is underway to change that.
In Charlotte today, a restaurant is defined as, “An establishment designed, in whole or in part, to accommodate the consumption of food and/or beverages.” The only other recognized use for a dining establishment is a nightclub, which is defined as, “Any commercial establishment serving alcoholic beverages and providing entertainment for patrons including bars, lounges and cabarets.” Nowhere in the current zoning ordinance is the word “entertainment” defined.
As a result, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between restaurants, nightclubs and bars, and between 2010 and 2011, the city issued more than 29 notices of violation to establishments that failed to comply with their zoning conditions (most were for separation requirements). So in 2011, the City began the process of developing new definitions for restaurants, bars and nightclubs, to eliminate confusion and provide greater flexibility for property owners. The process was put on hold in 2012 while the Noise Ordinance was updated, and got underway again late last year.
The stakeholder group is currently considering whether to create a zoning definition for an “Eating, Drinking and Entertainment Establishment,” which would replace the current definitions for restaurants, nightclubs and bars. REBIC is evaluating the proposed language, which is summarized HERE. We welcome any input from our broker and commercial developer members on this important subject.
The next Stakeholder Meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 9 at 6 p.m. at the Government Center. Anyone interested in the issue is encouraged to attend. For more information on the City’s Restaurant/Bar/Nightclub stakeholder group, click HERE.