REALTORS® help Romeoville home owners avoid fire sprinkler mandate

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Before the Romeoville village board voted to update its building and fire codes on March 1 and exclude single family residences from a fire sprinkler mandate, Illinois REALTORS® made sure decision makers knew about the negative impacts of such a mandate.

During the village board meeting, Gideon Blustein, local government affairs director, acknowledged safety improvements that come with code updates but explained to the Mayor and Village Board our association’s position on residential fire sprinkler mandates. Blustein distributed copies of the Illinois REALTORS® “Impact of Mandating Residential Fire Sprinklers” study and explained to the village board some of the reasons why our members oppose a mandate for single-family residences.

Gideon Blustein

Those reasons include:

  • Without sprinklers, newly constructed single-family homes already have a significantly lower instance of fire fatalities than older homes;
  • The cost of installing sprinklers makes the price of new homes so high it reduces affordability for consumers;
  • Mandates take choice away from home owners;
  • Mandates discourage newer, safer housing from being built; and
  • Mandates can preserve less safe construction.

Following a positive conversation with the village manager, the fire marshal and fire chief, Blustein says the Romeoville village board voted to update to the 2015 International Building, Residential and Fire codes but not require new single family homes to be built with fire sprinklers.


TRAR helps Peotone plan for future growth and development

Judy Panozzo and Jim Sim present a check from the Three Rivers Association of REALTORS® (TRAR) to Peotone Mayor Steve Cross and the village board of trustees. Others present for the ceremony include Barbara Sim and Gideon Blustein from TRAR, and Patrick Bowden, Kevin Hack, Kent Hamm, Roy Hupke, Michael Jones and Peter March from the board. #REALTORparty #IL

The Three Rivers Association of REALTORS® (TRAR) presented the village of Peotone with $16,500 to conduct a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) study at the February village board meeting.

“The ability to implement a TIF District for the village of Peotone’s downtown area is imperative for its future growth and development. Without a sustainable downtown area, residential, commercial or industrial growth can be hindered,” said Gideon Blustein, a local government affairs director for the Illinois Association of REALTORS®.

Out of the $16,500 presented to Peotone, TRAR secured $15,000 through the National Association of REALTORS® Smart Growth Action Grants that encourage REALTOR® participation in community and economic development. TRAR is a non-profit organization that represents over 900 members in Will and Grundy counties dedicated to professional and ethical service to their real estate clients.

Recent growth trends have the village positioned to be a metropolitan center for surrounding communities. However, current residential and commercial capacity design do not meet future land use, transportation and growth needs. Proper planning must be done focusing primarily on the revitalization of the deteriorating downtown area. Also needed is new infrastructure and improved traffic patterns that will accommodate larger commercial businesses as well as provide pedestrian walkways and bike paths necessary for the health, safety and welfare of the community.

One of the ways the village plans to accomplish this is by designating a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) District in downtown Peotone. The designation of the TIF district in downtown Peotone will enable the village to work with local merchants and new developers to enhance the area through public private partnerships.

A TIF can be in place for 23 years during which time the village has an opportunity to capture incremental property taxes to reinvest in the TIF District. It will also have the ability to market the downtown area to both existing and potential developers as a TIF with available development incentives. As downtown Peotone is enhanced, other areas of the municipality should grow and prosper as well. New residential development occurs along with new commercial growth.


REALTORS® rein in Zion’s nuisance property ordinance


The Illinois REALTORS® does not just advocate against transfer taxes and government pre-sale home inspections — we took the lead in reining in the city of Zion’s chronic nuisance property abatement ordinance that was, among other things, targeting sexual assault and crime victims.

Zion’s chronic nuisance property abatement ordinance authorizes city staff to contact property owners when two of 13 defined nuisance activities are found to have occurred within a 180 day period. If a property owner does not respond or a proposed plan of action is not mutually agreed upon, the property must be shut-down for a period of 30 to 180 days and all occupants, regardless of culpability, must immediately vacate the building and be subject to homelessness. Other penalties include civil fines and judicial remedy.

The Illinois REALTORS® has long maintained concerns with these types of ordinances that often penalize property owners for seeking police assistance – the police services they pay for. Echoing our concerns, the Sargent Shriver Center on National Poverty Law, writes, in their report, the Cost of Being “Crime Free”: Legal and Practical Consequences of Crime Free Rental Housing and Nuisance Property Ordinances, “these ordinances present numerous potential pitfalls that can cause serious harm to tenant households, landlords, and the community at large and expose municipalities to legal liability.”

Upon hearing of escalated and abusive enforcement, the Mainstreet Organization of REALTORS® (MORe) Lake County Government Affairs Committee took the lead in investigating, and uncovered, among other concerns, that the city was violating its own policy by enforcing the ordinance even in cases of just one alleged nuisance instance and breaking Illinois law by enforcing the ordinance against the disabled and victims of domestic and sexual violence at risk.

According to a front page Lake County News-Sun story profiling our findings, Zion Mayor Al Hill says the city is now sending far fewer violation notices, no longer enforcing against crime victims, and violation notices now must have supervisory approval.

Illinois REALTORS® and MORe will continue to monitor this ordinance for continued abuse. To read the Lake County News-Sun’s story on Zion’s ordinance, click here; to read the Lake County News-Sun’s editorial calling the ordinance “misguided,” go here.

Rent control bill introduced in Illinois House

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A Chicago lawmaker has introduced legislation to do away with state prohibitions on rent control.

Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, represents areas in and around Logan Square, where he says property values and rents are driving people out of the area. (The bill text is here).

Rent control in Illinois was outlawed in 1997. A rent control policy limits how much money can be charged for housing, and has been seen by some as a way to keep people from being pushed out of highly desirable areas.

But, as a Sun-Times editorial points out, rent controls have unintended consequences. The policy can eliminate financial incentives to build new housing units and for some landlords, to improve existing units.

As the editorial states:

Rents for some apartments hold steady while rents for others shoot up to make up the difference when the demand is high. An illegal black market develops as one renter quietly tries to pass an apartment along to another renter — sometimes demanding a kickback — without the landlord catching on.

The editorial notes that encouraging affordable development strategies makes sense. For example, locating a apartment or condo complex near public transit hubs can ensure people have easy access to the city. Such a policy may also reduce the need for parking places which in turn drives down development costs.

As of Wednesday, the bill had been assigned to the House Rules Committee.

Key tax code fight may be brewing for real estate industry

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The fight to maintain key tax code provisions under a new presidential administration is expected to heat up in 2017, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

A plan floated in June by GOP members of the U.S. House may gain traction, and it could in its unaltered form have huge ramifications for the real estate industry. The so-called blueprint would get rid of state and local property tax deductions and even target the Mortgage Interest Deduction.

The way the tax code changes would be crafted could make it less attractive to itemize on tax returns. The plan would preserve the Mortgage Interest Deduction, but greatly reduce the number of people using it, the article states.

And in Illinois, a state with some of the highest property taxes in the nation, eliminating the state/local property tax deduction would result in a big financial hit for homeowners.

The article notes in particular the threats that could face commercial real estate practitioners because of the way depreciation would be handled.

According to the article:

The House plan would eliminate depreciation for real-estate companies as well as other businesses. Instead, buyers of real estate would be able to treat the entire cost of buying a property—excluding land—as a business expense that could be used to reduce income. If a buyer didn’t have enough income in the year they bought the building, they could be able to carry the expense forward into future years as a net operating loss.

NAR’s lobbyists have been very clear they expect major efforts at tax reform. Any of these policies, if implemented, could have a profound impact on the market and could potentially dampen already depressed homeownership rates.

Moreover, there is still an open question about the fate of the 1031 Like-Kind Exchange, which is an important for encouraging real estate investment and which is widely used.