THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®
Submitted to the Senate Environment
and Public Works Committee
for the March 6, 2002 Hearing on
S. 975 The Community Character Act,
S. 1079 The Brownfield Site Redevelopment Assistance Act
and EPA Smart Growth Initiatives
Thank you for the opportunity to submit for the record the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS’® comments on S. 975, the Community Character Act; S. 1079, the Brownfield Site Redevelopment Act; and EPA Smart Growth Initiatives.
Land development and growth, and planning for this growth, is an issue facing many of our communities. We believe growth should be encouraged as it is a stimulus to the economy, increases the tax base, provides places to live and work, and offers opportunities that would not otherwise exist. We also realize the responsibility REALTORS® have to educate and work with local, state, and Federal government officials in developing responsible growth planning that is equitable and which considers the divergent needs of transportation, housing, agriculture, commercial, industrial, and environmental concerns.
In considering the issue of Smart Growth, the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® identified five principles that we believe must be addressed in any Smart Growth policies:
1. Provide Housing Opportunity and Choice. Despite the housing market’s strength in recent years, and the achievement of an all-time-high 68 percent homeownership rate, both the supply of and the demand for affordable housing -- in both the rental and sales markets, and in both existing homes and new development -- remains a serious issue in communities throughout the nation. Smart growth policies must foster a wide range of housing choices at all price levels to suit a diverse population. These objectives will have to be met primarily through market-driven approaches.
2. Build Better Communities. Livable communities offer a variety of affordable housing choices in an environment with good schools, low crime, efficient transportation systems, ample recreation and park facilities, open space, a strong employment base, and an economically viable commercial real estate sector.
3. Protect the Environment. Governments at all levels should consider policies and program that aid the control of pollution; provide for programs that encourage preservation of natural resources, significant land and properties of historic significance, and further encourage, through incentives, the protection of aquifers, rivers and streams, agricultural lands, wetlands, scenic vistas, natural areas, and open space. In adopting environmental protection policies, the Federal government must recognize the importance of local decision-making.
4. Protect Private Property Rights. Land use policies at all levels of government must recognize the importance of private property rights. Private property rights are fundamental to our free-market economic system and are protected by the 5th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution. The continued strength of our nation’s economy depends on the preservation of the right to freely own, use and transfer real property.
5. Implement Fair and Reasonable Public Sector Fiscal Measures. To support adequately the infrastructure needs of communities resulting from growth, governments at all levels should cooperate in the adoption of balanced, fair, equitable and incentive-based approaches to finance and pay for the development, expansion and maintenance of roads, schools, water and sewer facilities. Revenue and financing mechanisms established to pay for necessary infrastructure costs should be shared proportionately by those segments of the population that are served by the improvements.
S. 975, Community Character Act.
The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS supports the Community Character Act, which would provide grants to States for land use planning. NAR supports this bill because the bill:
Additionally, we support the following specific elements of S. 975:
We would like to stress that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to land use planning or state planning statutes. Professional planners, planning commissioners, elected officials, and citizens should study a wide variety of land use planning approaches before deciding what is best for their State or local community. Land use planning should remain a State and local government function, and neither the Federal government nor any particular professional organization should impose its version of planning statutes on the States. We support the Community Character Act with the understanding that nothing in the Act would oblige a state to adopt any particular approach to land use planning or regulation.
S. 1079, Brownfield Site Redevelopment Assistance Act of 2001
NAR has been committed to brownfields reform for many years, and enactment of such legislation is our top environmental priority in the 107th Congress. We were strong advocates of the Small Business Liability Relief and Brownfields Revitalization Act, which was recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush. By addressing brownfields liability and funding concerns, this new legislation provides the certainty necessary for the real estate industry to move forward and undertake redevelopment of brownfields sites throughout the country. Through a reinvigorated cooperative effort between government and private business interests, EPA's Brownfields Economic Redevelopment Initiative will successfully promote brownfields redevelopment for years to come.
In that same spirit, NAR supports S. 1079, the Brownfield Site Redevelopment Assistance Act. In accordance with its mission, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) works in partnership with state and local governments to help economically-distressed communities attract private capital investment and create employment opportunities. EDA's support of brownfields redevelopment is an important complement to EPA's program. By providing grants to redevelop brownfields sites and put them to new and productive uses, S. 1079 will provide a cleaner and safer environment, increase the tax base and create jobs.
We are pleased to be a partner with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the Smart Growth Network. We support the two Smart Growth initiatives recently announced by the EPA Administrator, Governor Whitman: an EPA National Award for Smart Growth Achievement to recognize and publicize exemplary development; and a program to help local planners better integrate brownfields redevelopment and open space preservation through grants and technical assistance.
Thank you for the opportunity to express our views.