Gov't Affairs, Govt - National Assoc. of Realtors® (NAR)

Mortgage Cancellation Debt Relief Update

Congress failed to act before December 31st to extend the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act. NAR says now that it appears that Congress will most likely address individual tax provisions retroactively in 2014.  While there are still many procedural obstacles to overcome, NAR is confident Congress will move on an extension of Mortgage Cancellation relief.  As was the case with a previous extension, Congress is expected to retroactively apply Mortgage Cancellation relief to include transactions between January 1, 2014 and the enactment of the extension.  While the Senate has pledged to act early in 2014, the timing of a house vote is far less certain as House Republicans contemplate a vote on a larger tax reform package.

Flood Insurance Update: U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (New York) announced on Jan. 7 that his bipartisan legislation that would protect homeowners from facing huge flood insurance premium rate hikes will receive a vote in the Senate this month. The bill, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, will require the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to complete an affordability study and propose real solutions to address flood insurance affordability issues before flood insurance premiums can be raised.

New Water Rule Could Increase Development Costs: Last September the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) announced a joint proposed rule that purports to clarify which streams, wetlands and other waters are “waters of the United States” and subject to jurisdiction under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA).

If the agencies are successful in gaining support for the rule, the impact would be significant. In fact, according to the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers own analysis, developers, mining companies, landowners and other permit applicants will incur the greatest costs if the rule is implemented. These parties could be required to mitigate losses of wetlands and streams and to obtain dredge-and-fill permits and stormwater runoff permits under the proposed rule.

The agencies sent the proposed rule to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) but have not yet released it to the public.  The rule could also be published in the Federal Register in early 2014, which would also provide a venue for public scrutiny.

The agencies have focused on the rule’s benefits in terms of environmental protection as well as enhanced recreational and fishing opportunities. NAR, along with the Waters Advocacy Coalition, has serious concerns about the credibility of this analysis and will be submitting its own economic impact analysis when the proposed rule is released for public review and comment.

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