Pillow Talk – Advocacy by The Numbers – One Third

by Perry Pillow, AATC's Director of Government Affairs

I have been blessed to have visited some of the world’s great art galleries: Louvre and Orsay Paris; Uffizi and Accademia in Florence; Vatican and Sistine Chapel in Rome; National Gallery in Washington, and our own Kimbell in Fort Worth. I am awed and amazed by art. But I am not an artist. The only art I am capable of is painting by the numbers!  

When it comes to advocacy, many AATC members have similar feelings. You may be awed by the process and amazed that anything ever gets done in government, but you are not an advocate. You are a numbers person (NOI, Cap Rates, values, interest rates, etc.). Great news, for the next twelve months, we are going to discuss advocacy, math, and numbers.  

The first advocacy number you need to grasp is: 1/3  

The President of the United States and the Governor of Texas are 1/3 of the legislative process. After the dust settles and the sausage is made, the President and Governor have the last word. They either approve (sign) or disapprove (veto) all bills that are passed by their respective legislative branch: Congress or the Texas Legislature. That final-say invests a lot of power in one person!    

Consider, each United States Senator is only 1/100th of the legislative process, and each member of the U.S. House is only 1/435th! In Austin, Texas Senators are only 1/31st, and Texas House members are only 1/150th of the process!   

Bottom line: POTUS & Governor are kind of a big deal! In addition to their administrative and executive duties, POTUS & Governor are the most important players when it comes to advocacy.  

2021 TEXAS LEGISLATURE SESSION BEGINS – The 140-day Texas Legislature session begins Tuesday, January 12th, and ends Monday, May 31st. This year’s session will be dominated by two issues: the budget and redistricting. Texas currently faces an approximately $4 billion budget shortfall in its $250 billion biennial budget. This funding gap means lawmakers will need a combination of accounting adjustments, additional revenues, and/or cuts to achieved a constitutionally mandated balanced budget. Redistricting occurs every ten years (post-U.S. Census). Drawing Congressional, State Senate, and State Representative districts is the most politically charged task the legislature undertakes. No one fully grasps how COVID-19 will impact the legislative process. Also, Dade Phelan (R – Orange) expects to be elected Speaker of the House.   

Despite new leadership, COVID-19, redistricting, and financial pressures, AATC members’ interests are extremely well represented in Austin. AATC members Craig Goldman (R – Fort Worth) and Stephanie Klick (R – Fort Worth) serve in the Texas House and TAA’s government relations team: Chris Newton, Sandy Hoy, David Mintz, and Kyle Jackson are top-notch. While TAA will not be pursuing affirmative, industry-related legislation this session, TAA members and staff will work tirelessly to prevent adverse industry-related legislation from becoming law.  

ARLINGTON CITY COUNCIL MEMBER MYERS WINS RUN-OFF ELECTION – AATC friend and long-serving Arlington City Council At-Large member Victoria Myers overwhelmingly won her December 8th run-off election with 82% of the vote. Councilmember Myers works closely with AATC to ensure that our industry’s perspective is considered during city policy discussions. In the other significant Tarrant County municipal run-off election, Rev. Michael Evans (53%) defeated councilmember Brent Newsome (43%) in the Mansfield Mayor race. Long-serving Mansfield Mayor David Cook won the open HD 96 state representative seat in November. Evans is the first African American mayor of Mansfield. AATC looks forward to working with Councilmember Myers and Mayor Evans.  

RENTAL ASSISTANCE FOLLOW-UP QUESTIONS – Just a reminder, if you or your residents have questions or concerns about the status of rental assistance payments, you can use the below links to contact the City of Arlington, City of Fort Worth, and Tarrant County housing officials.   https://www.aatcnet.org/coronavirus.html. If your property is in Fort Worth, call Sonia Singleton at sonia.singleton@fortworthtexas.gov or (817)392-5774. For Arlington properties, contact Love Kelly at love.kelly@arlingtonhousing.us or (817) 276-6762. For all other properties in Tarrant County, contact (817) 850-7940.  

CDC EVICTION ORDER EXTENDED UNTIL JANUARY 31ST – Congress has extended the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction moratorium until January 31st. 

The order:  

  • applies to virtually all rental housing providers.   
  • prohibits any eviction action during the covered period; and  
  • states that any person or organization that violates the order may be subject to up to $500,000 in fines per violation and/or jail time.  

The order DOES NOT:  

  • prevent evictions based on the lawful reasons articulated in the order.   
  • prevent housing providers from charging late fees and penalties; and  
  • eliminate the resident’s obligations under the lease,   

For renters to be eligible for the order’s protections, they must provide a declaration under penalty of perjury to their housing provider indicating the following:  

  • The individual has used best efforts to obtain rental assistance.  
  • The individual expects to earn no more than $99,000 (no more than $198,000 when filing jointly); was not required to report income in 2019 to the IRS; or received a stimulus check pursuant to the CARES Act.  
  • The individual is unable to pay their full rent due to several factors that remain unconnected to COVID-19.  
  • The individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments; and  
  • Eviction would likely render the individual homeless or force the individual to move into and live-in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting because the individual has no other available housing options.  

This guidance is not intended to be state specific and should be used in conjunction with advice from local legal counsel to interpret these requirements considering existing federal, state, and local eviction laws.  

SAGINAW – $75 PER UNIT PER YEAR INSPECTION FEE – The city of Saginaw has enacted a $75 per unit per year inspection fee and an inspection regime that inspects 100% of the units (occupied and unoccupied). AATC members and staff are meeting with Saginaw officials in January to address this onerous fee and program.  

FY21 AATC MUNICIPAL FEE SURVEY – Local governments adopt their fiscal year taxes and fees in October. AATC post this information on the AATC website on November 1st. Click on the following link  https://www.aatcnet.org/local-fees-and-taxes to see the population, fee, and tax information for Fiscal Year 2021 for the ten largest cities in Tarrant County. Significant takeaways from this year’s data include: 

  1. Each city has gained a population, with Fort Worth approaching 900,000 and Arlington at more than 400,000. 
  2. City tax rates remained flat, with Arlington slightly reducing its rate. 
  3. Water rates continue the recent upward trend.  

Perry Pillow is AATC’s Director of Government Affairs. For more information, contact Perry at pillow@aatcnet.org or call 817-616-0354.