Pillow Talk – Advocacy Tip #7 – Know Your Strategy

Last month, we explored AATC Advocacy Tip #6: Know How to Keep Score. In politics, like life, you win some, you lose some, but, more importantly, you must live to fight another day. This month’s tip takes our approach to advocacy to the next level: Know Your Strategy. Advocacy is not playing checkers; advocacy is playing chess—multi-layered, Star Wars – “let the Wookie win” type chess. 

My all-time, absolute favorite movie is The Godfather. It is the greatest movie of all time – okay, it is not Dumb & Dumber—but The Godfather features an incredible cast, fantastic plot, an amazing script, and haunting cinemaphotography. Beyond these superlatives, The Godfather delivers memorable dialogue after memorable dialogue: “make him an offer he can’t refuse,” “leave the gun, take the cannoli,” “sleep with the fishes,” and my favorite: “hold your friends close, your enemies closer.” 

When it comes to advocacy, holding your enemies closer means knowing everything you can about their background, their motives, their tactics, their votes, their resume, their constituents, their contributors, their friends, etc. In the realm of politics, this information is called opposition research. In the multifamily owner/operator universe, we call this due diligence. Before you buy a property or take over the management of a property, you and your team learn everything humanly possible about the asset’s fiscal and physical condition. You walk the property. You drive the neighborhood. You shop the comps.   

Too many real estate deals fail because owners/managers did not do thorough due diligence. A little extra effort on the front end prevents disaster later. Similarly, successful advocacy requires rigorous due diligence. 

AATC, TAA, and NAA government relations staffs do extensive research on candidates and elect officials. Apartment Association staffs’ job is to equip association members with the knowledge you need to succeed.  

You need to know that a state representative’s car was towed when she visited her daughter’s apartment. You need to understand that a city council member voted against an apartment development in another council member’s district because that other council member agreed to support building a new playground in their council district. You need to know that a congress member voted to extend the eviction moratorium because, as a child, his family used housing choice vouchers. You need to know that the mayor pro tem is an accountant with an MBA in finance; therefore, she looks at all public policy issues through her efficiency lens, whether the government action is effective. 

You need to know, within AATC’s jurisdiction, there are more than 210,000 rental units. Tarrant County has a population that exceeds 2 million, with Fort Worth (900,000) and Arlington (400,000) being the largest cities. The latest census data estimates that there are 700,000 renters in Tarrant County. More importantly, there are no established, sustained organizations or groups that advocate for renters’ rights or against our industry in Tarrant County. Instead, our opposition is on a case-by-case basis from ad hoc citizens organizations, single-family homeowner groups, and neighborhood associations. These HOA oppose new multifamily developments: NIMBYism, CAVE people (Citizens Against Virtually Everything), etc. Most importantly, AATC advocacy efforts primarily focus on convincing conservative, pro-business, Republican, church-going folks that apartments are not the genesis of all evils in the world.  

We keep our friends close, our enemies closer.   

COVID-19 MASKS REQUIRED UNTIL NOVEMBER 30 – Face masks are required in all Tarrant County businesses until November 30. Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley issued the new executive order on August 25 as coronavirus cases are increasing rapidly throughout Texas.   

TARRANT COUNTY JP CARES Act EVICTIONS –There is good news and bad news about how Tarrant County Justice of the Peace courts handle evictions under the federal CARES Act. The good news first: Tarrant County justice courts agree that the CARES Act eviction moratorium ended on July 24 and that 30-day Notice to Vacate (NTV) could have been issued as early as July 25. The bad news: 1) Tarrant County justice courts interpret the CARES Act 30-day NTV to be in effect ad infinitum (it does not expire). For example, if a tenant in a CARES Act covered property paid their rent during the eviction moratorium period, and each month after but does not pay December 2020 rent, then a property owner must issue a 30-day notice to vacate. Same for January 2021, February 2021, etc. 2) Based on input from an Assistant Tarrant County District Attorney, Tarrant County JP’s are applying CARES Act 30-day notice to vacate to all units if a property only has one Housing Choice Voucher (HCV)! For example, if a 300-unit property only has one unit subject to the CARES Act, JPs are basing this on their interpretation of “dwelling” and “covered property” in the CARES Act. 3) The CARES Act 30-day NTV applies for all evictions—except imminent threat. For example, if filing an eviction based on unauthorized occupant – then you must give 30-day NTV 

COVID-19 RENT ASSISTANCE – $8 MILLION STILL AVAILABLE – If you have residents that need rental assistance, urge them to contact the City of Arlington, City of Fort Worth, and Tarrant County housing officials. You can use the following link to help your residents:  https://www.aatcnet.org/coronavirus.html. Arlington, Fort Worth, and Tarrant County still have more than $8 million in unused rental assistance funds. Fort Worth officials have received more than 2,600 applications for COVID-19 rental assistance but have rejected more than 2,100 (80%). Fort Worth officials assert that these rejections are primarily based on incomplete paperwork and residents’ failure to follow-up. AATC continues to work with the cities of Fort Worth and Arlington and Tarrant County officials on COVID-19 rental assistance programs. These rental assistance funds are limited and are available to assist with rent payments for renters directly affected by COVID-19. Rent payments will be made directly to property owners—not the residents.  

ARLINGTON, FORT WORTH & TARRANT COUNTY PROPERTY TAXES – Tarrant County cities, school districts, and other taxing entities are adopting their 2021 fiscal year (begins October 1, 2020) budgets, including their ad valorum tax rates. The good news is that Tarrant County ($.234 per $100) and Fort Worth ($.7474 per $100) keep their 2021 rate the same. The better news is that the City of Arlington is scheduled to decrease its rate to $.6225 per $100 down from $.624 per $100. The bad news is that Fort Worth ISD is raising its rate by 7.5% form $1.282 per $100 to $1.378 per $100. The most populous Texas counties are required by state law to supply online access to Truth in Taxation Info that illustrates the impact of municipal tax rates. Tarrant County property owners will be able to access this information beginning August 1 at www.tarranttaxinfo.com    

ELECTED OFFICIAL MEETINGS – Last month, AATC members and staff met with Arlington City Council member Victoria Myers and State Representative Phil King (R – Weatherford). AATC’s Government Affairs Committee and NextGen Committee will host a town hall meeting on September 17, State Representative Nicole Collier, HD 95 (D – Fort Worth). 

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