Hello, fellow industry professionals! Last week, we gathered in the bustling city of Washington D.C. for the annual National Apartment Association Advocate Conference. As a long-time attendee, this event has been an incredible journey of personal growth and a deepening commitment to advocating for our industry.

I recall my first conference in 2015 as a Leadership Lyceum participant, primarily engaging in business meetings. The experience left me filled with awe and curiosity, and I’ve only become more involved since then. This year, I had the privilege of serving as the Chair of the Independent Rental Owner Committee at the National Apartment Association and leading a team on Capitol Hill.

The core of this conference is its advocacy efforts. Delegates from all corners of the country meet with members of Congress to discuss crucial issues shaping our housing landscape. This year, our conversations focused on finding solutions to the housing affordability crisis, such as the innovative YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) initiative. This initiative not only streamlines construction processes but also helps remove barriers related to land use, predatory financing, and exclusionary local laws that hinder housing development or slow down the process. Additionally, we explored proposed amendments to the CARES Act and discussed the urgent need for Section 8 reform with the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP).

The Housing Choice Voucher Program has experienced a significant exodus of property owners over the past decade due to inefficiencies, unrealistic fair market rents, an intrusive application process, and inefficient inspections. These factors have not only affected the apartment community’s ability to provide help but have also resulted in voucher recipients waiting months to secure housing due to the bureaucracy of local housing administrative offices. We urged members of Congress to encourage the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to increase efficiencies in the HCVP. By doing so, the program would become more attractive to property owners, allowing more voucher recipients to be housed quickly.

While most of our dialogues were productive and met with promising commitments from lawmakers, there were some disheartening moments. For instance, we encountered legislation that misrepresented our industry using terms like “cartel.” This kind of language not only undermines our profession but also fuels misconceptions that hinder productive discussions.

On my return journey to Detroit, I had a memorable encounter that highlighted the challenges we face in changing negative perceptions about our industry. A fellow traveler expressed hostility when I mentioned my affiliation with the housing industry. His negative remarks made it clear that there is still significant bias against rental property management. This encounter emphasized the importance of public education and advocacy in our field.

Despite the adversity, I remained composed and empathetic although I will admit this was difficult at first. Through open conversation, and changing the subject, we were able to find some common ground, and by the end of the flight we were able to see each other as human beings and hopefully plant the seed of how this person views our industry.
Upon arriving home, fueled by my a little bit of hurt feelings and frustration with the misconceptions surrounding our industry, I felt a renewed sense of purpose.

I’m determined to challenge the stigma surrounding our industry through active engagement and advocacy in every facet I can find. This journey requires courage, compassion, and unwavering dedication from our stakeholders, as we strive to create a future where our industry is recognized for its philanthropy and proactiveness in housing our country and supporting local communities. We achieve this not only through housing but also by providing support for local communities and workforces.
Supporting initiatives from the National Apartment Association and the National Multifamily Housing Council is essential for achieving this goal. By embracing a holistic approach and working together, we can make significant strides towards realizing this vision.

The National Apartment Association Advocate Conference is a powerful platform for change. It empowers industry leaders to champion legislative reforms and challenge existing narratives.

Together, we can create a more inclusive housing landscape and strengthen our local communities for generations to come.

If you were able to attend the conference this year, thank you for your continued dedication and passion for our industry. If you did not get the opportunity and want to get more involved Smart would be delighted to cheer you on. I can guarantee that once you take that leap you won’t look back!

Here are the bipartisan bills we discussed on the Hill: