The midterm elections are now a thing of the past — at least in those states that are not experiencing possible recounts. And although it fell short of being the “blue wave” that some had predicted, change was definitely in the air. The Democrats took control of the House of Representatives. The Republicans maintained control of the Senate and gained additional seats. Republicans continue to hold more governorships, although Democrats closed the gap by winning governorships in Maine, Wisconsin, Michigan, Kansas, Colorado, and Nevada. Two hotly-contested races in Florida and Georgia remain undecided.
As IREM Director of Government Affairs Ted Thurn said in a webinar yesterday, the key takeaways from the midterms center on the turnout, women and state-level elections. In terms of turnout, 114 million Americans voted in last week’s election — nearly half of all voters, a record high for a midterm election and 37 percent more than the 2014 midterms. One outcome of the elections is that an unprecedented number of women will be going to Congress in 2019 — and they’re mostly Democrats. When all votes are counted, noted Thurn, more than 100 women are projected to be members of the House, surpassing last Congress’ record number of 84 women. Michigan notably went above and beyond by selecting a woman for every statewide office.
Congress has now returned to Capitol Hill for the lame duck session that continues through the end of the year. As NAR’s Megan Booth said during yesterday’s webinar, during a lame duck session, lawmakers usually focus on spending bills to keep the government open. Booth, who is NAR’s director of federal housing and commercial policy, noted that only must-do legislation will occur. She specifically drew attention to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is set to expire on November 30. The NFIP provides over 90 percent of all flood insurance nationwide and nearly all flood insurance coverage for individually owned properties and small- to mid-size commercial properties. If the program expires, flood insurance will become more costly or even unavailable.
In terms of the impact of the midterms on overall legislation and its impact on commercial real estate, both Booth and Thurn agreed that it is too soon to tell. Both sides have mentioned infrastructure as a priority, so some progress may be seen there. With a divided Congress, it is likely the Administration will try to do more through regulatory processes. Changes in housing finance reform and continued Dodd/Frank loosening also are expected.
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