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How to Talk the Talk on Housing Issues

By Lisa May
The Director of Advocacy and Public Policy for Maryland REALTORS®.

Members of Maryland REALTORS® who attended our Lobby Day in February got a small taste of discussing housing issues with our state elected officials, but you don’t need to wait for our annual event to make an impact on housing in your community.

We know that REALTORS® are an important voice for the industry and for homebuyers, sellers, and owners outside of the General Assembly session. Your county and municipal officials will know that too, when you use the following tips to engage on local housing issues.

Keep it Simple

You know real estate like the back of your hand. Policymakers, on the other hand, do not. In fact, many may have never purchased a home. If they have, it may have been many decades ago when homes were more affordable and plentiful. In short, the chances of ignorance or misinformation are higher than you might think.

When you want to talk to government officials about housing, you will want to start from square one. Act as if that individual knows nothing at all about the real estate market, current inventory, the lending environment, or affordability. Start your conversation (or more likely, conversations) from that place to foster a mutual understanding of the issues.

Facts Are on Your Side

In a way, we are fortunate to be fighting for housing at this moment in time. It is hard to remember a time when so many scholars of all stripes were studying our nation’s housing system and proposing workable solutions. Which means, it is likely that you can find an argument that appeals to any official, be they left, right, or center.

To help in these conversations, Maryland REALTORS® provides the research for this task. In January, we conducted our 4th Annual State of Maryland Housing Survey (view the survey here), which measures the views of state voters on housing supply and affordability. You can view the full results or access our infographic on You can also use our monthly Maryland housing statistics, RPR reports, or other Maryland REALTORS® media to help your cause.

Personalize It

Facts and figures are an important part of making any policy case. That is why you will see an emphasis on the use of data, rather than mere anecdotes, to form solid legislative and regulatory proposals. However, if you really want to drive home your case, don’t be afraid to use both.

If you have a story that illustrates the data, use it. This takes your advocacy from impersonal numbers into human connections. Tell the housing shortage from the perspective of the schoolteacher, the firefighter, or the retiree on social security. Explain the ins and outs of tenant measures as they impact a mom-and-pop landlord. Describe the experience of the business that left, didn’t expand, or never considered opening in Maryland due to our regulatory environment or lack of housing options for their workforce. You will still make a sound case, but in a way that is memorable to policy makers.

Show Up, Speak Up

It is said that history is made by those who show up. The housing discussion is no different. If state and local officials only hear from those who oppose new housing options and who have a personal stake in the status quo, it is easy for them to assume that everyone they represent feels the same way.

REALTORS® can serve as an important counterpoint to NIMBY opposition. Just by sharing what you know and who you represent, and taking the time to show up, you can change the complexion of the housing conversation in your county or town.

The road to more housing opportunities will be fought and won conversation by conversation, vote by vote. The REALTOR® voice is a critical component to that effort. It is time for all of us to speak up in favor of the housing that Maryland needs.

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