Taking Real Estate Investor Values To The Political Stage

Let’s talk politics. You may be cringing at the thought, but if you are an avid real estate investor you should know that industry leaders and participants make their way down to the Texas State Capitol every other year to do this very thing. In fact, to say that they merely talk politics would be an understatement. On a day known as Texas Apartment Association Legislative Day, members of the Texas Apartment Association, real estate owners, and their like-minded counterparts gather to educate, lobby, and ultimately to help reform standards of regulation in the real estate field. But, of equal importance to the activism itself, are the voices behind it and what they’re saying.

Lifestyles Unlimited®’s Lead Multi Family Mentor in Houston, John Ridgway, has such a voice and he has used it to help steer Texas’ legislative bills in the right direction for the last 11 sessions. But, he wasn’t always so politically active. In the mid 1990s, John was an accomplished apartment manager with 10,000 units to oversee. But it wasn’t until he got some motivation from his boss that he decided to apply his talents elsewhere as Chairman of The Tarrant County Legislative Committee.

“I went to my first Texas Apartment Association Legislative Day back in the mid’ 90s. For me the value of it is realizing what the politicians can do to our industry, what they can do to our businesses, and the power that they wield overall. It’s important for us to stay on top of this proactively to protect our interests.” (John Ridgway)

Moments after explaining his outlook here, he cited an instance where his own state representative filed a bill mandating the placement of carbon monoxide detectors in every apartment unit across the county. But, what on the surface may have seemed to be a necessary increase in smoke detection standards to someone else, to John it did not compute. So, he and his peers probed further. As it turns out, this representative was admirably trying to do well on the part of one constituent who had lost his life due to smoke inhalation in an attached garage of a local apartment complex. However, the result would have been a 30 million dollar impact on the community. Furthermore, it would not make sense for 90% + of the units because they do not produce carbon monoxide, according to John. But, having access to this key representative meant they could work to find a better solution.

As John delved deeper, he said that this type of legislation is only one of two parts of the TAA’s lobbying efforts. This is reactive legislation where the Texas Apartment Association protects against negligent bills. As part of this process, TAA staff have to sift through anywhere from “six to seven thousand bills each session,” according to John. It is here where even a subtle change in wording from a bill that doesn’t even necessarily pertain to the apartment industry can make all the difference. Secondarily, the TAA puts their own proactive legislation into the mix to correct errors and setbacks that have been seen since the last session. Furthermore, on TAA Legislative Day, there is even an educational session that is open to the general public where anyone can learn about the issues the TAA plans to address later that day in congress. As part of this educational opportunity, TAA lobbyists/staff answer questions and provide information, and so does a key speaker. This year’s speaker was Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.

But, it is the second part of the day where the lobbying actually begins. John’s biggest lesson learned here: “it’s okay if you talk to staff.” As John broke it down, he said that you don’t always get to see your elected representatives, but when the staff does all of the leg work anyways, you are in no way losing if you tug their ear instead.

Moving beyond the process, John talked about why it is so important to have actual property owners voicing their concerns when it comes to the TAA’s lobbying efforts: “There’s a huge difference between paid lobbying staff going into a state representative’s office and going in there myself to say ‘I live in your district. You represent me. You’ve sponsored a bill that hurts my business and my ability to feed/protect my family. Let me tell you how how this bill hurts me.’”

John went on to say that there was about 15 multi family owners from the Lifestyles Unlimited® membership who showed up to this year’s Texas Apartment Association Legislative Day, but it was clear that he was thinking about what could be done with more. “It’s strength in numbers” he said as he finished his closing points “and we’ll take everyone we can get.”

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