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Frank seeks more co-sponsors before ENDA introduction

Gay Mass. lawmaker doesn’t expect passage this Congress

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Rep. Barney Frank (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced on Wednesday that he’s prepared to unveil the Employment Non-Discrimination Act for the 112th Congress but is still in the process of obtaining additional co-sponsors before formally introducing the bill.

During a news conference on Capitol Hill, Frank said the upcoming introduction of ENDA would help educate lawmakers and the public about the bill as he continued to express skepticism that it would advance with Republicans in control of the House.

“This is a chance to continue — not begin, but continue — a lobbying effort that I am convinced will be successful, frankly, next time the Democrats take back the House of Representatives,” Frank said.

As it was introduced in the 111th Congress, ENDA would bar job discrimination against LGBT people in most situations in the public and private workforce. According to Frank’s office, job discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is legal in 29 states and legal in 38 states on the basis of gender identity.

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), a planned original co-sponsor of ENDA, called for continued lobbying and education on ENDA for at least two years under GOP control to ensure its passage in later years.

“I think it’s very important we introduce this legislation, that we begin the process anew, that we don’t have a big gap of activity on behalf on ending this discrimination,” Miller said.

Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House Education & Workforce Committee, said the process should begin again so that “we no longer continue to live in a country where depending on where you live, your employers can legally fire, refuse to hire, demote or pass over you for promotion based upon your sexual orientation or gender [identity].”

A number of LGBT groups — ranging from the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Lesbian Rights —issued statements praising Frank for introducing ENDA on Wednesday even though he had yet to formally introduce the legislation.

Harry Gural, a Frank spokesperson, confirmed that ENDA had yet to be introduced on Wednesday and said his boss wants more support before going forward.

“It was announced but not formally introduced — the bill has not been ‘dropped,'” Gural said. “We have the bill text exactly as it will be [introduced] — which is exactly the same text as last year. But before it is formally introduced, we are still collecting cosponsors.”

Fred Sainz, vice president of communications for the Human Rights Campaign, said HRC was told ENDA would be introduced on Wednesday, but is behind Frank’s decision to hold off on introduction until additional support is found.

“If the congressman believes that the legislation would be best served by collecting more co-sponsors, then we would completely support that,” Sainz said. “Their plan may have been to introduce it today, but the congressman may have made a very good decision to wait until there are co-sponsors that have signed on, and I think that if that’s his judgement, then we would concur with his judgment.”

Both Frank and Miller during the news conference noted that the transgender protections in ENDA contribute to the difficulty in passing the legislation. Miller said “great strides” were made on ENDA in the 111th Congress, but added that more education is needed on the gender identity language.

“We went round and round on the issue of transgender and discussing it with members of Congress,” Miller said. “I just think it’s very important that the transgender community just insist — as the school lunch community does, or the Head Start community, or the community development block grant community, or the [National Rifle Association] or whatever it is — insist upon sitting down with members of Congress and getting them to understand and recognize what is happening.”

With Republicans in control of the House, a number of LGBT advocates have been calling on President Obama to issue an executive order barring the federal government from contracting with companies that don’t have policies barring discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Earlier this week, gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) endorsed such a directive from the president (see related story).

Asked by the Washington Blade whether he would also support such an order, Frank said he would support the directive in principle, but would need to examine the move further.

“I have to look at the legality of that,” Frank said. “I would be in favor of it, but there are limits to what you can do by executive order and we don’t want to overreach, but I support it in principle and I’ll look at it.”

Frank also dismissed the idea that a discharge petition could move ENDA forward if House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) refuses to hold a vote on the legislation in the 112th Congress. A discharge petition requires the signature of a majority of House members — 218 names — to advance legislation.

“I don’t think there are 30 Republicans that would sign a discharge petition for a bill that includes transgender,” Frank said. “If there were, frankly, we could have passed this bill in the [111th] Congress. … There are not 218 members at this point ready to support it. We have an overwhelmingly number of Democrats, but not all, and a number of Republicans.”

Frank said a number of House members in principle never sign a discharge petition and predicted ENDA would lose about 15 or 20 supporters if an attempt were made to pass the legislation through that route.

“I think it’s a mistake to hold that out as a possibility because I don’t want people wasting their effort on urging people who are already ready to vote for this to do something else, which isn’t going to advance it one iota,” Frank added.

A number of LGBT advocates are frustrated that ENDA didn’t even see a House committee vote — let alone a vote on the House or Senate floor — during the 111th Congress when Democrats had control of both chambers of Congress.

Frank cited a “traffic jam” in the LGBT legislative agenda with the passage of hate crimes protections legislation and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as a reason why ENDA didn’t move in the 111th Congress.

“In lobbying of members, it takes coordination of the legislative schedule — and, frankly, that’s the kind of lack of understanding of the legislative process that’s an obstacle to our getting things done,” Frank said. “The fact is that we have to work at these things, and they are not easy to do.”

Frank added that repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” wasn’t a “slam dunk” in the 111th Congress and said “you can go to members only so many times on so many issues.”

“I work hard to get my colleagues to be supportive,” Frank said. “If the notion is that whatever people do, they only criticism for what they don’t do takes hold, then we won’t get much done.”

Frank said there was “no chance” for both repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and passage of ENDA last year in both chambers of Congress, although he admitted ENDA could have seen progress in the House.

“We might have been able to get them both done in the House, but there was no way we could get them both done in the Senate — to get 60 votes for the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and a transgender-inclusive ENDA, and that’s what dictated what we finally did,” Frank said.

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Real Estate

Real estate’s occupational hazards

From being locked out to walking in on naked sellers

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Accessing locked homes for sale presents all sorts of potential problems when showing homes.

“You should write a book.”

I hear that a lot from clients and friends when I tell a real estate story that most people wouldn’t believe unless they had experienced something similar. My colleagues understand.

Most of us have stories about Cujo-like pets, lost keys and stubborn lockboxes and unusual things we have experienced in the industry. And lest we forget, what would any Great American Novel be without sex?

Showing instructions will often say, “Don’t let the cat out.” You will gingerly open the front door hoping the cat is not on alert waiting to escape as you go in the house. If the cat happens to get out despite your best efforts, the natural inclination is to get the cat and put it back in the house. If you are successful, one of two things will happen: first, you will have to stop at the drug store to purchase some Neosporin to dress your wounds or second, you may get a call from the seller’s agent asking why there is an extra cat in the house.

Playing “find the lockbox” is a rewarding game we play, but like a mouse looking for the cheese, there can be dead ends and pitfalls. On one excursion, the box was yet to be found when my client and I spotted a gate to a rear door. We walked over, I pressed the gate latch, and we were in. Unfortunately, the lockbox wasn’t to be found.

So, what do you do? You go back to the gate and press the latch to get out, right? Except some DIY-er has installed a one-way latch. Your client tries to call her mother, who is down the street in the car with the air conditioning on, listening to a Barry Manilow CD. Oops! Her phone is back in the car with Mom. You call the listing agent and get voicemail. You sit down on the concrete bench to think.

Concrete bench, you say? Yes, a 450-pound concrete bench, which we push over next to the gate. My client, who is taller than I, stands on it and I boost her over the top of the gate. Finally, we have completed our exit strategy! We never did get into the house.

You never know who you might find in a house either, especially since COVID-19 restricted the number of people who could be there during a showing to three. I’m sure that didn’t count the vagrant who ran out the back door and left the gas burners he had been using for heat on or the construction workers who left their burger wrappings and half consumed shakes in the bedroom.

Agents can get pretty touchy when you lock them out during your 15-minute showing appointment (yes, that’s a thing now). It gets worse when they find you on your knees with your butt in the air, using a wire hangar (sorry, Mommie Dearest) to try to pull a key up through a 1/8th inch space between deck boards on the front porch where you dropped it. (The owner ultimately came over with another key.)

Sometimes, you have to put your Sherlock Holmes cap on and search for a special feature that is listed on the fact sheet. “Storage near the front door” could actually be an elevator shaft that was never completed. And sometimes, you open a door to an eave in the attic and find your client’s 9-year-old wide-eyed looking in and saying, “This must be where they play Dungeons and Dragons” as her mother drags her out of the room.

Many of us have run across the startled tenant or homeowner who doesn’t get the notification about an appointment. We find them sleeping naked or simply hiding under the covers, flushing the toilet, taking a shower, or in the throes of passion. Despite my habit of calling out, “Real Estate” when opening a front door, sometimes they just can’t hear me.

Years ago, I had a listing appointment with a man who, after keeping me waiting on the porch for 20 minutes, opened the door wearing nothing but a shower wrap and a soap-on-a-rope. I didn’t bother to reschedule.

Then there was the geriatric nymphomaniac who proceeded to snort lines of cocaine from atop the marble countertop in the kitchen as we discussed selling her house while the pool boy hung out in the nearby cabana.

By the way, has anyone heard from him? I’ll go check.

 

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202- 246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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Real Estate

Renovations in the time of COVID

Clean and de-clutter your home before listing

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cleaning house, gay news, Washington Blade

What do I need to do to make my house pretty and ready to sell in the time of COVID?  Some people are telling me that I don’t have to do anything, that it is a sellers’ market. Well, maybe. Do you know your market? Do you know the idiosyncrasies of your market? In many places, homes are flying off the market “as-is.” But in many places a much more nuanced home is getting the attention.

I am seeing more movement in the single-family home market. So, a seller might get by with doing basic repairs and some sprucing up/de-cluttering to get their house ready for the market. Then again, you never get a second chance to make a first impression, so when in doubt, clean it out. (Paint it out, stage it out, etc.)

If you want to do renovations, you might want to get estimates from multiple sources, and see who gets you the best deal. I am hearing some stories that there is a backlog in the supply chain for hardwood and some other materials. Also, many contractors are booked up right now, or have been scheduled to get work done for months now. If timing is going to be an important part of the puzzle, you might want to double check that the work can get done when you need it to be done, especially if you live in a building where you have to get permission to use elevators, do work between certain hours of the day, etc.

At the very least, find a good house cleaner to get in and do a good job on the type of cleaning that is not done on a normal basis. For many reasons. In the time of a pandemic, cleanliness is almost the number one thing people are looking at. Also, we all know that the carpets get vacuumed, the windows get cleaned, and the shelves get dusted. But what about deep in the corners and under the counters and in the air vents and filters?

That being said, there seems to be a shortage of homes on the market right now for the amount of buyers that are looking. A lucky seller right now might not have to do a total renovation and might want to leave some decisions to the next buyer, but I would still advise that they err on the side of cleaning, de-cluttering, and getting it photo ready to maximize their return on their investment.

 

Joseph Hudson is a Realtor with The Rutstein Group at Compass. Reach him at 703-587-0597 or [email protected].

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Real Estate

Real estate opportunity still knocking

Short- and long-term benefits for both sellers and buyers

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COVID-19 real estate market, gay news, Washington Blade

The last year has been challenging across the board, but one area that has continued to thrive is the real estate market.

Low interest rates and a year filled with unique changes have prompted people to think differently about where they live – and they’re taking action. As of late, the housing market is chock full of opportunities for both sellers and buyers. Regardless of whether one is taking the leap into homeownership for the first time or prepping to downsize for retirement, this is a market anyone and everyone should consider tapping into.

There has never been a better time to sell your home than right now. Thanks largely to low interest rates, buyer demand continues to soar. At the same time, inventory is historically low as many would-be sellers have opted to stay put in the last year. According to the latest Realtors Confidence Index Survey by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the average house is now receiving 4.1 offers after just 20 days on the market. Buyers are clearly eager to purchase, and because of the shortage of inventory available, they’re often entering bidding wars. This is one of the factors keeping home prices strong and giving sellers leverage in the negotiation process.

Homeowners who are in a position to sell shouldn’t wait to make their move. As our world inches closer to normal, more inventory will be hitting the market soon. By listing this spring, you will get your house on the market when conditions are still most favorable. With low inventory and high buyer demand, homeowners can potentially earn a greater profit on their houses and sell them quickly in the fast-paced spring market. Not to mention the opportunity to get by with that older water heater and home systems at large. Many buyers in this area tend to waive contingencies on their offer, clearing the path to a smoother and quicker closing.

While the challenges for buyers are very real, there is one massive factor to keep buyers motivated: interest rates. We’re continuing to see historically low averages in interest rates, and those rates are only projected to tick back upwards in the coming years. Last year saw interest rates come significantly down, and we’re still seeing an average of 3% on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages. Compare that to just three years ago when we were a whole 1.5% higher with averages of 4.5%.

With low interest rates nationally and the D.C. area’s strong home value appreciation rates, the investment of homeownership is a real possibility for more people. Over the span of the next five years, homeowners in the District are presented with a great opportunity to grow their net worth by more than $100,000 based on the current average sales price of $699,732 and projected rates of appreciation over the next five years. These conditions won’t last forever though, so take advantage of the opportunity when you can.

After a year of shifting sands, the housing market has emerged stronger than ever – with some unusual quirks. Opportunity is lending itself to short- and long-term benefits for both sellers and buyers. If your situation allows, this market may provide uniquely profitable opportunities for your real estate transaction. For more information or to talk about buying or selling real estate, give me a call at 571-439-2515.

 

Zach Twigg is a licensed Realtor in D.C. and Virginia with Bediz Group, LLC at Keller Williams Capital Properties. Call or text him at 571-439-2515, email him at [email protected], or follow him on Instagram and Facebook

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