The NMHC Emerging Leaders group held a unique Speakers Series event during the annual NMHC Fall Board of Directors and Advisory Committee Meeting in September. Given the meeting’s location in the nation’s capital and agenda focused on policy and politics, the group selected an up-and-coming lawmaker as a guest speaker.
Congressman Patrick Murphy (D-Fla.) had more than a few things in common with attendees that evening. Like members of the Emerging Leaders group, Murphy is a bright, talented professional with a promising career. In fact, at 31 years old, Murphy is the youngest member of Congress. In addition, his background is in real estate and specifically new construction.
“There are only three people in Congress who have construction experience,” Murphy explained. “There’s a roofer and a developer, but I’m the only general contractor. ... We [the housing industry] are the biggest job creators after the federal government and we are underrepresented in Congress.”
In speaking to the group, Murphy shared a newbie’s perspective on what it’s really like on Capitol Hill, as well as the forces driving ultra-partisanship and legislative gridlock. Specifically, he fingered the increasingly political media, big-dollar political donations and the gerrymandering of the voting districts as having a role in the stymied political atmosphere.
Given his background and his district’s reliance on the housing industry as an economic driver, Murphy told attendees that he was focused on a number of issues that pose similar challenges for the multifamily industry.
First was overregulation. Murphy said there was a big need for what he called “smarter regulation” that would address businesses’ big problems without creating a lot of unnecessary duplication. Second was ensuring capital markets were operating freely and efficiently, ensuring that capital could flow to the housing sector. And third was addressing some serious insurance issues related to both the flood insurance and terrorism risk insurance programs.
However, Murphy said he also believed one of the biggest issues holding back the overall housing market was labor. Citing “major issues with labor in pockets of growth” and between 11 million and 12 million undocumented workers in the country, Murphy said immigration reform is key. However, he acknowledged that, in trying to get consensus around a reform proposal, “the toughest part is the pathway to citizenship.”
Following Murphy’s speech, the program was capped off with a candid conversation with two Capitol Hill staffers-Wes McClelland, policy advisor to Majority Leader Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Erica Elliot, a policy advisor with Crowell & Moring-who shared humorous anecdotes and offered smart takes on the state of political affairs.
Thanks to our sponsor for the evening, Walker & Dunlop.