Try 1 month for 99¢

The strife in Springfield, including over its budget, is having a trickle-down effect on the real estate industry, particularly among potential home buyers in border communities such as the Illinois Quad-Cities. 

That was among the issues discussed Monday as the Quad-City Area Realtor Association hosted a legislative breakfast to mark the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act.

Nearly 30 community, business and real estate leaders attended the event at Rock Island's Martin Luther King Center, whose namesake was recognized by many for his influential role in the Fair Housing Act. 

Rep. Tony McCombie, who also works as a Realtor for Mel Foster Co. and a real estate appraiser, said common complaints about Illinois' government can deter potential home buyers especially when they could live across the border in Iowa, Wisconsin or Indiana. "In Illinois, we are our worst own enemy. We need to change our conversation to what's good in Illinois...," she said. 

Real estate leaders said clients look at many comparables between Iowa and Illinois and taxes are a consideration as is location, schools, communities, quality of life and properties themselves. 

But when the total tax burdens of Iowa and Illinois residents are compared, "they are not that different," said Sen. Neil Anderson, R-Rock Island. "What is killing us is the uncertainty, that is what is hurting Illinois."

The audience quizzed legislators about education funding, pension reform, income taxes, the state's backlog of bills and a variety of topics with direct and indirect impacts to the real estate industry. 

State Rep. Mike Halpin, D-Rock Island, said the state also needs to make good on its financial commitments, including paying its bills more promptly. "We have to make sure our local governments are getting the money that is yours." 

According to McCombie, two new bills are aimed at the real estate industry, including one to give benefits for first-time home buyers who are saving for the down payment process and a bill concerning the education process for real estate appraisers. She said that industry is seeing declining numbers because of education constraints and fewer appraisers "will increase the cost of appraisals."  

The 90-minute program also included a video looking at the history and accomplishments of the Fair Housing Act. 

"Fair housing for all is now a part of the American way of life," said David Levin, president of the realtors' association and vice president of NAI Ruhl Commercial Co.

But Levin, who also serves on Rock Island's Human Rights Commission, said there still are cases of discrimination, including in housing issues. "It's important as Realtors that we look at the ethical and moral reasons behind the Fair Housing laws and make sure we're all on the same sheet of music."