President's Message: Harness the Power of Your Voice

Posted By: Shawn Wingate Magazine ,

Advocacy comes in many forms. As parents, we advocate for our children to receive the best possible care and education. As professionals, we advocate for ourselves and our staff members to receive the recognition and compensation we deserve. We may advocate for a stop sign in our neighborhood or for a social or political cause that is meaningful to our personal belief system.

As multifamily professionals and members of the Florida Apartment Association, we advocate for our industry — one that provides housing for 2.4 million Florida residents, supports 31,827 on-site jobs, and contributes $44.8 billion to the state’s economy. Last year, we celebrated the success of a two-year effort to enable maintenance professionals to do the jobs they are trained to do. This year, although we didn’t have such a high-profile bill, we were successful in stopping legislation that would have been harmful to our industry

In addition, we joined with other organizations that make up the Sadowski Coalition to advocate for full funding of Sadowski trust funds for affordable housing. Sadowski funds come from “doc stamps,” a tax on all real estate transactions in the state, and are used to build or renovate affordable apartments. FAA supports full Sadowski funding not only because there is a need in our state to provide housing for senior citizens, people with disabilities, veterans, and other vulnerable populations. When a housing market has fallen short of that need, local governments have imposed inclusionary zoning ordinances, which mandate that multifamily communities set aside a percentage of apartments as affordable units. Inclusionary zoning does help ensure that affordable housing needs are met, but it also removes some of our our control over decisions we make on behalf of our communities and management companies.

It’s easy to see how legislation can impact our ability to do business. 

Another aspect of advocacy is to build relationships with our state legislators and their staffs. It’s very gratifying to attend events on the local level and be recognized and appreciated as someone who has given time and effort to supporting our industry at the state and national levels.

I did not always recognize how important advocacy is, and, I’ll admit, I was a bit intimidated at first. But I’m so glad that I was persuaded by Kelli Meyers, former president of the Southwest Florida Apartment Association and an active member of the FAA Legislative Committee, to go to my first FAA Legislative Conference in 2003 and my first NAA Capitol Conference two years later.

Since then, I’ve learned so much about the legislative process, and I’ve learned that our voices really are listened to. You might have heard that if we’re not telling our story to legislators, someone else is telling theirs. Or, if you don’t have a seat at the table, your issues might wind up on the menu. In the past few years, I’ve been able to see just how significant advocacy can affect our businesses.

If you haven’t yet become involved in FAA’s advocacy, I encourage you to attend the annual platform meeting to discuss FAA’s 2018 legislative priorities. The meeting will take place Wednesday, October 11, just prior to the 2017 FAA Annual Conference & Trade Show at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

I would be remiss not to mention the importance of supporting the FAA Apartment Political Action Committee (APAC). Through APAC, we support candidates who support the apartment industry. There are several ways you can support APAC, including making a direct contribution, participating in fundraising events at local affiliates, or bidding on silent auction items at FAA Maintenance Mania on Thursday, October 12. A really fun way to support APAC is to purchase a ticket to Food, Wine, & Fireworks, An APAC Celebration at Epcot®, on October 11.

I hope to see you at one of those events and at the 2017 FAA Annual Conference & Trade Show.   

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of Multifamily Florida.