In Lehman’s Terms

My social media accounts were on fire leading up to July 4 with people sharing messages honoring Independence Day.

You probably saw it, too: hundreds of Facebook posts and tweets from parades, picnics, and fireworks displays, alongside inspirational messages quoting our founding fathers, public servants, and the average guy next door. 

Some of my favorites posts were videos of patriotic songs ranging from radio star Kate Smith singing Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America” to a phenomenal mariachi band performing “The Star Spangled Banner” before a Major League Baseball game.

Could anything be more American?

Occasions like this serve to remind us that while our freedoms are extensive, we should never take them for granted—especially the freedom we refer to as the American Dream of homeownership.

More than 60% of Americans own their homes, according to the Census Bureau. But this dream is under attack every day at almost every level and branch of government. I believe it’s our responsibility to make sure this freedom is not compromised.

On the national level, for example, an intense public outcry in 2011 forced lawmakers to stop an effort to require prospective homebuyers to make a 20% downpayment when purchasing a home—that would’ve meant $40,000 up front for someone purchasing a modest $200,000 home. This arbitrary action would have placed the American Dream out of reach for many first-time and low-income homebuyers.  

At the state level, Texas voters went to the polls in November and overwhelmingly approved changing the state constitution to permanently ban real estate transfer taxes. Other states see how costly these taxes can be for prospective homebuyers—Texas wanted to avoid that possibility altogether.

And right now, pro-property rights groups like the Texas Association of REALTORS® are gearing up for the next session of the Texas Legislature by promoting legislation that will add more transparency to the property tax process. The goal is to ensure that people won’t be forced to sell their homes to afford the taxes on their property. Visit thehiddenpropertytax.com to learn more about this important issue.

It even continues at the local level, as many governmental entities constantly attempt to compromise homeowners’ rights by imposing self-serving eminent domain and selective annexation policies or increasing property taxes to feed an often bloated and wasteful local bureaucracy. Many of these efforts go unnoticed by homeowners because of misleading and confusing tax policies.

In Lehman’s terms, we need to remain vigilant to ensure the freedoms we enjoy remain in place.

July 4th is a wonderful time to focus on these unique and cherished freedoms. But it’s also a time to recall the engraving on the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.: “Freedom Is Not Free.”

Each generation of Americans has sacrificed much for these freedoms. It’s our shared responsibility to see that these freedoms are not compromised or discarded so we may always be known as the land of the free.

Mark Lehman is vice president of Governmental Affairs for the Texas Association of REALTORS®. 

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