The day after Phil Bracken retired from his position as executive vice president for Wells Fargo (WFC) Home Mortgage in July 2011, he began to brainstorm the concept behind America’s Homeowner Alliance, which has now become the collective voice of the country's 75 million existing homeowners.
Officially launching Wednesday, the alliance is lead by a team of industry veterans sitting on the new association's advisory board. The group aims to give the homeowner — or the consumer side of the real estate market — a voice in public policy and debate. The key questions being: What do homeowners want? Or what is good for the buyer?
"It became very obvious to me that the homeowners of America did not actually have a collective or collaborative voice on public policy," said Bracken, the group's architect, in an interview with HousingWire.
Bracken, who now serves as the chief policy officer of government relations for Radian Guaranty (RDN), noticed groups existed to represent real estate agents and homebuilders, but nothing for homeowners.
So Bracken set out to fix this problem. The former EVP has served as co-chairman for the Consumer/Lender Roundtable in Washington D.C. for the past five years and decided to pitch his idea to the group immediately. With agreement across the board, Bracken set out to develop the alliance. "This is an accumulation of involvement, investment and intellect from all of those resources," he added.
With homeownership at its lowest level in 18 years, Bracken wanted this alliance to make the possibility of homeownership more feasible. "We want to make sure that public policy, business policy and government policy don’t constrict opportunities," he said.
The homeowner alliance, which officially launched Wednesday morning, will provide a number of benefits for homeowners at an annual membership of only $20. "It’s a similar fee to what AARP charges," said Bracken, who added that this membership is significantly below what AAA or Angie’s List charges.
Twenty dollars will get members three functional benefits: advocacy, government and business practice analysis and member benefits.
Advocacy for members means that the alliance will analyze and examine the laws and regulations that are meaningful to America's homeowners and try to translate them for the public. For instance, GSE reform may not mean much to homeowners at first glance, but the homeowner alliance will help owners know how it impacts their lives and decisions.
"It will be our job to really translate that for the homeowner and give them something to advocate for," said Bracken.
Additionally, the alliance intends to become the “ombudsman” for homeowners, protecting against predatory, abusive or bad practices in the marketplace. The alliance will strive to illuminate unseemly practices and highlight certain “preferred providers” in the marketplace.
Finally, members will be able to earn points on every product purchased through the “rewards program benefit,” which holds more than 1 million products most used by homeowners. Points can be redeemed for merchandise, travel or other benefits.
This year marks the 100-year anniversary of the mortgage interest deduction, and the first time in our history that the mortgage interest deduction is really in play, Bracken explained. “It’s unfortunate that the homeowners alliance wasn’t built 100 years ago or 50 years ago, but it is being built now," he said. "It’s time for the homeowners to have their own voice."
Bracken added that this alliance is being built for 50 years, not 50 days or 50 weeks. "This is going to be the voice of the homeowners of America for the next 50 years and beyond," he said.