Whose priority is it?

During the local evening news, I’ve been seeing what appear to be political ads. What’s strange is that the election ended months ago, so the timing of this multi-media blitz is rather curious. The ads in question, are part of the It’s A Priority media campaign paid for by the Washington Association of Realtors. The ads encourage folks to contact their lawmakers to address the housing crisis in Washington state.

[photopress:ItsAPriority.jpg,full,alignright] At first, I thought it was a public relations / branding effort by the WAR, but I’m seeing the ad way too often for that to be feasible reason. Oddly enough, like our friends in Seattle Bubble land, I can’t help but wonder what the ulterior motive is. Perhaps, I’m confused because the ads don’t really have a clear “call to action”, other than contact your legislator. Most political ads have a clear and simple message (vote No or Yes on this initiative or that candidate) and these ads are rather vague on what they want me to do (other than make this cause a priority).

Here I am thinking the local economy and housing market is healthy, and now I’m seeing ads paid for by Realtors telling me that home prices have gone up too much and that’s not good. I’m confused here, aren’t housing prices supposed to go up? Microsoft, Boeing, and a cast of a hundred start ups are hiring and growing, so by all appearances the local economy doing well enough. Why don’t I see these kinds of ads when I visit California (which would seem to be a more logical place for a housing bubble that might occur)? What’s the real purpose of the ads?

The folks in bubble land believe it’s a ploy to loosen land use restrictions to allow greater density of smaller (i.e., “more affordable”) homes. I suppose that makes as much sense as anything else I’ve heard, but I wanted to get a second opinion before I form my own conclusions.

34 thoughts on “Whose priority is it?

  1. I too am interested to hear what the readers of RCG think about this. Also, for those that don’t want to read my entire rambling post on the matter (thanks for linking to it!), I would like to add that in addition to the density issues, I also believe the ad campaign may be an attempt to “keep a steady flow of… ‘buyers’ jumping into the overpriced housing market.”

    As you said, the ads don’t really fit the profile of normal political ads. I really think that the primary purpose may be a psychological play on potential homebuyers. A variation on the “buy now or be priced out forever!” refrain.

    Just my $0.02.

  2. I just find the whole thing a little odd. The WAR has to be spending a few hundred thousand dollars for this media campaign (what’s local radio/TV advertising cost, it could be more considering when and how often I’ve seen the ads). I would think if one is spending that kind of coin, there has to be an objective or goal. Wouldn’t hiring a lobbyist be more effective? I would hope the “shareholders of the WAR” (aka agents & brokers) would have more insight into this media spending spree since they are spending their money.

    I’m for more better schools, better traffic conditions, and free ice cream, like most folks are, but the ad doesn’t tell us how we need to fix the problem. Are they trying to target the metro King County area or all of the Puget Sound?

    Maybe it’s part of larger campaign, where they brand first, and then have more direct / active ads in the future? Maybe Ardell is running a covert campaign for the next election and nobody told me? 😉

  3. Robbie,

    I’m not a member of WAR…well not that one anyway. I’m more into the war on WAR LOL I haven’t seen the commercial.

    Sorry about the Seahawks guys 🙁

  4. LOL, I just saw it! What a coincidence!

    It just sounded like a “We’re so sorry for you that housing prices are so high Image builder stuff…Please don’t hate us; please don’t go to Redfin 🙂

  5. Call it conspiracy theory. If WAR keeps telling everyone who has a home how fortunate they were to get in when they did, are they pitching a message that the current market is undervalued?

  6. I’m in the Tri-Cities and I hear it on the radio often, too. The first time I heard it I was baffled. It says these conditions are in Washingon state, it doesn’t specifically mention King County and the Puget Sound. Over here we’ve got plenty of land, very few traffic problems, and our average sales price last year was $182,400. To say that someone in Kennewick needs to contact their legislature to lower prices in Seattle is ridiculous, imo. The lack of a clear cut message is disconcerting as well. My first thought was, “What are they going to do? Demand homeowners cut $100K to $200K off the price of their home and interfere with the free marketplace?” It was an effective ad in the sense it did lead me to log onto the website to see what they meant to do (build the infrastructure that leads to new neighborhoods), but its message is very confusing, I feel.

  7. It’s not like we have a ton of land, where we have these issues, to do anything about adding housing.

    On the local front in Kirkland, they do have good intentions, but their fight against “party wall” hinders their progress.

  8. Robbie,
    The state legislative session just got started, so maybe the ads are tied to a lobbying effort.

    As for it being a “ploy,” I happen to agree with the case for density. Ample housing close to urban hubs are great for meeting people, drinking close to home, living close to work, diverse restaurants, access to art, serendipity, etc. It also creates more incentives to build transit that doesn’t depend on cars. Save the foothills (and beyond), build up in town.

    I am not a fan of WAR positions generally–I have perceived them to make the opposite (pro-sprawl) case in support of suburban development and opposing the GMA. But in this case, it seems consistent to say we need more affordable housing AND prices are going up.

    The scarcity argument seems basically sound: increasing the number of units will decrease prices. Increasing the total stock of housing decreases rental prices as well.

  9. For more information you can go directly to the website, http://www.itsapriority.com/.

    The campaign appears to be a call to arms to state legislators: “Lawmakers must address this crisis and work for solutions. It’s time we make this issue a priority.”

    I fail to see how this is sinister. There is no hidden agenda. You can read the entire Washington Association of Realtors agenda here: http://www.warealtor.org/government/images/legislative_solutions.pdf

  10. For what it’s worth, I did happen upon this article on the NWMLS site a few days ago.

    “The Washington Association of REALTORS®, the state’s largest professional organization, launched a $1.3 million advertising campaign designed to draw the attention of the public and of policymakers to the shortage of homes for middle-income families.”

    It goes on to list “four strategies that will expand the supply of mid-priced homes,” but I do find it interesting that the article basically admits up front that it’s primarily an effort to grab attention.

    It’s not “sinister,” but it’s definitely not some purely altruistic effort like they’re making it out to be. Let’s be honest. The WA Realtors® exist to help their members sell homes. They’re about money. There’s nothing wrong with that, this is capitalism after all, but don’t let them fool you into thinking they’re only interested in our “quality of life.”

  11. The Tim,

    Acknowledging that we’re all in this together, I think it’s safe to say that, unless one is psychotic, we are ALL interested in our mutual quality of life. This is called “enlightened self-interest”.

    What is good for you, is good for me, is good for my neighbor, is good for all of us.

    So, they’re trying to attract attention to the shortage of mid-priced homes.

    Isn’t this what your whole blog is about? Why fault them for trying to do something pro-active? Perhaps it’s not packaged in the way you like. Yes, Realtors could benefit if more affordable homes were built. But so could you and your readers, your neighbors, your friends and family and everyone else.

  12. I think you misunderstand the tone of my post. When I said that there’s nothing wrong with money being the motivator here, I really meant it. I’m motivated to make money. I’ll spend money if I think it will help me make more money. It’s what living in a capitalistic society is all about, right?

    I just think it’s unlikely that the WAR would fork over $1.3 million out of the goodness of their hearts. I’m not saying that they aren’t at all concerned about “quality of life,” but that I personally doubt that it is the real motivation behind this ad campaign.

    I’m not trying to be combative here or start an argument (too late?), I’m just calling it like I see it. Maybe I’m way off base and the WAR is like some kind of home-selling Salvation Army. I just kindof doubt it.

  13. But no one, not even Mother Theresa, was/is truly, totally and purely altruistic.

    Even Mother Theresa received something for her good works: Eternal Salvation.

    Every action causes a re-action and everyone receives SOMETHING for their good works, even if it’s just quiet satisfaction in something well done.

    To imply that WAR is not honest because the good action (calling attention to a social problem) may result in a good outcome (creation of mid-priced homes) is dishonest in itself.

    Even people who give donations to starving orphans get a tax deduction.

  14. Marlow,

    I think, going back to Robbie’s article itself, for the WAR Commerical to appear sincere, it should have had a more specifically directed call to action. It is in the broad generalization of the message, that it appears to be weighted more heavily to the self-serving side.

    We are doing X to help increase affordable housing…please call your legislators on X and X and help us help you…would have been “self interest as secondary”. But as it is, it currently is, self interest apears to be the primary function.

    I believe that was Robbie’s point in the article…or at least question to us.

  15. I don’t have problem with the WAR spending $1.3 million for ads. I don’t have a problem with the message. But I am curious WHY they are spending that kind of money for a “soft sell” message with no call to action? HOW does the WAR want the legislature to fix the issues? More rural homes? More downtown development? Are roads or schools a higher priority? Do they think this is a state wide problem or a metro King Co problems? WHAT are they trying to accomplish?

    I’ll put it this way. $1.3 million would buy half a SuperBowl ad.

  16. Maybe it’s just too much information to put in a 30-second ad spot. So, their solution is to urge interested parties to go to their website http://www.itsapriority.com/. At least, that’s what I hear and see when I watch the ad.

    Maybe the bottom line is that the ad is not effective. But I do believe that is their intention is to get you to go their website to get more specific details about the campaign.

  17. From Marlow’s link, to “The Issue” to “Legislative Agenda.”

    Looks like a pretty wonky mixture of infrastructure, density, zoning, transportation, etc. Enough for people to find their pet issue, vague enough not to piss anyone off. For lots of strategic reasons they may not be totally clear about what they want in a 30 second (or 30 miunte) ad:

    1. Their coalition doesn’t agree–every agent probably has different ideas about “quality of life” issues and the policy choices that would follow.
    2. Local conditions may differ–affordability may differ based on place, population, jobs, etc.
    3. Local solutions may differ–Encouraging denisty in some places, relieving it elsewhere.

    WAR represents varied interests. Like the legislature itself, their motives don’t need to be pure or unified. In fact, just getting people talking is probably the spark they need to open doors in Olympia.

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