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Hundreds of Missouri Realtors expected to rally in Kiener Plaza Thursday

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 24, 2013 - Hundreds of Missouri Realtors are expected to gather in Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis at 5 p.m. Thursday for a rally to promote homeownership in the United States.

Organizers say the "Missourians for the American Dream Rally” is also intended to raise awareness about legislative and regulatory initiatives that could affect the real estate industry, and, in turn, the nation’s economic recovery. Among their concerns:

  • proposals to eliminate the federal tax deduction for mortgage interest that they say is an important incentive for homebuyers.
  • efforts to reshape the government’s role in housing through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“We want to get the message across that homeownership matters,’’ said Donna Zerega, president of the St. Louis Association of Realtors.

"People view Realtors as just selling homes. Yes, we do sell homes. But we also have a duty to promote the interest of homeowners, too,’’ she said. “It’s not just about the industry. It’s about communities and people. People are more invested in their communities when they buy a home.’’

Zerega noted that the real estate industry fuels economic growth nationwide and accounts for 13.5 percent of Missouri’s gross state product.

"Homeownership matters to us, and to homeowners, of course, but a lot of other businesses and professionals are also involved,’’ she said.

Although the housing industry has been slowly improving, she warned that the recovery could be undermined by many factors, including a rise in unemployment or eliminating incentives for prospective buyers.

“We want our elected officials to know that we still care about these issues,’’ she said. “We don’t want them to say, “Now that the market’s recovered, we’re done.’ We don’t think that. It’s very fragile.”

The rally, which coincides with a Missouri Association of Realtors conference, is expected to draw Realtors from across the state, as well as elected officials, including Clint Zweifel, Missouri state treasurer and Jason Kander, Missouri secretary of state.

The National Association of Realtors held a similar rally in Washington last May that drew about 15,000 Realtors.

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.

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