Talk Politics? Some Brokers Are Only Too Happy to Do So

Charlie Oppler, the president of the National Association of Realtors, issued a statement on Jan. 6., condemning the assault on the Capitol, but no formal actions have been taken against brokers involved in the siege. Responding to a query about the trade association’s position, Wesley Shaw, a spokesman for the association, wrote that the organization was closely following the legal proceedings connected to the breach and was “committed to taking any action that is deemed appropriate and in the best interest of our association,” but deferred membership qualification decisions to the group’s local associations.

With 1.4 million members, the association is the country’s largest trade organization, representing about half of all licensed real estate agents in the United States. Far from avoiding politics, the organization’s Realtor Political Action Committee is the largest PAC operated on behalf of a trade association in the United States, Mr. Shaw said, giving close to $4 million annually to political candidates on both sides of the aisle who support real estate interests. The association encourages members to get involved in their communities, and to speak out on issues related to housing and property rights. But some may have become too outspoken.

In a year of political and social unrest, the association has been grappling with a wave of social media discourse that became so inflammatory it drove the association to update its code of ethics last November, banning all discriminatory behavior by its members.

After George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police last May and the protests that followed, Realtor associations around the country were flooded with complaints about agents posting racist and sexist messages on their social media sites.

Calling out this activity last June, Jennifer Pino, then president of the Atlanta Realtors Association, wrote to the national association: “We cannot continue to allow the Realtor brand to be damaged by these hateful few. This must be stopped.”

“Realtors were being outwardly discriminatory on social media while supposedly adhering to Fair Housing rules,” said Ms. Pino, 49, managing broker at Sotheby’s International Realty’s Buckhead office. “If you were holding an open house, and you had expressed genuine hate for a protected class on social media, how could you possibly treat those people fairly?”

Over the next several months, the association held numerous internal meetings and online forums seeking input to amend the code. In October, Matt Difanis, an Illinois broker who was then chairman of the organization’s professional standards committee, released a video on YouTube where he shared examples from what he called “the mountain of hate speech” posted by agents. The sampling included messages like “I think Black people bring out the worst in us,” and “homosexuals and lesbians are murderers, according to the scripture.”

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Famous Robert Capa Photo Brings New Life to a Tenement and Its Residents

MADRID — In 1936, the photographer Robert Capa trained his lens on children outside a pockmarked tenement in Madrid that had been bombed by the German Luftwaffe. That image of the Spanish Civil War remains a powerful reminder of the effects of armed conflict on civilians.

This month, some 85 years after the picture was made, plans are underway for the decrepit, century-old building to be preserved and converted into a cultural center that will celebrate the photographer’s work and commemorate Madrid’s wartime history. Residents of the tenement were permanently moved to subsidized housing.

For those who had made their homes in the building, the change was long overdue. Most of them could not afford something better because of a chronic shortage of subsidized housing in Madrid. In January, the discrepancy between the city’s haves and have-nots was on full display when a giant snowstorm deepened the misery in one of the poorest areas of Madrid.

In their new homes, the residents will pay the same or even less for more space, proper heating and other improvements.

reduced the amount of state-subsidized housing to less than 1 percent of the total available — about a quarter of the average across the European Union.

banded together to urge the government to oblige large real estate owners to make some of their holdings available for subsidized housing.

José María Uría, who works for a labor union foundation that led the efforts to salvage the Capa building, said that when the tenement opened in 1927, it was billed as a “new housing model for the working class.”

Some local residents even called the building “the home of the rich,” Mr. Uría added, because one of its inner courtyards had the relative luxury of a water well.

including The New York Times.

The picture “launched his reputation,” said Cynthia Young, former curator of the Robert Capa archive at the International Center of Photography in New York. “It was the first time he had been called out for his work on the cover of a magazine, rare for any photojournalist at the time.”

The decision to preserve the building was made in 2018, when the parliament of Spain’s capital region voted to create the cultural center. To take ownership of the building, the city paid off the old owners at a cost of about $1 million.

Confronting the history of the Civil War has long been divisive in Spain. And like other projects linked to Spain’s wartime past, this one became mired in politics, particularly when right-wing politicians took back control of Madrid’s city government the next year. They delayed confirming what would be displayed at the center.

Mar Espinar, a city lawmaker from the opposition Socialists, said she wanted the center to document the air raids of the war.

“Politicians can disagree on many things, but people need to know our history and that bombs were once dropped on the homes of civilians — as a significant fact and not a matter of opinion,” she said.

exhumed Gen. Francisco Franco, whose victory ushered in a dictatorship that only ended with his death in 1975. His remains were reburied in a family crypt.

Madrid city employees removed a plaque from the home of Francisco Largo Caballero, a Socialist who became prime minister of the Republican government in 1936, a few months after Franco and other generals started a military coup.

The bombing of the Vallecas neighborhood in 1936 was not an obvious military priority for Franco and his forces, but it offered a proving ground for his German allies.

Walther L. Bernecker, a professor emeritus at Erlangen-Nürnberg University in Germany who has studied the war, said the attack on Vallecas, as well as later bombings like the one that devastated the town of Guernica, provided “a perfect laboratory” for the Luftwaffe to test its weaponry and for Nazi Germany to “spread terror among the civilian population.”

Capa did not write specific captions for his Vallecas photographs, so they also appeared in some publications without attribution or even in a manipulated context. In Italy, a pro-Fascist magazine headlined his picture with the words “The cruel war” but did not mention which side had carried out the bombing.

Nowadays, any poignancy about living in the historical building was outweighed by its practical disadvantages, residents said.

“The only reason I lived here so long is that I could never afford anything better,” said Rosa Báez, who spent eight years in the building.

“I’m now getting a better apartment and am among the lucky ones,” she added.

Ms. Uquillas, as she left with her family, offered thanks to Capa for his indirect role in her move. Finally getting an upgrade, she said, felt like “winning the lottery.”

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Young South Koreans Erupt in Anger Over Housing Scandal

SEOUL — ​The 10 people bought $8.8 million worth of land in an undeveloped area southwest of Seoul, registering it for farming and planting numerous trees. It’s a common trick used by shady real estate speculators in South Korea: Once the area is taken over for housing development, the developers must pay not only for the land, but the trees, too.

A national outrage erupted this month when South Koreans learned that the 10 people were officials from the Korea Land and Housing Corporation (LH) — the government agency in charge of building new towns and housing — suspected of using privileged information to cash in on government housing development programs.

The incident has thrown President Moon Jae-in’s government into crisis mode just weeks before key mayoral elections that are largely seen as a referendum on him and his party ahead of next year’s presidential race. Young South Koreans are saying they are fed up with corruption and the president’s failed policies on runaway housing prices. The LH scandal is now set to become a critical voter issue in Mr. Moon’s final year in office.

“When my girlfriend and I discuss how we are going to find a house in Seoul for the family we are going to start, we can’t find an answer,” said Park Young-sik, 29, an office worker. “The LH scandal shows how some people in South Korea make a quick fortune through real-estate foul play, while the rest of us can barely buy a house even if we toil and save for a lifetime.”

urban slums.

Seoul and Busan — go to the polls on April 7 to choose their mayors, and many observers said the elections could reflect poorly on Mr. Moon’s performance. Survey results showed that the LH news was dragging down approval ratings for both him and his party, most sharply among South Koreans in their 20s.

“I am sorry for worrying the people greatly, and for deeply disappointing those people who have lived honestly,” Mr. Moon said last week, vowing to eliminate “real estate corruption widespread in our society” as a priority of his last year in power.

Apartment prices in Seoul have soared by 58 percent during Mr. Moon’s tenure, according to data from the government-run Korea Real Estate Board. Some of the units in popular residential districts in Seoul have nearly doubled in price in the same period.

Rising housing costs have been blamed for creating a vicious cycle in which families believe real estate investments are foolproof, despite being warned otherwise by the authorities. Experts believe the soaring housing costs have also contributed to the country’s declining fertility rate, one of the lowest in the world, by discouraging young Koreans from starting a family.

The insidious​ divide among young people in South Korea has become a popular topic in K-dramas and films, including Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite.”​ The “dirt-spoons” struggle to manage an ever-expanding income gap while the “gold-spoons,” the children of the elites, glide through a life of privilege. The problem also featured prominently in the real-life downfall of the former president, Park Geun-hye,​ and the jailing of the Samsung Electronics vice chairman, Lee Jae-yong.

When Mr. Moon took office in 2017, he promised a “fair and just” society. His government has introduced dozens of regulatory steps to curb housing prices, including raising capital-gains taxes on house flipping and property taxes on multiple-home owners.

None of these measures have worked.

Last month, the Moon administration announced plans to supply more than 836,000 new housing units in the next four years, including 70,000 homes to be built in the area southwest of Seoul at the center of the LH scandal. Two civic groups were the first to report that 10 LH officials bought land there months before the highly secretive development plan was announced, accusing the officials of capitalizing on insider information for personal gain, a crime in South Korea.

The government has identified 20 LH officials who are suspected of using privileged information to buy land in various areas before projects were slated to begin there. The investigation has been expanded to target government employees outside of LH, including members of Mr. Moon’s staff. As the dragnet grew larger, two LH officials were found dead this month in apparent suicides. One of them left a note confessing to an “inappropriate deed,” according to the local media.

“LH officials had more access to information on public housing projects than any other, but sadly, we also learned through our investigation that they were ahead of others in real estate speculation,” said Lee Kang-hoon, a lawyer at the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, one of the two civic groups that uncovered the corruption among the LH officials.

Mr. Moon’s political enemies have been quick to fan the flames among angry voters.

“Stealing public data for real estate speculation is a crime that ruins the country,” the former prosecutor-general, Yoon Seok-youl, told the conservative daily Chosun Ilbo this month while criticizing the government’s handling of the situation.

Mr. Yoon has become a darling among the conservative opposition, and recent surveys showed him to be one of the most popular potential candidates in next year’s presidential election. He recently clashed with Mr. Moon over the president’s effort to curtail the power of prosecutors, and resigned early this month.

Lee Jae-myung, the governor of Gyeonggi Province, is another potential candidate in next year’s race. The liberal governor hopes to represent Mr. Moon’s party in the election and has promoted a “basic housing” policy in which the government would provide cheap and long-term rentals for South Koreans.

He recently urged Parliament to enact a comprehensive law banning conflicts of interest among public servants. “If you want to clean the house, you must first clean the mop,” he said. “If you want to make South Korea a fair society, you must first ensure that those who make and implement policies act fairly.”

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Golf Homes for Around $500,000 in 5 Global Destinations

Buying a golf home tends to be an expensive proposition, according to Carla Barnard, the co-owner of the Golf Course Broker, a company that brokers the sales of golf course developments and homes in the United States.

“Golf homes are desirable properties and hence more expensive than typical homes,” she said. “Also, oftentimes, you’re buying into a community with amenities or living near a golf course, which both add to the cost.”

But as is true with real estate generally, “prices for golf properties can vary wildly by destination,” said Jason Becker, the chief executive of Golf Life Navigators, a matchmaking site that helps people find golf memberships and homes based on their criteria.

Koprulu Canyon and visiting nearby waterfalls such as Dunden.

Trione-Annadel State Park is adjacent to the community and is full of hiking and biking paths as well as lakes.

The home: Recently remodeled, this single-story home sits on the 10th hole of one of the golf courses and has two bedrooms and two baths. Light hardwood floors and crisp white walls throughout the property give it a contemporary feel. The large kitchen has an island and new stainless-steel appliances, and the dining area leads to the patio. The bath attached to the master bedroom has double sinks and a tub while the second bath has only a shower.

Outdoor space: The home has a large patio with a barbecue that sits on the side of the golf course but no private lawn space.

Taxes: $4,479 a year

Paarl, South Africa

In South Africa’s Winelands region, about a 40-minute drive east of Cape Town, this property is set within the Boschenmeer Golf & Country Estate, a gated 300-acre development with a 27-hole golf course. Amenities include a clubhouse, two tennis courts, a spa, a pool, a fine-dining restaurant and multiple walking paths.

Price: $336,851

Size: 2,744 square feet

The home: Situated on the 19th hole of the golf course, this four-bedroom, four-bathroom home is light-filled and airy with a modern aesthetic. The entry level has stone-tiled floors, an open kitchen and a spacious living room and dining area. The bedrooms, all carpeted, are upstairs and have beautiful views of the golf course and the surrounding vineyards.

Outdoor space: Given its position on the golf course, outdoor space is limited. There is a patio with room for a four-person table and a small lawn.

Taxes: $2,062 a year

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To Help Black Developers, Programs Start With Access to Capital

For 15 years, Harvey Yancey has been building and renovating market-rate homes, affordable housing and commercial spaces in Washington, D.C. During that time, his company, H2DesignBuild, has navigated funding challenges and found its way into beneficial deals.

But all along, Mr. Yancey, who is Black, said he was aware of the industry’s racial homogeneity and the limitations he faced because of his skin color. “It was always the quiet conversation in the room,” he said.

Today, commercial real estate remains a field in which the vast majority of developers are white. Few reliable statistics are available, but the industry association NAIOP reported in a 2013 survey, the most recent year available, that 4.4 percent of commercial real estate professionals were Black. This year, just 5 percent of Urban Land Institute’s members described themselves as Black or African-American.

The disparity has many sources, including many African-Americans’ unfamiliarity with the field and subsequent dearth of connections. But the biggest challenge, Black developers say, is gaining access to capital, including loans, loan guarantees and equity. That may be the result of limited balance sheets, short track records or a lack of wealthy and influential networks. As a result, their firms struggle to grow and remain on the margins as cities around the country see their downtowns reshaped by other, deep-pocketed developers.

overwhelmingly white, though its leaders are pledging to change.

Banking giants like Bank of America, Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, as well as smaller institutions, have announced initiatives totaling billions of dollars that are largely focusing on communities and entrepreneurs of color. Some of the funding is earmarked for affordable housing and commercial development in low-income communities, which will benefit all real estate developers.

Longtime practitioners and analysts in the field say that if new dollars are to redress the industry’s racial imbalance, the funds need to be carefully designed so that more of the money winds up in the hands of Black developers.

In October, JPMorgan Chase announced a $30 billion initiative to advance racial equity that included substantial commitments for minority-led small businesses and Black and Latino households. The announcement also listed $14 billion in new loans and investments over the next five years to expand affordable rental housing in low-income communities.

announced $200 million of equity and financing for affordable housing projects by minority developers.

net worth of a typical Black family in America was one-tenth that of a white family, according to a study by the Brookings Institution. Black developers say that coming up with several million dollars in “friends and family” equity is often impossible because their networks don’t have that kind of money.

“Equity capital is not readily available,” said Craig Livingston, a managing partner at Exact Capital and the chairman of the New York Real Estate Chamber. He and his colleagues may have incredible track records, he said, “but when competing with second- or third-generation developers, we don’t have the same financial footing or access to risk capital.”

A few initiatives have emerged that focus on this problem. In June, for instance, Morgan Stanley and the Ford Foundation started a $26 million fund that provides equity to emerging minority- and women-owned companies. The fund — which is the result of almost a decade of strategizing about how to best help developers of color — will be managed by TruFund Financial Services, a Community Development Financial Institution.

And Blue Vista, an investment management firm in Chicago, is creating a $100 million private equity fund for minority and women-owned real estate businesses. Moved by the racial justice protests this summer, Robert G. Byron, a co-founder of the firm, examined the company’s history and found that the deals in which the company had provided capital to novice companies led by people of color and women had worked out well.

Blue Vista structured its new fund in response, with a plan to provide seed capital and mentoring to a handful of talented newer developers. Within a few years, recipients are more likely to be ready to seek capital from more established sources.

Blue Vista’s program is similar to one that Don Peebles, a successful Black developer in New York, announced in 2019. Mr. Peebles is aiming to gather $450 million in investments for undercapitalized developers in several key markets. But among private equity firms, Mr. Byron says, there doesn’t seem to be any real competition to find and invest in these developers.

“Just by scratching the surface, without marketing, we’ve found really capable people — smart, talented, experienced,” Mr. Byron said. And investors are excited, too.

“What I hear from both investors and potential users is, ‘This is exactly what we’ve been clamoring for,’” he said. “It’s kind of a no-brainer.”

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It May Be Time to Start Worrying About the Estate Tax

Elimination of the step-up rules could capture billions in taxes from the rich but hurt some people who do not have enormous wealth. Consider a hypothetical couple who bought their home 40 years ago for, say, $75,000, paid the mortgage, maintained the yard, made some upgrades and now find themselves with a house worth $300,000 or more. For many families, a house like that forms the basis of a modest estate to pass to heirs. Now, if heirs ever sell that house, they will be responsible only for gains above $300,000; if the step-up in basis were eliminated, they would owe taxes on any amount above the original $75,000.

The loss of a step-up in basis at death would change the calculus for real estate and any other highly appreciated asset. (Think of Apple stock bought in the 1980s, or Bitcoin from 10 years ago.)

“Most of America has their wealth concentrated in their home,” said Chris Bixby, senior wealth adviser at Mariner Wealth Advisors. “That would be subject to the step-up. I’m talking to people about gifting the house earlier to get it into their heir’s name, so the appreciation happens in their name, not yours.”

That may be a step too far for many people, who will want to retain ownership of their home.

There is also a broader equity issue.

Elimination of the step-up in basis could make it harder to bridge the racial wealth gap, said Calvin Williams Jr., chief executive and founder of Freeman Capital, a wealth management firm. He noted that the Brookings Institution has found that Black families, on average, have about one-tenth the wealth of white families — $17,150 versus $171,000. In addition, Brookings estimates that only 10 percent of Black families inherit any money, about $100,000 on average, compared with about 30 percent of white families, who receive about $200,000.

Elimination of the step-up rule would make it more difficult for Black families to pass on whatever wealth they have been able to accumulate, he said. “The fact that the inheritance gap has continued to grow, even as Black income is continuing to grow, shows just how much work needs to be done to close that gap,” he said.

It might be more equitable to create a cap on the step-up in basis that would exempt people below a certain amount of wealth, he said: A $500,000 exemption would provide relief to many middle-class families. This would be similar in spirit to another proposal under consideration by the Biden administration, an increase in capital gains taxes for people earning more than $1 million a year.

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Mexico’s Unspoiled East Cape Is Nothing Like Cabo

The construction boom started after Hurricane Odile, which stuck and caused severe damage to Los Cabos in 2014, according to Ramiro Palenque Bullrich, the owner of 2Seas Los Cabos, a local realty company that is an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate. “Right after Odile, getting a permit to build was very inexpensive so the number of hotels and residential units multiplied quickly,” he said.

But a half-hour drive farther northeast and away from the Corridor, in an area called the East Cape, is a side of the region that is a stark contrast to the bustling vacation destination. Stretching from San José del Cabo to the town of Los Barriles, the East Cape is a secluded area of sweeping landscapes where the desert meets the Sea of Cortez, and the Sierra de la Laguna mountains sit in the backdrop.

It wasn’t too long ago that this part of Los Cabos was largely unknown and off-the-grid, according to several experts. “A few years ago, there was nothing in the East Cape, and some parts didn’t have and continue not to have proper electricity,” Mr. Bullrich said.

Recently, however, the East Cape has turned into an up-and-coming area that’s garnering buzz.

The shift is largely due to a new 1,000-acre resort community, Costa Palmas, which includes outposts of two well-known hotel brands, each with a residential component: Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Aman Resorts. Four Seasons introdced its hotel and homes in late 2019 while the rest are expected to be completed in the next five to seven years.

More development is also underway in the East Cape beyond Costa Palmas.

Patricio del Portillo, the director in Mexico for the research firm CBRE Hotels, said that the East Cape is appealing to home buyers because of its setting on the Sea of Cortez, a body of water that has captured imaginations because of its deep blue color and rich marine life. The American author John Steinbeck, for one, wrote the travelogue “The Log from the Sea of Cortez,” published in 1951, after traveling here, and the explorer Jacques Cousteau called it the “aquarium of the world.”

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Why the Canadian Housing Market Is Soaring in the Pandemic

This week began with an unusual apology. Evan Siddall, the president and chief executive of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, took to Twitter to acknowledge that the federal agency had erred last year when it forecast that the pandemic-induced economic collapse might cause house prices to fall by as much as 18 percent.

reaching 1.6 million Canadian dollars. In the Toronto area, the average selling price for detached homes rose by 23.1 percent over the same time period, and a composite price that includes all kinds of housing topped 1 million dollars.

A sellers’ market prevails in many parts of the country, even at a time of economic distress for many. After my mother died earlier this year, I was surprised to learn that bidding wars, something I associated with Toronto and Vancouver, were now common in my hometown, Windsor, Ontario, for sales of even relatively modest houses like hers. In my neighborhood in Ottawa, a city that posted a record number of house sales last month, little time elapses before “for sale” signs are plastered with “sold” stickers.

the market soared instead of floundering.

save all 32 crew members aboard a scallop trawler from Nova Scotia that ultimately sank after a fire.

  • Defense lawyers failed in their bid to have a man declared not criminally responsible, because of his autism spectrum disorder, for using a rented van to kill 10 people in Toronto and injure 16 others. The legal move angered many in the autism community and was largely dismissed by a judge as she convicted the man of murder and attempted murder.

  • A noted hockey author and journalist, Roy MacGregor, looks back on the life of Walter Gretzky, Canada’s most famous hockey dad, who died this week.

  • The icy winter shoreline of Lake Huron in Ontario’s Bruce County doesn’t seem like an obvious place to take up surfing. But for some, its shortcomings are more than offset by the strong wind and the large waves it offers.

  • Last weekend, 35 top players in women’s hockey from Canada, the United States and Europe finally hit the ice for their first competitive games against women since February 2020.

  • Times critic Natalia Winkelman reviews “The Walrus and the Whistleblower,” a documentary about a former trainer’s efforts to free a walrus named Smooshi from an aquatic park in Niagara Falls, Ontario.


  • A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has reported about Canada for The New York Times for the past 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


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