THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION of Realtors is known as one of Washington's most powerful lobbies, but evidently its efforts on behalf of its interests do not always endear it to legislators on the receiving end.
So when the NAR's Institute of Real Estate Management sent a "Dear Representative" letter to House members objecting to language in the new housing authorization bill that would allow tenants in assisted housing to comment on certain management matters, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and housing subcommittee Chairman Henry B. Gonzalez (D-Tex.) had a thing or two to say.
Calling the letter from IREM President Ronald A. Harris "so out of line that I was really disturbed by it," Frank read a part of it that said: "Permitting tenants the luxury of commenting on management decisions places in their hands a capacity for decision-making for which they are not qualified. . . . Tenant input in major actions affecting a project's operation fails to consider that tenants have little or no long-term commitment or obligation to maintain the livability or economic health of the project as a whole."
Said Frank: "It is deeply disturbing to get such sentiments in this official statement of the Institute of Real Estate Management . . . . I would hope the National Association of Realtors and the Institute of Real Estate Management -- I assume they are represented here at the housing bill markup Tuesday -- would take the opportunity to withdraw these sentiments because it really shakes my confidence that they have any idea what they're doing."
Gonzalez chimed in: "I'm surprised that the gentleman from Massachusetts, being a sophisticated, knowledgeable man of the world, would be surprised at anything the Realtors put out. . . . It does reflect a pitiable attitude on the part of so many that have a tendency to look down on" tenants.
Frank replied that "I have found that among the people at the Institute of Real Estate Management there has been a generally better attitude than this, and I think that this degree of contempt for the human beings who live in assisted housing is somewhat aberrational. But on the other hand, judging overall, I would have to concede to the chairman that I am not surprised that he is surprised that I was surprised."
An NAR official later expressed unhappiness with Frank for quoting "only two sentences" from the letter. "He was very selective" in what he read, and if only that material is considered "you lose the whole point of the letter," the official said.
IREM has serious concerns about the bill, he said, and was trying to make a point that is very important to its members.
In the letter, Harris noted that owners of housing projects run substantial economic risks that tenants do not, and said that "the proposed infringements on ownership rights create a harsh disincentive for the construction of new multifamily projects, and may eventually affect all forms of HUD property."
AN OFFICE BUILDING approved last week by the Montgomery County Planning Board will round out the new outer boundaries of Silver Spring, according to county officials.
The Colespring Center will be built on the site of a handful of old houses on the corner of Spring Street and Colesville Road, outside of the old Silver Spring commercial district but filling in a new boundary for the business district that planners designated in the last decade.
"It's interesting to see how nicely Silver Spring has been allowed to grow," said John Hoover, county planning spokesman. "This is one of the final pieces of the puzzle."
Hoover said the older houses on the site were built when the Silver Spring commercial center was smaller, becoming less and less desirable as commercial development went up on all sides.
CUTTING BACK ON HUNTING TERRITORY is no laughing matter in many parts of Virginia, but fortunately most people don't take it this seriously.
Two Poquoson, Va., men angered by residential "poaching" of hunting land torched a partially built $75,000 house in protest, one of the men testified in Circuit Court, in York, Va., this week. Nelson H. Wilson, 19, was convicted of arson Tuesday and will be sentenced July 16. The crime carries a maximum prison term of 20 years.
Wilson testified Tuesday that he and another man burned a house under construction in February in Hunts Wood subdivision "because they were building houses everywhere and because they are building all those houses, you can't go in those woods to hunt."
City officials say Poquoson residents' arguments over development have been heated in the past, but never before reached such destructive proportions.
"There's a fairly large group of the population that doesn't want to see more growth," said Nathaniel Karns, city planner. "I haven't seen anything quite like this before, though."
Poquoson was the state's fastest-growing city in percentage of population increase during the 1970s, and continues to add about 120 houses a year, Karns said.
FAIRFAX COUNTY is studying the possible need to change some land-use designations that could allow for construction of additional neighborhood shopping centers.
The need for more retail centers, including grocery stores and other service operations, has increased in recent years, especially in western parts of Fairfax where new housing developments have been built.
Recent applications calling for changes to the county's comprehensive land-use plan asked the county to change several sites to allow for commercial development of neighborhood shopping facilities.
Those applications were all deferred until a new study of the need for such facilities can be completed, county planning officials said.
Meanwhile, Hazel/Peterson Cos. broke ground last week on the first phase of Franklin Farm Village Center, a $15 million, 165,000-square-foot retail, food and office shopping center adjacent to the Springfield bypass. The new neighborhood shopping area will have the same theme carried in the 1,107-acre Franklin Farm/Franklin Glen residential community, which also was developed by Hazel-Peterson.
James Todd, president of Hazel/Peterson, said the first phase of the 20-acre project will include a major grocery store and 500,000 square feet of retail shops. Scheduled to open in late 1985, the center will be added on to in a second phase to include additional office and retail space.