A Message from President Mike Theo: A Global Perspective

 Mike Theo  |    July 09, 2018
President Message - Article

When the former Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the reborn Russian Republic began to embrace elements of capitalism for its new economy. It was a difficult process. After all, its communist economy had been state-run for nearly seven decades. Among the elements of capitalism, the new republic began exploring the notion of private property ownership. Nearly every element of private property and home ownership was nonexistent. There were no private lenders to provide capital. There was no appraisal system to determine value. There were no REALTORS¬ģ to broker transactions. Nothing.

Amid all the resulting tumult emerged a novel and incisive REALTOR¬ģ-led effort to assist the Russian people and government transition to a more open market for the transfer and ownership of real property. In 1992, a new organization was born called the International Real Property Foundation (IRPF). It was created by the National Association of REALTORS¬ģ (NAR), who partnered with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with a shared vision to foster institutions for private property ownership across the world. And that‚Äôs exactly what they did. In 2006, IRPF merged with Habitat for Humanity International to form the International Housing Coalition (IHC Global) with an expanded focus on changing policies to improve housing, clean water and sanitation in nations around the world.¬†

I had the honor of spending several days in Washington, D.C., recently with representatives of NAR and IHC Global to meet with the new administrator for USAID, Mark Green, to review the strong partnership between his agency and IHC Global, and to lay the groundwork for what will hopefully become an even more effective collaboration to help improve the lives of people around the world through private property ownership and rights. 

If the name Mark Green sounds familiar, it should. Mark Green is a Wisconsin attorney who served as a Republican State Assembly Representative for six years and later as a three-term Congressman from the Green Bay area. After an unsuccessful run for governor in 2006, Green was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania by President George W. Bush. After serving in leadership roles for several international organizations, Green was appointed to head the USAID by President Trump. After Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democrat U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin sat on either side of Green at his Senate confirmation hearings, the full U.S. Senate approved his appointment with overwhelming bipartisan support. Green has been a strong supporter of property rights and REALTOR¬ģ issues throughout his career.¬†

Administrator Green‚Äôs vision for his new agency is remarkably similar to the values and aspirations of IHC Global and NAR. Chief among these is the notion that aid should be a catalyst to create indigenous, self-sustaining programs and cultures to recipient nations. Or as Administrator Green would say, ‚ÄúThe purpose of foreign aid is to end the need for its existence.‚ÄĚ He adds, ‚ÄúWe provide development assistance to help partner countries on their own development journey to self-reliance. We look at ways to help lift lives and build communities.‚ÄĚ

IHC Global and NAR have shared these goals for decades as they relate to housing-related international assistance through public-private partnerships that are practical, nation-specific, transparent and accountable. We reported to Administrator Green numerous programmatic examples of how our organizations have worked together and how IHC has created nearly 80 professional trade associations in 30 countries resulting in the adoption of best practices needed for private housing markets to succeed. 

I walked away with from these meetings with a greater appreciation for the global importance that property rights and private property ownership have to the overall well-being of people around the world. While this concept may not have been an American creation, private property rights have certainly served as a cornerstone to our democracy and a well-established part of the American Dream. The efforts of the International Housing Coalition, NAR and the U.S. Agency for International Development show that these concepts are key to raising the standard of living and economies of people everywhere. 

As I have said many times on these pages, defending and promoting private property rights is not something we do as REALTORS¬ģ to help only ourselves. We do it to benefit families, people and communities everywhere, across America and, yes, across the globe. We should embrace the concept, in word and in deed, because many others around the world are clearly envious.¬†


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