The California Association of Realtors’ chief executive plans to end his 43-year career with the Los Angeles-based statewide trade group, stepping down at the end of the year, the association announced Friday, May 21.
Joel Singer joined CAR in 1978 as the association’s chief economist and head of its public policy department. He took over as CEO in 1989, a position he held for nearly 32 years.
Singer’s retirement marks the second major department for CAR in the past year. Chief Economist Leslie Appleton Young retired at the end of 2020. A committee is being formed to conduct a nationwide search for a replacement, the association said.
Throughout his career, the 200,000-member organization has been influential in state housing policy, helping to pass California’s current rent control bill in 1995, the Costa-Hawkins Act, and defeating numerous efforts in recent years to repeal it. The measure limited rent control to buildings built before 1995 and exempted single-family homes from rent control.
CAR also has battled to protect or expand Proposition 13 limits on raising property taxes, including sponsorship of the recently enacted Proposition 19, which allows seniors and disabled homeowners to transfer their lower Prop. 13 tax base to another home anywhere in the state.
During Singer’s tenure, CAR also served as an advocate for real estate brokers, housing, private property rights and other policy objectives.
CAR also supported bills to ensure real estate sales agents remain independent contractors, to create greater transparency for PACE energy loans and to increase construction of accessory dwelling units, or granny flats. The associate also fended off legislation to eliminate mortgage tax deductions on second homes.
He led several initiatives to help address a statewide housing shortage, working with legislators to boost homebuilding in the state. In 2018, Singer led the establishment of Californians for Homeownership, a nonprofit organization sponsored by CAR to address California’s housing crisis through litigation, including a suit against the city of Huntington Beach for denying a condo development that included low-income housing.
Singer, who turns 70 on Saturday, also spearheaded a number of “thought leadership” forums to address public policy issues, like the 2016 summit to address the statewide housing crisis. Singer addressed a gathering of about 100 economists, public officials, homebuilders and affordable housing advocates, decrying the state’s ranking as 49th in the nation in homeownership and 50th in affordability.
“Where are our children going to live?” Singer asked.
Singer was instrumental in helping real estate agents adapt to changes caused by the internet, moderating panels at CAR conventions discussing new technology and how agents can adapt to it.
The industry had little to fear from online listings, direct internet “iBuyers” or other technology so long as they embrace change and adapt, Singer said in a 2019 interview with the Southern California News Group. New technology shouldn’t generate fear, he said. “It should generate a sense of opportunity.”