- Roundtable Members and Leading Policymakers Focus on National Issues Affecting CRE in 118th Congress
- Return-To-Office Policies Present National Economic Challenges
- Treasury Issues Alert on Potential Russian Attempts to Evade Sanctions Through U.S. CRE Investments
- Real Estate Coalition Raises Concerns About White House Directive for Federal Agencies to Strengthen Tenant Protections
Roundtable Members and Leading Policymakers Focus on National Issues Affecting CRE in 118th Congress
The Real Estate Roundtable’s 2023 State of the Industry (SOI) Meeting this week included policy discussions with national lawmakers on issues affecting commercial real estate—including the debt ceiling, affordable housing, tax policy, climate regulations, market conditions, and evolving security threats. A special Roundtable joint committee meeting also analyzed the opportunities presented by the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the ways CRE companies are navigating the law’s clean energy tax incentives.
Speakers & Policy Issues
Roundtable Chair John Fish (Chairman and CEO, SUFFOLK), right,and Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, left, launched the meeting, which included the following speakers:
- House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)
- Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R)
- Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
- Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL)
- Rep. French Hill (R-AR)
- Former Rep. and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and former Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL)
Roundtable Policy Advisory Committees
- The Roundtable's policy advisory committees also met on Jan. 24-25 to analyze policy issues with industry experts, policymakers, and their staff, including:
Special Joint SPAC-TPAC Session
- The Roundtable’s Tax and Sustainability Policy Advisory Committees (TPAC and SPAC) jointly met to discuss the practical aspects of employing the IRA’s new clean energy tax credits and deductions, and how the incentives can help finance improvements needed to meet evolving regulatory requirements and investor expectations. [Photo: panel moderators TPAC Vice Chair Catherine Perrenoud (Tax Director, Johnson Management LLC), left, next to Roundtable Board Member and SPAC Chair Anthony Malkin (Chairman and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust)]
Research and Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committees (RECPAC)
- Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), above, shared his insights on capital and credit issues as chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Monetary Policy. Panels on real estate capital markets and debt markets also engaged Roundtable members in wide-ranging discussions on current economic conditions.
Tax Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC)
- Speakers at the TPAC meeting included senior House Ways and Means Committee member Darin LaHood (R-IL), above, a bipartisan panel of senior staff from the congressional tax-writing committees, and the Treasury Department’s attorney advisor for partnership and pass-through tax issues. The policymakers focused on tax and economic policy priorities for the year ahead.
Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC)
- SPAC members heard from Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) senior staff on the proposed ENERGY STAR NextGen certification for commercial buildings designed to recognize low-carbon assets, as well as EPA’s Indoor Air Programs. Department of Energy senior staff also provided updates on the Biden administration’s Better Climate Challenge.
Homeland Security Task Force (HSTF)
- HSTF members were briefed on the current threat environment to CRE by Linda Reid (VP, Security Operations, Walt Disney), right, and National Football League Security Chief Cathy Lanier, left, who also serves as vice-chair of CISA’s Commercial Facilities Sector Coordinating Council. Other discussions focused on cyber crime threats, fraudulent lease applications, organized criminal retail theft, and other security challenges facing commercial sector facilities.
Next on The Roundtable's FY2023 meeting calendar is the Spring Meeting on April 24-25. This meeting is restricted to Roundtable-level members only.
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Return-To-Office Policies Present National Economic Challenges
The ongoing negative economic impact of remote work was featured in the Wall Street Journal this week—supported by a private sector study showing more uncertainty lay ahead as office markets adjust to post-pandemic hybrid arrangements for employees. (WSJ, Jan. 24 and CommercialEdge, Jan. 19)
Threats to Local Tax Bases
- Real Estate Roundtable Chair John Fish and President & CEO Jeff DeBoer wrote to President Biden last month about the consequences of federal agencies’ promotion of permanent remote work—and how these actions are harming cities, local tax bases, and small businesses. (Roundtable letter, Dec. 12, 2022)
- The Roundtable letter also expressed support for legislation that could help facilitate “the increased conversion of underutilized office and other commercial real estate to much-needed housing.”
- The WSJ article this week cited The Roundtable’s letter as well as District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser's recent calls for President Biden to get more federal workers back to the workplace—and convert underutilized commercial real estate spaces into affordable housing. (Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 6 and ABC News, Jan. 2)
- City officials in New York, Washington, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, and Boston have also encouraged city workers to return to their downtown offices. (WSJ, Jan. 24)
- Yardi’s CommercialEdge issued its National Office Report this month showing that the U.S. office market closed 2022 with a consistent rise in vacancies & declining sales. The national analysis shows that some firms have become more forceful in bringing workers back into the office, while many have fully committed to hybrid and remote work policies. The report also notes that tenants will likely embrace smaller office footprints in premium locations.
- CommercialEdge stated, “With offices vacant and housing in short supply across the county, converting offices seems like a logical solution.” Yet without tax incentives and other financial resources from state and local governments, many office conversion projects may not be a priority in a high-interest-rate environment, according to the report.
- A VTS Office Demand Index (VODI) report shows that, while there is momentum in return-to-office trends, it “seems unlikely” that most employers will revert to pre-pandemic physical workplace arrangements. (GlobeSt, Jan. 26)
- The real estate industry’s perspective on the major repercussions of remote work, including its threat to municipal tax bases throughout the country, were also the focus of recent articles in GlobeSt on Jan. 26 and Jan. 23.
Return-to-office policies by the federal government and cities throughout the nation—and solutions to ease hybrid work’s damaging consequences—will continue to be a focus of The Roundtable’s policy agenda in 2023.
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Treasury Issues Alert on Potential Russian Attempts to Evade Sanctions Through U.S. CRE Investments
The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) warned financial institutions this week about how Russian elites and their proxies may attempt to evade sanctions by exploiting vulnerabilities in the U.S. commercial real estate market. (FinCEN Alert | Bloomberg and Wall Street Journal, Jan. 25)
- Treasury has imposed wide-ranging sanctions on certain Russian elites, their proxies, and others who have provided support for Russia’s brutal war against Ukraine. (Treasury’s Sanctions List Updates)
- FinCEN Acting Director Himamauli Das said, “Today we are identifying red flags and typologies in commercial real estate transactions that financial institutions can use to remain vigilant in monitoring, detecting, and reporting suspicious activity that may be indicative of sanctions evasion by sanctioned Russia elites, oligarchs and their proxies.” (Treasury news release, Jan. 25)
- FinCEN’s 11-page alert warns that sanctioned Russian elites and their proxies may pose as CRE investors seeking to evade sanctions by using shell companies, trusts, and pooled investment vehicles, including offshore funds, in order to avoid customer due diligence obligations and beneficial ownership protocols established by financial institutions.
- The alert also reminds financial institutions involved in loan syndication—including banks, life insurers, and other types of companies regulated by the Bank Secrecy Act—that Section 314(b) of the USA PATRIOT Act provides a safe harbor that offers protections from liability for financial institutions who share information with one another on suspected money laundering or terrorist activities.
- Questions or comments regarding the alert should be sent to the FinCEN Regulatory Support Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Treasury Department issued a final rule last Sept. that will require millions of companies to report information about their “beneficial owners”—persons who own at least 25% of a company or exert significant authority over it—to FinCEN. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 30, 2022 | Final Treasury Rule | Fact Sheet | Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Law, Sept. 29)
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Real Estate Coalition Raises Concerns About White House Directive for Federal Agencies to Strengthen Tenant Protections
A coalition of 12 national real estate organizations raised concerns this week about the Biden administration’s “Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights,” which directs federal agencies to strengthen tenant protections. (White House Fact Sheet and Coalition statement, Jan. 25 and GlobeSt, Jan. 26)
- The White House on Wednesday issued the “Blueprint” that includes a set of principles to encourage voluntary private sector actions that increase affordable rental units—and drive action by the federal government, state and local partners on tenant rights enforcement. The administration will also launch an effort in the spring to get local governments and housing providers involved in a "Resident-Centered Housing Challenge." (White House Blueprint for a Renters Bill of Rights and The Washington Post, Jan. 25)
- The real estate coalition, which includes the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC), expressed disappointment that the White House announcement was “solely focused on renter protections, creating potentially duplicative and onerous federal regulations that interfere with state and local laws meant to govern the housing provider and resident relationship.” (Coalition statement, Jan. 25)
- NMCH also issued a statement that acknowledged the White House action did not include the threat of a national rent control policy—and urged the administration to prioritize implementation of its Housing Supply Action Plan issued last May. “The best renter protection is an abundant supply of housing,” NMHC stated.
Affordable Housing Solutions
- The administration’s Housing Supply Action Plan includes zoning incentives and government financing to address an estimated shortfall of 7 million units for low-income renters nationwide. It aims to create hundreds of thousands of affordable housing units in the next three years, with the goal of closing the nation’s housing supply shortfall in five years. (Roundtable Weekly, May 20, 2022 | PoliticoPro, May 16, 2022 | National Low Income Housing Coalition, April 2022)
- On the legislative front, congressional committees showed support last year for the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (S. 1136). The bill (detailed summary here) has not been reintroduced yet in the 118th Congress. The measure would expand the pool of tax credits allocated to states for new affordable housing, make it easier to combine the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) with other sources of capital like private activity bonds, and facilitate LIHTC rehab projects. (National Multi-Housing News, Jan. 16)
- Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer said, “Overly restrictive land-use and zoning policies, construction cost increases, and labor shortages are deepening our housing challenges, which now extend across the entire country. Government at all levels needs to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act would be an important step forward.” (Roundtable Weekly, July 22, 2022)
The Roundtable’s Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committee (RECPAC) has formed an Affordable Housing Working Group, which is working with the Research Committee to develop proposals on expanding the nation’s housing infrastructure.
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