Debt Ceiling

Real Estate Coalition Urges Congress to Raise Debt Limit ASAP

Capitol building

The Roundtable and 13 other national real estate organizations this week urged congressional leaders to raise the debt limit as soon as possible. The joint letter noted that the possibility of inaction could agitate the stability of U.S. financial markets, and policymakers should avoid roiling significant sectors of the American economy unnecessarily. (Coalition letter, March 29) 

August X Date 

  • The debt limit, which puts a statutory cap on the amount of debt outstanding and the ability to issue securities to fund the government’s obligations, was reached when the government hit its $31.4 trillion borrowing limit early this year. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen informed House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in January that the U.S. would begin taking “extraordinary measures” to pay its bills. (Yellen letter, Jan. 19)

  • The so-called “X date,” when the U.S. will be unable to meet all its financial obligations, looms as policymakers search for consensus on raising the debt ceiling. (NPR, Feb. 17)

  • Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, told the House Budget Committee this week that Treasury’s extraordinary measures are likely to be exhausted this summer—and if the debt limit is not increased, the blow to the economy would be devastating. (Zandi’s written testimony, March 29)

  • “As we approach that so-called X date in mid-August, pressures in the financial system are going to build,” Zandi said. “And as we can see from recent events, given the banking crisis, the system is very fragile at this point-in-time and adding the debt limit as an issue for investors would be particularly inopportune.” 

Real Estate Markets Susceptible 

Debt limit
  • The real estate coalition’s letter this week emphasized that housing and real estate markets are particularly susceptible to any instability stemming from concern about the U.S. meeting its financial obligations, given that more than $10.3 trillion in mortgage debt is backed by the federal government through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, and other federal agencies.

  • The 14 industry organizations informed Senate and House leaders that bipartisan negotiations should pursue solutions as part of the budget and appropriations process. “We have no collective preference for the manner or legislative vehicle you use to resolve this critical issue and protect the full faith and credit of the United States,” according to the joint letter

Policymakers & the Debt Ceiling 

  • Republicans have expressed interest in using some elements from a sprawling energy bill as part of debt ceiling negotiations. Certain measures in the bill, such as streamlining the permitting process for energy projects, have attracted support from both parties. (Bloomberg, March 30 andThe Hill, March 29)

  • Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the bill, which is focused on fossil-fuel measures, with four Democrats joining all but one Republican. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has called the overall bill dead on arrival in the Senate, but has expressed interest in striking a deal on permitting reform. (Reuters and CBS News, March 30)

  • The chairman of the House Budget Committee, Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX) said this week that it could take months for Republicans to complete the budget process. “The more urgent matter is to address the debt ceiling and negotiate spending limitations and broader fiscal reforms in the process,” Arrington said. (Roll Call and Wall Street Journal, March 29) 

As Congress began its two-week recess yesterday, with no votes scheduled until April 17, the White House released fact sheets to show the impacts of Republican requests for spending limits. (White House, March 30) 

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Capital and Credit

White House Prods Agencies to Tighten Regulations for Mid-Sized Banks

Banking regulators testify before the House Financial Services Committee

The White House proposed tighter regulations yesterday for regional banks with between $100 billion to $250 billion in assets—after bank regulators testified this week before congressional committees that they are considering similar measures. (White House Fact Sheet and Reuters, March 30 | AP and American Banker, March 28)

Regulatory Changes

  • Fed Vice Chair for Supervision Michael Barr, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chairman Martin Gruenberg and Treasury Undersecretary for Domestic Finance Nellie Liang, above, testified on the need to strengthen capital standards for mid-sized banks in the wake of this month’s bank failures. (BGov, March 28)

  • The Biden administration stated that federal regulators could expand long-term debt requirements and reinstate banking rules that were rolled back in the previous administration. (White House Fact Sheet and CNBC, March 30)

  • Reuters reported that according to a senior White House official, "These are all actions that can be taken under existing law and as a result, there's no need for congressional action in order to authorize the agencies to take any of these steps."

  • The Fed’s Michael Barr is conducting a review of federal oversight of SVB, with a report expected by May 1 that will recommend regulatory and supervisory actions. Fed Chair Jerome Powell has stated he will support the report’s regulatory recommendations. (Barr congressional testimony, March 30 and The Hill, March 28)

  • Bank Policy Institute head Greg Baer issued a statement emphasizing how imposing more regulation on all banks would drive costs higher in the economy. "It would be unfortunate if the response to bad management and delinquent supervision at SVB were additional regulation on all banks. The Fed has barely begun its promised review. This has a strong feeling of ready, fire, aim," he stated. (Reuters, March 30)

Roundtable Recommendations

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  • The Roundtable recently cited market uncertainty from regional bank turmoil—along with a steady increase in looming debt maturities, rising interest rates, and remote work’s negative influence on office space demand—as coalescing factors that have put pressure on liquidity and decreased refinancing options for CRE assets. (Roundtable letter to regulators, March 17)

  • The March 17 letter from Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer to federal banking regulators recommended the reestablishing a troubled debt restructuring (TDR) program for commercial real estate that would give financial institutions increased flexibility to refinance loans with borrowers and lenders.

  • The Roundtable urged regulatory bank Agencies to avoid any pro-cyclical policies, such as requiring financial institutions to increase capital and liquidity levels to reflect current mark to market models. “These policies would have the unintended consequence of further diminishing liquidity and creating additional downward pressure on asset values,” the letter states.

Agency Actions

  • The Roundtable letter also notes that regulators have taken significant action four times since 2009 to assist commercial real estate loan modifications during periods of economic instability. DeBoer added, “Now is the time to take action again. Our request is for immediate action, given increasing credit and liquidity constraints. Time will allow markets still struggling with post pandemic uncertainties to stabilize.” (Roundtable letter to regulators, March 17)

This month’s Roundtable letter urged federal regulators to “take action immediately to provide increased latitude for financing institutions to work constructively with borrowers. Such action will avert what we believe would be an unnecessary crisis.”

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