- Roundtable Calls for Common Sense Gun Policy
- Healthy Workplaces Policy Coalition Launches With Roundtable’s Backing
- New Legislation to Reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program Released Before House Committee Hearing
- Roundtable-Supported Fed Liquidity Facility Bolstered CRE Finance During Pandemic
Roundtable Calls for Common Sense Gun Policy
Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, above, issued a statement today on gun violence in America.
- “Enough is enough. Congress must set politics aside. We call on Congress to use its moral authority to help make our schools, places of worship, work, shopping and recreation more safe from gun violence.”
- “Democrats and Republicans must come together, in a national act of healing, and pass common sense legislation to remove weapons of war from America’s cities and communities. Enough is enough,” DeBoer said.
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Healthy Workplaces Policy Coalition Launches With Roundtable’s Backing
The “Healthy Workplaces Coalition” launched this week with the backing of The Real Estate Roundtable to support federal policies that promote health and safety in offices and other work environments. (Coalition news release and 1-pager, May 25)
- More than 40 national organizations, industry leaders and trade associations will collaborate on federal policies to support the health and well-being of employees, customers and the public in workplaces and across the built environment.
- The International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) and ISSA–The Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association lead the Coalition. The Roundtable and Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International join them on the Steering Committee, and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) is among the Coalition’s founding members.
- “Revitalizing downtown communities hit hard by the pandemic depends on getting America’s workers back to the office place – and supporting the mom-and-pop restaurants and stores that serve our central business districts,” said Jeffrey D. DeBoer, President and CEO of The Real Estate Roundtable. “Policies that support investments to improve indoor air quality and other healthy building strategies will not only accelerate the return to the workplace, but improve the long-term resiliency of our nation’s built environment.”
- The Healthy Workplaces Coalition launch announcement cited a recent Honeywell survey, which showed 72% of office workers worldwide worry about air quality in their workplaces’ buildings.
- Back-to-the-workplace issues were the focus of a Roundtable virtual town hall in March with U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Martin Walsh and Roundtable Chair John Fish (Chairman and CEO, Suffolk). Town hall participants Fred Seigel (President and CEO, Beacon Capital Partners) and Owen Thomas (CEO, Boston Properties), emphasized the importance of healthy building strategies as key measures necessary to prompt workers’ return to office environments. (Watch video discussion | Roundtable Weekly, March 18)
- The coalition will support federal incentives and other policies that help businesses defray some of the extra costs they incur for heightened sanitization and safety practices prompted by the spread of COVID-19.
- For example, the coalition aims to build support for legislation such as the bipartisan Healthy Workplaces Tax Credit Act (S. 537), introduced by Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), backed by The Roundtable since the height of the pandemic. Companion legislation pending in the House (H.R. 1944) is sponsored by Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) and Darin LaHood (R-IL).
- The Portman-Sinema bill would provide a refundable tax credit against payroll taxes for 50 percent of the costs incurred by a business for adhering to health guidelines, as well as support for training and education on the prevention of virus transmission.
- Similarly, the recently introduced Airborne Act sponsored by Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) would provide a tax credit for businesses to conduct indoor air quality assessments, and create a voluntary certification program for CRE owners that meet heightened ventilation standards. (Beyer news release, May 9)
Reopening businesses and the country is an important priority in The Roundtable's 2022 Policy Agenda: “Connection, Commitment, and Collaboration - Supporting Federal Policy Through Experience and Innovation in 2022” – and will be a focus of discussion during The Roundtable’s all-member Annual Meeting on June 16-17 in Washington.
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New Legislation to Reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program Released Before House Committee Hearing
The House Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development, and Insurance held a hearing on May 25 to address the reauthorization and reform of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Funding for the program is set to expire on Sept. 30 if reauthorization is not passed by Congress. (Hearing Webcast and Committee Memorandum)
- Since the last major reauthorization expired at the end of fiscal 2017, there have been 19 short-term NFIP extensions and several brief lapses, according to the committee’s memo.
- Five draft bills were released in conjunction with the hearing, including two from House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters (D-CA). Her first bill would reauthorize the program for five years, renew flood risk mapping and mitigation funds, and offer discounted rates to lower-income households. Water’s second bill would cancel the indebtedness of the NFIP.
The Roundtable View
- The Roundtable supports a long-term reauthorization of the NFIP with appropriate reforms that create long-term stability for policyholders, improved accuracy of flood maps, improved mitigation, enhanced affordability, and the acceptance of non-NFIP policies for commercial properties. (Roundtable website)
- Under the current NFIP, commercial property flood insurance limits are very low – $500,000 per building and $500,000 for its contents. Lenders typically require this base NFIP coverage, and commercial owners must purchase Supplemental Excess Flood Insurance for coverage above the NFIP limits.
- The Roundtable and its coalition partners support NFIP reauthorization with the inclusion of provisions that permit a voluntary "commercial exemption" for mandatory NFIP coverage if commercial property owners currently maintain adequate flood coverage.
- Given the low coverage amounts provided to commercial properties, it is important to permit larger commercial loans to be exempt from the mandatory NFIP purchase requirements.
Congress will face the possibility of yet another NFIP funding extension before September 30 if policymakers cannot agree on reforming the program through legislation.
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Roundtable-Supported Fed Liquidity Facility Bolstered CRE Finance During Pandemic
A report published this week by the Dallas Fed concludes that the Federal Reserve’s Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility (TALF) played a key role in bolstering commercial real estate finance during the pandemic. The Federal Reserve added outstanding CMBS as eligible collateral for lending through the TALF in 2020 after urgent requests from business coalitions that included The Real Estate Roundtable. (Roundtable Weekly, April 17, 2020 and Joint Trades letter, March 24, 2020)
TALF & CRE
- The report by three authors with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas’ Research Department states the value of CRE assets at the onset of the pandemic in Feb. 2020 – particularly office towers, retail centers and hotels – suddenly became uncertain. The TALF’s subsequent support of asset-backed securities successfully anchored CMBS prices and helped to steady CRE finance during a tumultuous economic environment.
- The TALF, previously used during the 2008 financial crisis, was relaunched by the Fed on March 23, 2020 in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
- A business coalition that included The Roundtable on March 24, 2020 urged the Federal Reserve, Treasury, and Federal Housing Finance Agency to immediately expand the TALF to include non-agency CMBS – including legacy private-label conduit and single-asset single borrower (SASB) assets. The coalition stated the inclusion of private-label assets would stabilize asset prices and shore up the balance sheets of market participants. (Joint Industry letter)
- On April 9, the Federal Reserve announced the range of TALF-eligible collateral would expand to include triple-A rated tranches of both outstanding (legacy) CMBS, commercial mortgage loans and newly issued collateralized loan obligations. However, the updated term sheet excluded single-asset single borrower (SASB) CMBS and commercial real estate collateralized loan obligations (CRE CLOs). (Federal Reserve news release and Term Sheet)
- Six real estate industry organizations, including The Roundtable, wrote again to federal regulators on April 14, 2020 about the urgent need to include a wider range of investment grade commercial real estate debt instruments in the Fed’s TALF.
- The 2020 letter stated, “Commercial and multifamily real estate assets that were perfectly healthy just weeks ago now face massive stress and a wave of payment and covenant defaults.”
- The Fed on May 12, 2020 broadened the range of leveraged loans that could be used as collateral for the TALF to include new Triple-A rated collateralized loan obligations (CLOs) with leveraged loans. (Fed news release and Term Sheet)
- A recent Federal Reserve paper entitled “Crisis Liquidity Facilities with Nonbank Counterparties: Lessons from the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility” explores the constructive role of the TALF in depth.
- The TALF and other emergency lending facilities were closed in late 2020 as part of a multi-trillion “omnibus” bill providing pandemic relief and government operations funding – but the Fed can re-start TALF if emergency economic conditions arise again in the future. (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 22, 2020)
The report published this week concludes the TALF proved especially important in supporting commercial real estate finance. “The TALF program structure provided needed liquidity to investors at the height of the pandemic, but it incentivized borrowers to exit as normal market conditions returned, allowing the program to quickly unwind,” the article states.
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