Roundtable Weekly -- November 22, 2019

Terrorism Risk Insurance Program

House Passes Seven-Year TRIA Reauthorization; Senate Banking Committee Advances Similar Bill

Capitol Hill

A seven-year reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) passed the House this week (H.R. 4634) as the Senate Banking Committee advanced a similar bill (S. 2877).  Both bills would reauthorize the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program (TRIP) through December 31, 2027.

  • The House passed the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2019 (H.R. 4634) on Nov. 18 by a vote of 385–22.  The measure was previously passed unanimously (57-0) by the House Financial Services Committee on Oct. 31.  (Roundtable Weekly, Nov. 1)
  • House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) stated on the House floor before the chamber vote, “Congress [originally] passed TRIA to ensure that terrorism risk insurance coverage would remain available and affordable. And since that time the program has been effective at doing just that … Treasury data also demonstrates that TRIA is important across America and not just in densely populated urban areas. In fact, they take up rate is higher in the Midwest than it is in the Northeast. I would urge all my colleagues to support this important legislation.”

  • In the Senate, a seven-year extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program (TRIP) was advanced by the Banking Committee on Nov. 20.  The reauthorization bill (S. 2877) was introduced last week by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Tina Smith (D-MN), along with 13 bipartisan cosponsors.  The bill now goes to the full Senate, which has not yet scheduled a vote.

  • Chairman Crapo commented during the markup on the importance of TRIP which is scheduled to expire at the end of 2020.  “Since its establishment in 2002, the Program has been reauthorized three different times, in 2005, 2007 and 2015.  Given the Program’s importance to our nation’s economy, regardless of region or state, and the broad bipartisan support in both the House and Senate, it makes sense for the Banking Committee to consider the Program’s reauthorization now,” Crapo said.

  • The similar approach of the House and Senate bills increases the prospect that final passage of a TRIA reauthorization may be included as part of an end-of-the-year funding bill, although prospects of that outcome are uncertain.

Roundtable Chair Debra Cafaro (Chairman and Chief Executive Offer, Ventas Inc.) commented, “The Real Estate Roundtable strongly supports a seven-year reauthorization of TRIA to ensure that terrorism risk insurance coverage will remain available and affordable .  The Roundtable will continue to work with Senate and House policymakers and with the Coalition to Insure Against Terrorism to encourage enactment of this top legislative policy priority as soon as possible to add certainty to the marketplace and reassure stakeholders across many industries who rely on the availability of terrorism insurance coverage for their businesses.  Passage will promote the creation of jobs, enable new projects to proceed, and protect state pension fund investments and lender portfolios.”

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Federal Funding

President Trump Signs Spending Bill to Fund Government Until Dec. 20

President Trump signing legislation

Congress this week passed a four-week spending bill that was by signed President Trump last night to fund the government beyond Nov. 21 and avoid a shutdown.

  • The Continuing Resolution (CR) locks in current funding levels for government operations until Dec. 20 – including the National Flood Insurance and EB-5 investment programs.

  • The measure, passed by the House on Tuesday and the Senate on Thursday, gives Congress three weeks after the Thanksgiving recess to agree on allocating $1.37 trillion for the 2020 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.  (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 27)

  • To avoid future stopgap measures for FY2020, policymakers will need to settle the contentious issue of funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.  Last Dec. 22, the government shutdown for 35 days when Congress and President Trump could not reach agreement on border-security funding for a wall.  (Wall Street Journal, Nov. 22)

  • Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) commented on recent efforts to reach an agreement for funding the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees border security. “We gotta deal with the wall, too," Chairman Shelby said this week. "The wall is still there."  (Politico, Nov. 21)

  • The CR’s extension for the EB-5 investment program until Dec. 20 does not include any legislative reforms.  However, long-anticipated regulatory changes to key elements of the EB-5 regional center program took effect Nov. 21.  (Roundtable Weekly, March 8, 2019).

  • Negotiations to modernize the investment visa program are expected after the Thanksgiving recess in light of a comprehensive EB- reform bill introduced earlier this month (Roundtable Weekly, November 8, 2019).  

The Real Estate Roundtable, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, EB-5 Investment Coalition, and other real estate organizations sent a letter on Nov. 15 in support of the bipartisan Immigrant Investor Program Reform Act (S. 2778) – sponsored by Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and John Cornyn (R-TX).

The Senate is scheduled to return on Dec. 2 and the House on Dec. 3.

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Economic Sentiment Index

CRE Execs Report Solid Q4 Market Fundamentals Ease Concerns Over Economic Uncertainty and Geopolitics

Jeffrey DeBoer, President and CEO, The Real Estate Roundtable

Commercial real estate executives report solid fundamentals are countering concerns about economic uncertainty and geopolitics, maintaining an optimistic outlook for market conditions in 2020, according to The Real Estate Roundtable’s 2019 Q4 Economic Sentiment Index released today. 

  • The Q4 Sentiment Index dropped one point from the previous quarter to register a score of 49, which shows a positive view regarding the U.S. economy and real estate market conditions. The Overall Economic Sentiment Index is scored on a scale of 1 to 100 by averaging Current and Future Indices and a score of approximately 50 is viewed as positive.

  • For Q4, the Current-Conditions Index of 53 remains the same as the previous quarter. The Q4 Future-Conditions Index of 45 decreased three points from Q3.  The Overall Sentiment Index has registered between 49 and 77 every quarter since Q3 2009 – except for Q1 2019 (45 score) and Q4 2016 (48 score).

  • “Our Q4 Sentiment Index shows that macro real estate markets remain fundamentally sound and reasonably leveraged, with balanced supply and demand,” said Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer (above).  “The markets continue to benefit from business and consumer spending, encouraged by low unemployment, rising wages and low energy prices.”

The report’s Topline Findings include:

  • The Real Estate Roundtable Q4 2019 Economic Sentiment Index registered a score of 49 – a one-point decrease from the previous quarter. Survey participants remain confident in stable market fundamentals, but are concerned about recession talk, troubled international markets and politics.  

  • Sixty-two percent of Q4 survey respondents believe markets conditions will be about the same or better in 2020.  Approximately 82% of respondents see today’s market as about the same or better compared to the same time last year. 
     
  • More than 65% of respondents anticipate asset values to maintain their current level or be somewhat higher going into 2020.  Additionally, half also suggested asset values increased over the past year.  Respondents consistently suggested the number of buyers for assets was decreasing, a factor which is creating challenging selling and buying circumstances. 
     
  • Most respondents feel debt and equity capital are readily available for quality investments.  The availability of capital and refinancing opportunities are offsetting a decline in buyers/investors in some markets.

DeBoer added, “Real estate leaders cautiously await the outcome of several unpredictable influences on the global and domestic economies.  Despite the uncertainty, U.S. real estate markets have shown consistent stability, which positions them well to withstand potential economic gyrations in the future.”  He also said, “Washington policymakers need to keep their focus on policies that encourage long-term job creation and support economic growth in local communities.”

Data for the Q4 survey was gathered in October by Chicago-based FPL Associates on The Roundtable’s behalf.  For the full survey report, visit www.rer.org/q4-2019-sentiment-index-report

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ENERGY AND TAX POLICY

Roundtable Submits Comments to House Climate Crisis Committee; House Democrats Unveil Green Energy Tax Draft

Logo House Select Commtt Climate x485W edit

The Roundtable submitted energy and climate policy recommendations to the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis on Thursday, while members of the House Ways and Means Committee unveiled a draft legislative package of more than 20 energy tax incentives – including incentives to promote commercial and residential building energy efficiency.The Roundtable’s climate letter submitted Nov. 21 responds to a request for information from the Select Committee. This panel has no authority to write legislation but is authorized to study climate change and issue legislative policy recommendations (expected by March 31, 2020).

In its study and review of climate policy recommendations, the Select Committee has held a series of hearings featuring various stakeholders – including one focused on “Cleaner, Stronger Buildings.”  (See Roundtable Weekly, October 25, 2019

The Roundtable’s comments to the Select Committee highlighted the priorities advocated by its Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) to:       

  • Improve the model building energy codes process by enacting the Portman-Shaheen Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness (ESIC) Act. (Roundtable Weekly, September 27, 2019)
     
  • Enhance EPA’s voluntary ENERGY STAR incentive programs for both commercial buildings and tenants.

  • Improve the quality and reliability of the national data collected by the federal Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey.

  • Create meaningful accelerated depreciation periods to encourage investments in high performance equipment to retrofit existing commercial and multifamily buildings. (Roundtable Weekly, May 10, 2019)

  • Foster public-private partnerships to finance safety and resiliency improvements to the electricity grid, the natural gas pipeline network, and other energy infrastructure assets.

Meanwhile, a discussion draft of the Growing Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now (GREEN) Act was released Nov. 19 by the chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures – Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA).  (Download a section-by-section summary of the GREEN tax draft legislation.)

The GREEN Act would extend and revise a number of expired tax incentives, including provisions aimed at encouraging taxpayers to improve the energy efficiency of homes and commercial buildings. Specifically, the discussion draft includes:

  • An updated and enhanced deduction for capital expenditures on energy-efficient commercial building property (section 179D)

  • An expanded tax credit for the developers of new, energy-efficient homes (section 45L)

  • A modified tax credit for energy-efficient improvements to existing homes (section 25C)

Under the bill, the revised tax incentives would be available through 2024. Following release of the draft legislation, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richie Neal (D-MA) stated, “The climate crisis requires bold action, and I’m pleased that we’re using the legislative tools at Ways and Means’ disposal to create green jobs, reduce carbon emissions, and help heal our planet.” We look forward to hearing from stakeholders to ensure this bill is effective in helping improve energy efficiency and eliminating carbon emissions.”

Prospects for passing the GREEN Act are unclear as it is a Democratic initiative that currently lacks Republican support. 

Meanwhile, The Roundtable and coalition partners continue to lay the research and data foundation for a new tax incentive that would provide accelerated depreciation for high performance, HVAC, lighting, windows, and other equipment to retrofit existing commercial and multifamily buildings, known as “E-QUIP.” (See Roundtable Weekly, May 10, 2019).  The coalition’s objective is for bipartisan introduction of an E-QUIP bill in early 2020.

The Roundtable’s Tax Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) plans to analyze the proposed measures and respond to any eventual energy tax legislation that may be introduced in the New Year.

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