Roundtable Board Selects Suffolk’s John Fish as Chair-Elect, Establishes Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Committee; Industry Leaders Discuss Investment Trends, Engage Lawmakers on National Policy Issues
The Real Estate Roundtable’s Fall Meeting on Sept. 22 featured top-of-mind issues, including the latest economic and political forecasts; real estate's diversity and inclusion efforts; prospects for pandemic risk insurance; and future economic stimulus initiatives, particularly those related to housing, rent and infrastructure.
Advocacy: Roundtable Chair Debra Cafaro (Chairman and CEO, Ventas, Inc.) welcomed Roundtable members to the virtual meeting by summarizing The Roundtable's effective, yet remote, advocacy work with industry stakeholders and Washington policymakers on the multi-faceted policy responses to the coronavirus – as well as on issues in the tax, capital and credit, sustainability and homeland security areas. (See for example, The Roundtable’s written statement for the committee and testimony before the Senate Banking Committee regarding the Federal Reserve’ Main Street Loan Facility. (Video of Sept. 9 testimony and Q&A )
Leadership: Cafaro, above left, also announced that The Roundtable’s 24-member Board of Directors has selected John F. Fish, above right, (CEO & Chairman, Suffolk) as the organization’s Chair-Elect; appointed Jodie W. McLean (CEO, Edens) as its Secretary; and named Jeff T. Blau (CEO, Related Companies) as the inaugural Chair of the organization’s newly-established Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) committee.
- Video on FY 2021 nominations for The Roundtable Board and comments by John Fish
- Video on The Roundtable’s ED&I committee and comments by Jeff Blau
Investment Trends: Roundtable Chair Debra Cafaro led a discussion regarding “Emerging Global Real Estate Investment Trends” with Christoph Donner (Chief Executive Officer, Allianz Real Estate of America); Adam Gallistel (Managing Director, GIC Real Estate); Steven Hason (Managing Director, Head of Americas Real Assets, APG Asset Management US Inc.) and Roundtable Board Member Kathleen McCarthy (Global Co-Head of Blackstone Real Estate, Blackstone) – video of panel discussion.
Special Guests: The Roundtable’s Fall Business Meeting included virtual visits from the following guests:
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – video
- Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) – video
- Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) – video
See below for more details about this discussion regarding pandemic risk insurance.
Next on The Roundtable's meeting calendar is the all-member January 26-27 State of the Industry Meeting.
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Representative Steve Stivers Anticipates a Pandemic Risk Insurance Bill by Early 2021
Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) discussed prospects for developing and enacting a federal pandemic risk-business continuity insurance program in an interview with Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer during the organization’s Fall Meeting this week. (Video of the interview)
- Rep. Stivers is the Ranking Member on the House Committee on Financial Services’ Subcommittee on Housing, Community Development and Insurance and played a key role in last year’s seven-year extension of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA).
- DeBoer noted that the COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the lack of insurance availability for business continuity coverage for catastrophic pandemic events. Most business interruption insurance policies are denying pandemic risk-related claims, raising urgent concerns among policyholders – including owners of real estate, the event industry and professional sporting leagues.
- Rep. Stivers emphasized the problem is growing worse and stated, “We’ve seen business interruption insurance not being willing to cover any pandemics. I think you’re going to start to see lenders … requiring some type of pandemic coverage in their loan covenants in the coming years.”
- While a number of legislative proposals have been introduced – including the Pandemic Risk Insurance Act of 2020 (H.R. 6983) – many are based on TRIA, which presents stark differences compared to pandemic risk. Rep. Stivers notes in the interview how the scale and size of a terrorism attack and a pandemic are fundamentally different. He also notes how a mandatory make-available clause that is part of the TRIA legislation is not currently part of a pandemic risk insurance bill.
- Rep. Stivers (above) also said he expects a modified legislative approach to H.R. 6983 may be successful: “I believe in the first six months of next year we should have something (legislation) out of the House and pending in the Senate with the Senate starting to take action.”
- Both DeBoer and Stivers agreed that a federal business continuity insurance program should be put into place before there is a recurrence of pandemic or government-ordered shutdown in response to a different natural catastrophe.
- The Roundtable is working with industry partners such as Nareit and other stakeholders through the newly formed Business Continuity Coalition (BCC) to develop with policymakers an effective federal insurance program that provides the economy with the coverage it needs to provide business continuity coverage in the face of pandemic risk. . (Video of DeBoer’s discussion with Rep. Stivers)
- DeBoer also asked the Congressman, as a member of the House Financial Services Committee, about the prospects for a pandemic relief bill. Rep. Stivers responded, “I believe there will be a pandemic relief bill in the lame-duck session. The most important things to me are number one, liability protection for businesses that open. Number 2 – some help for our state and local governments that have seen a hit in their revenues. I’d like to see us add money for infrastructure … and for people who continue to struggle.”
- He continued, “Instead of (increasing) unemployment insurance … I would rather see us do a temporary rental assistance program and I think it should apply to commercial as well as residential. There’s already an eviction moratorium, but if you can’t evict somebody but you don’t get help for your rent, then you’re picking tenants over landlords and I’d like to see us fix that problem and do a temporary rental assistance program.”
Pressure for policymakers to act on another round of pandemic aid is growing since negotiations between Democrats and Republicans stalled in August. (See story below on Coronavirus Response)
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House Approves Government Funding Until Dec. 11 and Passes Comprehensive Energy Package
The House of Representatives on Tuesday night passed a bipartisan Continuing Resolution (CR) by a vote of 359-57 to extend federal government funding through December 11 and avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month. (Text of H.R. 8337 and Section-by-section summary of the legislation)
- The CR includes short-term funding extensions (with no policy changes) for surface transportation funding, the National Flood Insurance Program, and the EB-5 Regional Center Program.
- The Senate is expected to pass the CR next week and send it to President Trump for his signature before FY’2021 starts on October 1, 2020.
Energy Package Passes
- The House yesterday also passed a comprehensive energy package (H.R.4447) that includes sections on building energy codes, federal energy data regarding commercial buildings, and grant programs for underserved communities and green infrastructure. The measure passed with mostly Democratic support by a 220-185 vote. (CQ, Sept. 24)
- One of the major goals of the legislative package is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050. (BGov, Sept. 16)
- The Clean Economy and Jobs Innovation Act includes a section – strongly supported by The Roundtable – that would require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) to report to Congress through a “coordination agreement” regarding each agency’s separate collection of data regarding commercial building energy consumption.
- Coordination between the agencies is critical because the EIA’s Commercial Buildings Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) provides data that underpins EPA’s ENERGY STAR building scores, which impact nearly 35,000 buildings nationwide, representing more than 5 billion square feet of commercial space. (ENERGY STAR Facts and Stats)
- The House bill also includes Roundtable-backed provisions that would bring greater transparency to how the U.S. Department of Energy provides federal recommendations to develop building energy codes, which state and local governments may ultimately adopt through a long-established process. (Roundtable Weekly, June 19, 2019)
- The White House on Sept. 21 stated its opposition to H.R. 4447. Among the reasons for its veto threat, the Administration believes that the bill sets “rigid targets” on Federal buildings to reduce water and energy consumption, and is concerned that State and local governments might establish building codes “not grounded in available technologies.”
- In the Senate, Energy Committee Chair Lisa Murkowski (R-AL) hopes to reintroduce bipartisan energy legislation (S. 2657) next week. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), the Senate Energy Committee’s ranking member and co-sponsor of S. 2657, said they are working through issues to overcome an impasse on the building energy codes section. (BGov, Sept. 24)
If the Senate passes its bill, a “conference” would be convened – perhaps during the Lame Duck Congressional session after Election Day – for House and Senate committee leaders to reconcile any differences between their respective packages.
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Powell and Mnuchin Urge More Congressional Pandemic Fiscal Relief; Fed Releases FAQs on Main Street Lending Program; Democrats Considering New COVID-19 Package
Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell (right) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (left) testified before House and Senate committees this week to discuss the government’s pandemic response. Powell offered no option for administrative changes to the Main Street Lending Program (MSLP) credit lending facility while Mnuchin strongly urged Congress to repurpose unused COVID-19 relief funds in another legislative pandemic aid package. (BGov, Sept. 23 and Reuters, Sept. 24)
- Recommendations to improve access to the MSLP were a focus of recent testimony by Roundtable President and CEO’s Jeffrey DeBoer on behalf of the industry before the Senate Banking Committee. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 11)
- On Sept. 23, policymakers on the House Oversight and Reform Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis questioned Powell about the efficacy of the MSLP, which has only utilized about 0.3% of its $600 billion capacity. (BGov, Sept. 23)
- Powell responded about the MSLP that the Fed has done “… basically all of the things we can think of that are clear gains (but) we are looking to do more.” He added, “… but I would say the things that we have done have been really to widen the appeal of that program and its effectiveness … there is nothing major that we see now that would be consistent with opening it up…” (BGov and CQ Committee transcript, Sept. 23)
Fed Updates MSLP FAQs
The Fed on Sept. 18 issued new guidance to banks for the MSLP in an attempt to encourage increased lending. The central bank’s revised “Frequently Asked Questions” for the MSLP emphasize that lender underwriting should look back to the borrower's pre-pandemic condition and forward to their post-pandemic prospects. The FAQs also seek to clarify the Board and Department of Treasury's expectations regarding lender underwriting. (Fed news release)
- In a news conference announcing the FAQs, Powell said, “I would say it may be that further support for commercial real estate will require further action for Congress – from Congress.”
- During his three committee appearances this week, Powell consistently emphasized that more fiscal relief is needed from Congress to sustain an economic recovery from the pandemic. Mnuchin struck a similar theme in his two committee appearances while urging Congress to pass a new package that would reuse unused funds from previous COVID-19 relief authorizations for urgent needs.
- Mnuchin told the Senate Banking Committee this week that up to $380 billion could be repurposed. "It would not cost an extra penny," Mnuchin said. (Reuters, Sept 24)
- During the Sept. 24 hearing, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-ID) in his opening statement referred to the committee’s earlier hearing on Sept. 9 on “The Status of the Federal Reserve Emergency Lending Facilities.”
- Chairman Crapo said, “Jeff DeBoer (above) President and CEO of the Real Estate Roundtable painted a bleak picture of the condition of the commercial real estate market. He said, ‘It is impacting their ability to meet their debt service obligations which increases pressure on financial institutions, pension fund investors and others.’ And he said, ‘It is pushing property values down to the detriment of local governments. It is causing much stress to pools for commercial mortgage backed securities and it is threatening to result in countless commercial property foreclosures. The situation must be addressed.’" (Crapo’s Opening Statement, Sept. 24 and DeBoer's testimony and Q&A, Sept. 9)
- Crapo added, “Negotiating toward a realistic package that can actually get passed and signed into law would best serve the American people during this difficult time.”
- Mnuchin told the Senate Committee that he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have "agreed to continue to have discussions." (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 24)
Democrats Considering New Aid Proposal
Pelosi has directed her committee chairs this week to assemble a scaled back coronavirus relief package of approximately $2.4 trillion that could be used for as a basis for potential discussions with the White House and Senate Republicans. (Politico, BGov, and The Hill, Sept 24)
- Negotiations over a COVID-19 relief bill between Democrats and Republicans broke down in August over a nearly $1 trillion gulf between their proposals.
- The House passed a $3.4 trillion package in May (H.R. 6800), which is more than the $1.5 trillion President Trump indicated he would support and much larger than a $650 billion package supported by Senate Republicans.
- House Democrats could vote on a new plan next week, which would appease lawmakers from battleground election states anxious to pass a pandemic aid package before adjourning to campaign – despite chances that a Democrat-only plan is unlikely to attract Republican support.
Speaker Pelosi said last week that the House would remain in session until an agreement is reached, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) clarified that Representatives would be on call to return to the Capitol on short notice in the event a deal is reached. (BGov, Sept. 15)
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