House Democrats Urge Federal Regulators to Incentivize CRE Conversions

Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) at hearing

Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), above, and nine other House Democrats last week urged federal banking regulators to incentivize conversions of commercial real estate to other uses. Rep. Gomez previously introduced the Roundtable-supported Revitalizing Downtowns Act (H.R. 4759) in 2021 to encourage adaptive use of older buildings. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) also introduced companion legislation in the Senate (S. 2511). (Rep. Gomez news release, July 31)

Federal Regulators & CRE Conversions

  • The recent letter to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and other regulators stated that the congressional policymakers are concerned how the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exert a negative influence on markets and regional banks. “We are especially interested in the impact of this instability on the $6 trillion dollar market for retail and office space CRE, which has been unduly impacted by pandemic related disruptions,” the letter states.
  • The letter also noted, “It is essential that all arms of the federal government take prudent steps to limit the impact of a CRE market contraction, and innovate to encourage reuse of vacant commercial space as a potential source of housing.” (Rep. Gomez news release, July 31)

Legislation & Tax Credits 

Chicago office building into condominiums

White House Initiative The White House

  • The Roundtable on Dec. 12, 2022 urged the Biden administration to support “legislation to facilitate the increased conversion of underutilized office and other commercial real estate to much-needed housing.” (RER letter to President Biden, Dec. 12 andGlobeSt, Aug. 8)
  • Last month, the administration announced a new initiative that will establish a multi-agency working group to “develop and advance federal funding opportunities” for commercial-to-residential conversions that would help increase the supply of energy-efficient affordable housing. (Reuters and HousingWire, July 27 | Roundtable Weekly, July 28)

New CRE Conversion Study

  • new analysis from researchers at New York University and Columbia University explores the potential for renewable energy investment tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act to help subsidize CRE adaptive use and green conversions. (National Bureau of Economic Research
  • The August study, Converting Brown Offices to Green Apartments, also notes the significant role that local zoning laws, permitting policies, and building codes could play in encouraging CRE conversions. The authors conclude that about 11% of commercial office buildings in the 105 largest cities are candidates for conversion, and that an estimated 400,000 new apartment units could be created. (Axios, Aug. 8)

property conversions working group created by The Real Estate Roundtable’s Tax Policy Advisory Committee will continue to respond to legislative proposals affecting potential property conversion activities. 

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Real Estate Industry Urges Lawmakers to Consider Tax Incentive for Property Conversions

CRE with green trees

A Roundtable-led coalition of 16 national real estate organizations on Oct. 12 recommended certain enhancements and expansions to the Revitalizing Downtowns Act (S. 2511, H.R. 4759). The bill was introduced by Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA) to encourage the conversion of older buildings into new uses. (Coalition letter

Qualified Property Conversions Credit 

  • The coalition noted that many buildings are being reimagined and repurposed to address a severe shortage of housing and meet other post-pandemic business needs. Where appropriate, property conversions can be a cost-effective means to develop new housing supply, create jobs, and generate critical sources of local property tax revenue while saving energy and reinvigorating communities.

  • The Revitalizing Downtowns Act would provide a 20 percent tax credit for qualified property conversion expenditures. The credit is modeled on the historic rehabilitation tax credit and could be used for office buildings that are at least 25 years old at the time of the conversion.

  • An office-to-residential conversion project may qualify for the credit if the project provides at least 20 percent affordable housing—or is subject to an alternative affordable housing arrangement under state or local policy, ordinance, or agreement. 

Real Estate Industry Recommendations 


  • The recommendations include:
    • (a) expanding the category of properties eligible for the credit to include other types of commercial buildings, such as shopping centers and hotels;
    • (b) extending the incentive to real estate investment trusts (REITs); and
    • (c) reducing the conversion expenditure requirement from 100 percent of the building’s basis to 50 percent—along with half-a-dozen other suggestions.

  • The coalition letter is the work product of a property conversions working group created by The Real Estate Roundtable’s Tax Policy Advisory Committee. The working group has reviewed and considered the challenges and impediments confronting potential property conversion activities.  

Recent media articles on property conversions include “Cities push to convert deserted office buildings into housing” (Axios, Sept.  28) and “Multifamily Developers Turn Some Dead Office Space into Apartments” (, Oct. 4). 

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