The Real Estate Roundtable today requested federal bank regulators to reestablish immediately a troubled debt restructuring (TDR) program for commercial real estate that would give financial institutions increased flexibility to refinance loans with borrowers and lenders. (Roundtable letter to regulators, March 17)
Roundtable Liquidity Concerns
- The letter from Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, above, cites rising interest rates, a steady increase in looming debt maturities, remote work’s negative influence on office space demand, and heightened uncertainty from this week’s bank turmoil as contributing factors that have exerted pressure on liquidity and decreased refinancing options for CRE assets.
- DeBoer added, “Regulators have taken significant action four times since 2009 to assist commercial real estate loan modifications during periods of economic instability—and 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.”
- Minutes from last month’s Fed Open Market Committee meeting confirmed economic pressures on CRE assets. The FOMC minutes state, “In particular, the staff noted that measures of valuations in both residential and commercial property markets remained high, and that the potential for large declines in property prices remained greater than usual.”
- The Fed is reviewing tougher capital and liquidity requirements for midsize banks, along with more stringent annual stress tests to assess their ability to weather recessionary pressures. New rules may target mid-sized banks with assets totaling between $100 billion to $250 billion. (Wall Street Journal | Financial Times | Reuters, March 14)
- The Fed this week acted to quell turmoil caused by the collapse of three mid-sized banks, including expanding its balance sheet to nearly $300 billion after months of shrinking it through a quantitative easing program. (Axios, March 17)
- The Fed announced on Sunday night, March 12, the creation of a new Bank Term Funding Program (BTFP), offering loans of up to one year in length to banks, savings associations, credit unions, and other eligible depository institutions that pledge U.S. Treasuries, agency debt and mortgage-backed securities, and other qualifying assets as collateral. The BTFP is backstopped up to $25 billion from the Exchange Stabilization Fund. (Fed announcement, March 12)
- Additionally, a Fed report released yesterday showed a huge outflow of $153 billion in loans at the Fed’s "discount window," a funding resource that helps depository institutions manage their liquidity risks. The previous record for discount window borrowing was $111 billion during the 2008 financial crisis.
- DeBoer’s letter to the Agencies also emphasized the lingering effect of the global pandemic on hospitality, senior housing, retail (including the enclosed shopping center market), office and other property sectors.
- The ongoing pressure of remote work arrangements has altered the current demand for office space nationwide, created significant concerns about the future of office use, and the cast doubt on the future of American cities that heavily depend on property tax revenue to fund needed community services. (Roundtable letter, March 17)
- The wide adoption of remote work may have been a factor in Silicon Valley Bank's collapse, according to the bank’s 2023 annual report filed in February. SVB acknowledged in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it faced "risks from a prolonged work-from-home arrangement as well as our implementation of a broader plan to return to the office." (Fortune, March 16 and Axios, March 17)
The Roundtable’s letter concludes by urging the 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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