Broad Coalition Urges Congressional Tax Writers to Support Like-Kind Exchange Rules
Senate Bill Calls for More Federal Telework Data as Study Shows DC Agencies Using 12 Percent of Office Space
States May Tap Into Federal Funds to Help CRE Owners Comply With City Climate Laws
Ray Torto, Pioneer of Real Estate Research and Former Roundtable Research Committee Chairman
Roundtable Weekly
April 12, 2024
Broad Coalition Urges Congressional Tax Writers to Support Like-Kind Exchange Rules

This week, The Real Estate Roundtable and 35 other national business organizations urged leaders of the Senate and House tax-writing committees to preserve long-standing tax rules governing like-kind exchanges (LKEs). The April 10 letter encouraged policymakers to reject proposals, such as those in President Biden's budget, to restrict the use of LKEs. (Coalition letter, April 10)

Value of LKEs

  • The letter, sent to the chairs and ranking members of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees, details the importance of LKEs to the health, recovery, and realignment of U.S. commercial real estate in the post-pandemic economy.  
  • Exchanges have helped offset reduced transaction activity associated with high interest rates and other sources of economic uncertainty.  Without LKEs, many properties would languish—underutilized and underinvested—because of the tax burden that would apply to an outright sale.   
  • The letter notes how LKEs increase economic mobility for cash-poor small business owners, farmers, and entrepreneurs—including minorities, women, and veterans—while contributing to environmental conservation efforts, housing affordability, and redevelopment in economically struggling cities and towns.

Widespread Use

  • Academic and other economic research has repeatedly demonstrated the positive economic contribution of LKE. Research by Professors David Ling (University of Florida) and Milena Petrova (Syracuse University) estimates that 10 to 20 percent of commercial real estate transactions involve a like-kind exchange
  • A recent Marcus & Millichap analysis demonstrates the value of LKEs to the health and financing of the commercial real estate industry, particularly during market corrections and liquidity shortages. (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 1, 2023)

House Tax Hearings

  • Separately, congressional hearings in the House this week considered tax provisions scheduled to expire at the end of 2025 that were enacted in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).
  • During an April 11 House Ways and Means Committee hearing, Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) stated, “With the expiration of the 199A small business deduction, we will see even more ‘closed for business’ signs up and down Main street when their federal tax rate jumps to over 40 percent.”
  • Chairman Smith added that strong bipartisan support for key TCJA provisions exists in the House after passage earlier this year of the Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act (H.R. 7024) by a vote of 357-70. (Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 2)

The $79 billion tax package passed by the House includes Roundtable-supported measures on business interest deductibility, bonus depreciation, and the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC), but continues to face hurdles in the Senate. The Roundtable and 21 other industry organizations that comprise the Housing Affordability Coalition urged the Senate on Feb. 15 to pass the tax package.

Senate Bill Calls for More Federal Telework Data as Study Shows DC Agencies Using 12 Percent of Office Space

A bipartisan Senate bill introduced on April 3 would increase oversight of federal telework policies after a recent report showed government agency headquarters in Washington, DC are using an average of 12% of their office space. (Committee news release and Public Buildings Reform Board report)

Congressional Push

  • The Telework Transparency Act (S. 4043) from Sens. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Gary Peters (D-MI), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, would require agencies to gather information on how telework impacts agency performance and federal property decisions. (Government Executive, April 8 and Federal News Network, April 3)
  • Last month’s report from the Public Buildings Reform Board (PBRB) concludes that the “massive scale” of underutilized federal property creates an “outsized opportunity to save money and improve outcomes through property disposals and smarter real estate decisions.” (GlobeSt, April 9 and Bisnow, April 3)

Roundtable Efforts

Jeffrey DeBoer, President and CEO, The Real Estate Roundtable
  • The Real Estate Roundtable wrote to members of the Senate about the need for the federal government to end its “active encouragement of remote working for federal employees” and for federal agencies to return to their pre-pandemic workplace practices. (RER letter to the Senate, April 12, 2023 and Commercial Observer, April 14, 2023)
  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, above, sent a similar request to President Biden, noting that federal telework policies were ignoring “the negative impacts of remote work on cities and communities, labor productivity, and U.S. economic competitiveness, as well as the quality of government services.” (RER letter to President Biden, Dec. 12, 2022)
  • The economic impact of remote work in the public and private sectors will be discussed next week during The Roundtable’s Spring Meeting in Washington, DC. (Roundtable-level members only).  

Policymaker guests will include House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), House Financial Services Committee Member Rep. French Hill (R-AR), and Jared Bernstein, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

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States May Tap Into Federal Funds to Help CRE Owners Comply With City Climate Laws
DOE LPO webinar on BPS

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a new financing program this week for states to access federal funds that could help real estate owners meet state, city, and county building performance standards (BPS).

State Energy Financing Institutions

  • An April 9 webinar hosted by the White House and DOE’s Loan Programs Office provided information on plans to make federal money available to state energy financing institutions (SEFIs).
  • Federal funds deployed under the SEFI program will be channeled through state agencies, which in turn will provide loans and grants to qualified building owners.
  • SEFIs that receive federal DOE “certification” will assist compliance with building emissions and energy efficiency limits set by a growing number of states and localities. 
  • The LPO has released a SEFI Toolkit that describes the contours of the program.
  • The Roundtable supports non-binding federal guidelines that bring national consistency to the conflicting patchwork of local BPS mandates.(DOE “blueprint” to decarbonize buildings; Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 15)

Funding Criteria

LPO for Building Sector
  • States will establish eligibility financing criteria under federal guidelines. They will likely prioritize disbursements to buildings in low-income areas and low-income housing.
  • SEFI funds could be deployed to support commercial-to-residential property conversions in jurisdictions with BPS laws.
  • To scale the program, DOE stated on the webinar that federal funds channeled through the states will be geared to support energy work on a portfolio of buildings rather than single projects.
  • The agency also stated that DOE-sourced funds will aim to support assets that strive to meet the forthcoming national definition for a Zero Emissions Building (“ZEB”). (Roundtable Fact Sheet on ZEB, Jan. 18)

The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) continues to work closely with the White House and DOE on climate initiatives impacting commercial real estate.

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Ray Torto, Pioneer of Real Estate Research and Former Roundtable Research Committee Chairman
Ray Torto

Real estate industry research pioneer Ray Torto passed on April 7 after an accomplished professional career spanning roles in academia, government, and the private sector that included service as chairman of The Real Estate Roundtable’s Research Committee. (Torto obituary)

  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer said, “Ray was well-known throughout the industry for decades as an astute leader who offered original insights about the important role of data in real estate markets and its application to national policy. The Roundtable will always remember his valuable guidance leading our Research Committee, and we will miss him.”
  • In 1982, Ray partnered with Bill Wheaton of MIT to start Torto-Wheaton Research (TWR, now CBRE Econometric Advisors). TWR was among the first to bring data analysis and econometrics to the real estate industry, paving the way for increased institutional capital investment. See an appreciation by current Roundtable Research Committee Chair Spencer Levy, CBRE Global Client Strategist and Senior Economic Advisor.

After Ray retired from CBRE, he returned to the classroom to become a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Reflecting on his career in an interview in 2014, Ray said that his favorite part of the real estate industry was the many people he worked with over the years. An additional interview from 2017 is available from The Counselors of Real Estate (CRE).

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