New Study Forecasts Remote Work Will Restructure Office Sector
House Republicans Reintroduce Bill to Make TCJA Deductions and SALT Cap Permanent
Senate Bill Introduced to Require Federal Guidance on Cybersecurity Insurance
Roundtable Weekly
February 24, 2023
New Study Forecasts Remote Work Will Restructure Office Sector
Cushman & Wakefield demand chart

The profound impact of remote work on the office sector—and the resulting negative consequences for municipal tax revenues—were the focus of reports this week on current marketplace pressures and long-term office forecasts.

Office Vacancy

  • A weak return-to-office rate for employees working under hybrid arrangements, combined with rising interest rates and asset value pressures, have led to increased office vacancy rates and loan defaults in many cities, according to a Feb. 21 Wall Street Journal report.

  • Roundtable Board Member Scott Rechler (Chairman & CEO, RXR) is quoted by the Journal on how the office sector may eventually emerge from the current cycle. “There’s a transition period that takes time. You have to cross the chasm into the new regime,” Rechler said. (WSJ, “Office Landlord Defaults Are Escalating as Lenders Brace for More Distress”)

  • A Feb. 22 Cushman & Wakefield report forecasts that the overall level of office vacancy by 2030 will be 55% higher than prior to the pandemic (Q4 2019)—a trend that could be countered by repositioning and repurposing current space usage in coordination with public-private efforts at the local, state, and federal levels. (C&W’s “Obsolesence Equals Opportunity” and Fortune, Feb. 22)

  • The report also states that as much as 25% of all U.S. office space is “growing increasingly undesirable and will need to be reimagined and made relevant for the future,”—and that approximately 60% of all current office stock is “facing competitive obsolescence.” (BisNow, Feb. 23)

  • The Cushman & Wakefield report concludes, “Eventually, the remote working dynamic will flow completely through the marketplace as pre-pandemic leases expire and as firms shed the space to meet new-era, hybrid work requirements.”

The Roundtable View

Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer
  • The Real Estate Roundtable’s Q1 Economic Sentiment Index released last week shows that Class B office properties are struggling, asset values have fallen year-over-year, and availability of debt and equity capital have declined.

  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, above, said, “Fundamentally, our Q1 index illustrates that the trends accelerated by the pandemic have led to mixed performances across asset classes. In the office sector, remote work policies, concerns over crime and transportation are driving record-high vacancy rates throughout the country, hurting city budgets and small businesses.” (Roundtable news release, Feb. 17)

  • DeBoer added, “Policymakers should emphasize the need to return to the workplace while considering other innovative solutions such as legislation to convert underutilized offices to housing.” (Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 17)

  • DeBoer and Roundtable Chairman John Fish (Chairman & CEO, SUFFOLK) submitted comments last Dec. to President Biden encouraging support for legislation that could help facilitate “the increased conversion of underutilized office and other commercial real estate to much-needed housing.” (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 16, 2022)

  • The Roundtable’s letter to Biden emphasized that work-from-home policies are damaging the economy, cities, and communities. “We are concerned that certain Administration policy guidance is encouraging federal agencies to adopt permanent work-from-home policies for federal employees and thereby actually magnifying negative economic and social consequences for cities,” the letter stated. 

Tax Incentives & Remote Work

Chicago cityscape sky view

  • Private companies may be motivated to enforce stronger employee return-to-office policies if they wish to qualify for city and state tax incentive agreements.

  • Provisions built into some existing municipality agreements were designed to ensure that private sector jobs would boost local revenue from income, sales and property taxes, and bolster downtown economies. (Bloomberg, Feb. 21) 

The Bloomberg report offers several examples of how state and city officials are reevaluating current incentive agreements and designing new ones that detail the scope of employee location requirements for companies to qualify for tax breaks.

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House Republicans Reintroduce Bill to Make TCJA Deductions and SALT Cap Permanent

House Ways and Means Committee Vice Chairman Vern Buchanan (R-FL)Tax provisions affecting individuals and small businesses originally enacted as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017—along with the state and local tax (SALT) deduction cap—would be made permanent under legislation reintroduced this month by House Ways and Means Committee Vice Chairman Vern Buchanan (R-FL), above. (The Bond Buyer, Feb. 13 and Legislative Text)

The TCJA Permanency Act

  • Buchanan’s bill (H.R.976) includes a Roundtable-supported provision to make permanent the 20 percent deduction for qualified pass-through business income (Section 199A). The legislation would also permanently lower tax rates for individuals and families and maintain the higher standard deduction.

  • There are currently 83 co-sponsors of The TCJA Permanency Act. Buchanan has led five of the six Ways and Means Subcommittees and currently sits on the Joint Committee on Taxation, a small group of the most senior tax policy writers in Congress. (Buchanan news release, Feb. 13)

  • Without Congressional action, 23 different provisions of the 2017 Republican tax law are set to expire after 2025, including the SALT deduction cap. Buchanan originally filed legislation to make the TCJA cuts permanent last September during the Democratic-controlled 117th Congress.

  • Buchanan stated that funding for the Federal Aviation Administration could be a legislative vehicle to attach the TCJA bill, since no major standalone tax bills are expected this year. (BGov, Feb. 23)

SALT Caucus Relaunched

SALT Caucus 2023
  • ​More than 20 members of the House relaunched the SALT Caucus this month as part of their push to repeal the $10,000 cap limit on the federal deduction for state and local taxes. (News conference video, Feb. 8 and Tax Notes, Feb. 9)

  • The cap is scheduled to sunset after 2025, but SALT caucus members want relief sooner while pledging to fight attempts to extend the cap. (Rep. Gottheimer news release, Feb. 9)

  • “I like the odds of having a bunch of new Republicans from states that need to restore SALT," said SALT Caucus Co-Chair Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ). “So if you want to talk, this is the caucus to talk to to get this done, to restore SALT and make life more affordable.” (Roll Call, Feb. 8)

More than 30 states and local jurisdictions have enacted a SALT workaround for pass-through businesses, S-corporations, and some LLCs. (CNBC video Feb. 13)

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Senate Bill Introduced to Require Federal Guidance on Cybersecurity Insurance
Cybersecurity graphic - image Federal guidance on cyber insurance policies is the focus of a new bipartisan Senate bill introduced on Feb. 21 that aims to protect businesses and consumers against cyberattacks. (PoliticoPro, Feb. 21) Cyber Issues
  • The Insure Cybersecurity Act will direct the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to mitigate digital risk by developing recommendations for issuers, agents, brokers, and customers to improve communication over cybersecurity insurance coverage levels.
  • Co-sponsored by Sens. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), the bill also directs a NTIA task force to develop policy recommendations relating to ransomware or ransom payments, and the “terminology used in policies to include or exclude losses” due to cyber terrorism or acts of war.
  • Hickenlooper is the new chair of the Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Data Security.
  • 2021 Government Accountability Office report found that ambiguity in policy language can result in misunderstandings and litigation between issuers and policyholders—and underestimations of coverage needed to protect against cyber risks.
The Roundtable’s Homeland Security Task Force continues working with the Real Estate Information Sharing and Analysis Center (RE-ISAC), federal officials, and real estate companies about threats to the business cyber environment with the aim of mitigating cyber intrusions. #  #  #