Federal Agencies Encourage Commercial Real Estate Loan Accommodations and Workouts in Major Step Forward for CRE
In a positive development for the commercial real estate industry, federal regulatory agencies issued a joint policy statement yesterday on CRE loan accommodations and workouts that calls for “financial institutions to work prudently and constructively with creditworthy borrowers during times of financial stress.” (Agencies’ joint statement, June 29)
Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, above, said, “We enthusiastically welcome and applaud the action of federal regulators to accommodate commercial real estate borrowers and lenders as the industry endures a time of historic, post-pandemic transition. Maturing office loans in particular face a new environment of higher operating and financing costs, much tighter bank lending requirements, and uncertainty in business space needs. This major step forward by federal regulators provides the flexibility that The Roundtable has consistently encouraged, and the relief many in the industry need, as the economy and communities struggle to move beyond the repercussions of the global pandemic.”
This significant action fulfills recent Real Estate Roundtable requests for regulators to provide more supervisory flexibility that would allow for the responsible restructuring of maturing CRE loans. The guidance is expected to encourage debt restructuring for certain office assets under pressure from remote work, high interest rates, and post-pandemic demand. (Roundtable Weekly, May 11 | Roundtable letter to regulators, March 17)
The June 29 joint agency statement was issued by the Office of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the Fed), the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and National Credit Union Administration (NCUA).
The agencies noted that their policy statement builds on existing supervisory guidance issued in 2009, updates existing interagency supervisory guidance on commercial real estate loan workouts, and adds a section on short-term loan accommodations.
The new section on accommodations includes an agreement to defer one or more payments, make a partial payment, or provide other assistance or relief to a borrower who is experiencing a financial challenge. The statement also addresses recent accounting changes for estimating loan losses and provides examples of how to classify and account for loans affected by workout activity. (See 90-page policy statement on “Prudent Commercial Real Estate Loan Accommodations and Workouts”)
Approximately $1.5 trillion in CRE mortgages will mature in the next three years were originally financed when base rates were near zero. Refinancing this wave of maturing loans is complicated by the current debt environment, characterized by much higher interest rates, uncertain asset values, and illiquid capital markets.
CRE Part of Fed Stress Test
This week, the Federal Reserve also released the results of its annual bank stress tests, which included a severe hypothetical scenario of global recession, a 40% decline in commercial real estate prices, a substantial increase in office vacancies, and a 38% decline in house prices. The Fed noted the stress test focus on CRE illustrates that 23 large banks would be able to continue lending in the hypothetical scenario, despite heavy losses. (2023 Fed stress test results and CNBC, June 28)
"Today's results confirm that the banking system remains strong and resilient," Vice Chair for Supervision Michael S. Barr said. "At the same time, this stress test is only one way to measure that strength. We should remain humble about how risks can arise and continue our work to ensure that banks are resilient to a range of economic scenarios, market shocks, and other stresses." (Fed news release, June 28)
The 2023 adverse test scenario model stated that declines in CRE prices should be assumed to be concentrated in properties most at risk of a sustained drop in income and asset values—offices that may be affected by remote work or hospitality sectors that continue to be affected by reduced business travel.
The Fed’s stress test report added, “The May 2023 Financial Stability Report highlighted elevated prices on CRE and the possibility of a large correction in property values that could lead to substantial losses for banks. The demand for offices, downtown retail, and hotels has seen dramatic and countervailing changes over the past several years due largely to the pandemic and resulting changes. While many bank CRE loans are held by smaller banks not subject to the supervisory stress test, the banks subject to the stress test hold approximately 20% of office and downtown retail CRE loans.”
Regulators have also recently signaled they are likely to adopt increased capital requirements for the nation's biggest banks, while Fed governor Michelle Bowman this week spoke out against tougher regulations. (Axios, June 21 and June 26)
“We need to consider whether examiners have the appropriate tools and support to identify important issues and demand prompt remediation,” Bowman stated. “Increasing capital requirements simply does not get at this underlying concern about the effectiveness of supervision.” She added, “It is abundantly clear that regulatory and supervisory reform is on the way.” (Bowman speech and Bloomberg, June 25)
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Energy and Tax Policy
Roundtable Comments on Clean Energy Tax Credits for Low-Income Communities, Housing
The Real Estate Roundtable submitted comments today on a proposed rule from the IRS and Treasury Department regarding “bonus” tax credits for renewable energy investments in low-income communities, passed by Congress as part of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). (Roundtable Comment Letter, June 30)
Taxpayers must apply to the IRS through a competitive process to receive any bonus credits under the Program.
The bonus can provide extra tax credits to help cover the costs of solar, wind, and storage facilities. See The Roundtable’s chart, “Base” and “Bonus Rate” Amounts Relevant to Commercial and Multifamily Buildings (May 25, 2023).
The bonuses are available only for solar or wind projects that generate under 5 megawatts of electrical output. The Roundtable requested a more straightforward rule for what constitutes a “single project” for purposes of this output threshold.
The IRA’s text requires that multifamily building owners must share “financial benefits” of renewable energy produced on-site with tenants. The Roundtable’s comments stressed that any such benefits should not depend on utility bill savings that accrue directly to tenants—because owners cannot measure, track or control energy consumption in sub-metered leased units.
Low-income housing supported by non-federal programs through state- and local-level housing finance agencies or public housing authorities should also be eligible for the IRA’s low-income bonuses.
The proposed rule would offer a preference, not based in the statute, for non-profit owners to receive bonus credit allocations. The Roundtable’s comments urge there should be no bias against business taxpayers to receive the bonus to further the Biden administration’s climate policy goals for rapid deployment of renewable energy investments in low-income communities.
Future Roundtable comments on IRA topics are in the works. Feedback on a proposed rule to buy-and-sell certain clean energy credits is due August 14. In addition, proposed rules to implement the 179D tax deduction for energy efficient retrofits of commercial buildings are expected this summer.
Bipartisan Bill to Extend and Reform National Flood Insurance Program Introduced in Senate, House
Bipartisan legislation recently introduced in the Senate and House would reauthorize and extend the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) for five years, providing greater stability for real estate markets, homeowners, and small business owners as the nation continues to struggle with inflationary pressures and increased threats of extreme weather. The National Flood Insurance Program Reauthorization (NFIP-RE) Act of 2023 would also implement a series of sweeping reforms to reduce program costs, make generational investments in communities to reduce flood risk, and establish a fairer claims process for policyholders. (Legislative text and PoliticoPro, June 22)
A new flood rating methodology (Risk Rating 2.0) established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) attracted the attention of policymakers from coastal and flood-prone areas after it was reported that resulting rate hikes may result in the loss of coverage for hundreds of thousands of policyholders. (Associated Press, July 22)
Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), alongside Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Clay Higgins (R-LA), introduced the NFIP-RE Act (S. 2142 and H.R. 4349) to put the program on solid fiscal ground. The Senate Banking Committee is leading this bicameral and bipartisan reform effort. (One-page summary of the bill)
The Roundtable is a long-standing supporter of a long-term reauthorization of the NFIP with appropriate reforms that create long-term stability for policyholders, improved accuracy of flood maps, mitigation reforms, enhanced affordability, and the acceptance of non-NFIP policies for commercial properties. (Roundtable Weekly, May 27, 2022)
Congress has enacted 25 short-term NFIP reauthorizations since 2017. The NFIP-RE Act of 2023 would:
Extend the program for five years and cap annual rate increases at 9%.
Provide a comprehensive means-tested voucher for millions of low- and middle-income homeowners and renters if their flood insurance premium becomes prohibitively expensive.
Increase the maximum limit for Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) coverage to reflect more accurately the costs of rebuilding and implementing mitigation projects.
Boost funding for mitigation grants and modernize mapping to identify and reduce flood risks.
Create new oversight measures for insurance companies and vendors.
Reform the claims process based on lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy and other disasters, to level the playing field for policyholders during appeal or litigation, hold FEMA accountable to strict deadlines so that homeowners get quick and fair payments, and ban aggressive legal tactics preventing homeowners from filing legitimate claims.
Sen. Menendez said, “With disastrous flooding events becoming all the more common, we must work to create a more sustainable, resilient, and affordable flood insurance program that invests in prevention and mitigation efforts, and all while ensure hard-working Americans can have peace of mind in the event of a disaster.” (Menendez news release, June 22)