Bank Failures Increase Pressure on CRE Capital Markets
Presidentโ€™s Budget Reignites Congressional Debate on Taxing Assets at Death
Roundtable Weekly
March 24, 2023
Bank Failures Increase Pressure on CRE Capital Markets
Scott Rechler on CNBC's Squawkbox

The failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank this month have raised concerns about the financial health of small and regional banks that hold a large amount of commercial real estate debt—particularly loans backed by office buildings already under pressure from decreased valuations, rising interest rates, and looming debt maturities. (New York Times, March 22 and Wall Street Journal, March 21) 

Call for Regulatory Flexibility 

  • Roundtable Board Member Scott Rechler, above, (chairman and CEO of RXR) appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box Wednesday morning to discuss liquidity pressures on CRE. During the interview, he endorsed a recent Roundtable request that banking regulators grant increased flexibility immediately to financial institutions for refinancing loans with borrowers and lenders, allowing time for capital markets to stabilize and the private sector to develop solutions. (Commercial Observer, March 22)

  • Rechler added that if no relief is provided, increased pressures on CRE may threaten the tax base of municipalities, the viability of small businesses that rely on regional banks, and the supply of housing. (Squawk Box, March 20)

  • Last week’s Roundtable letter from President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer informed federal bank regulators about the immediate need for reestablishing a troubled debt restructuring (TDR) program for CRE, similar to initiatives established in 2009 during the global financial crisis and in 2020 during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. (BisNow and GlobeSt, March 21)

  • DeBoer’s letter also cited the lingering effects of the global pandemic, including remote work’s negative influence on office space demand, as pressure points on liquidity and refinancing options for CRE assets. (Roundtable Weekly, March 17) 

CRE Loan Concentrations 

Federal Reserve sunset

  • A March 16 report from Goldman Sachs Research showed that small- and medium-size banks with less than $250 billion in assets account for approximately 80% of commercial real estate lending and 60% of residential real estate lending.

  • The Wall Street Journal reported this week that smaller banks hold around $2.3 trillion in commercial real estate debt and that about $270 billion in commercial mortgages held by banks are set to expire this year, according to data firm Trepp Inc.

  • Additionally, sales of commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) were down 85% last month compared with the same time in 2022 due to rising interest rates and defaults. (Bloomberg, Feb. 17, 2023)

  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen testified yesterday before a House Appropriations Committee panel that the federal government is prepared to protect depositors in banks “of any size” who may face the possibility of collapse. “These are tools we could use again for an institution of any size if we judge that its failure would pose a contagion risk,” Yellen said. (Reuters, March 23)

  • 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 Roundtable’s March 17 letter to federal regulators states, “to avoid increasing unnecessary risk, we respectfully request that the Agencies reaffirm that financial institutions have flexibility to use reasonable and prudent judgment to give borrowers and lenders more time to see properties and loans through this current evolving environment.” 

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Presidentโ€™s Budget Reignites Congressional Debate on Taxing Assets at Death
Capitol at sunset Congressional policymakers this week focused on two tax policy proposals included in President Biden’s FY2024 budget that could adversely affect family-owned real estate businesses—eliminating the step-up in the basis of assets at death and imposing new restrictions on the use of grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs) and grantor trusts. (Roundtable Weekly, March 10 and Treasury’s “Green Book” description of the President’s revenue proposals, March 9) Step-up in Basis
  • The White House budget plan once again includes a proposal to eliminate the step-up in basis of real estate and other assets at death.  The budget would replace step-up with a new policy that subjects the decedent’s appreciated assets to capital gains tax at death, in addition to potential estate tax liability.  The tax on unrealized, built-in gains would apply even when the decedent and the heir have no intention or desire to sell the property.
  • On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of Representatives led by Rep. Tracey Mann (R-KS) and Jim Costa (D-CA) introduced House Resolution 237 expressing support for retaining stepped-up basis.  Cosponsored by 63 members of Congress (4 Dem., 58 Rep.), the resolution notes that stepped-up basis is “a crucial component of many family farms and small business succession plans.” (BGov and Rep. Mann news release, March 21)
  • In 2021, a study by EY commissioned by the Family Business Estate Tax Coalition with support from The Real Estate Roundtable found that repealing stepped-up basis and taxing unrealized gains at death would result in reduced job growth, lower wages, and a reduction in GDP of roughly $10 billion per-year.
Grantor Trusts

FY2023 Budget Cover

  • The President’s budget again proposes major tax increases on grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs) and grantor trusts that the administration estimates would raise $65 billion over 10 years.
  • GRATs and grantor trusts are frequently used to facilitate the continuation of family-owned businesses from one generation to the next, particularly in capital-intensive industries like real estate that can involve significantly appreciated assets.
  • On Monday, four Democratic Senators—Elizabeth Warren (MA), Bernie Sanders (VT), Chris Van Hollen (MD), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)—wrote to Treasury Secretary Yellen urging her to use her regulatory authority to “limit the ultra-wealthy’s abuse of trusts to avoid paying taxes.” The letter includes eight specific recommendations, including the reissuance of family limited partnership regulations that address the use of valuation discounts. (Tax Notes, March 22)
  • In 2017, The Real Estate Roundtable and others commissioned a study by Dr. Robert Shapiro, former Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs, analyzing the economic impact of a proposed regulation to limit valuation discounts for family businesses. The study concluded the limits could cost 106,000 jobs and $150 billion in GDP over 10 years. The study followed formal Roundtable written comments submitted in 2016—and oral testimony highly critical of the proposal by Roundtable Tax Policy Advisory Committee Member Stef Tucker.
The White House FY2024 budget revenue proposals will be discussed during the Roundtable’s Spring Meeting on April 24-25 in Washington, DC (Roundtable-level members only.) #  #  #