Roundtable Testifies on Health of CRE Markets and Recommended Policies
Roundtable and Industry Coalition Urge Congress to Enact Affordable Housing Policies and Incentives
Biden Administration Determines Federally-Financed Housing Construction Must Comply with Costly "Model Energy Codes"
Roundtable Weekly
May 3, 2024
Roundtable Testifies on Health of CRE Markets and Recommended Policies
House Oversight Committe hearing included testimony from Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer
Click to watch a compilation of select testimony by Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer

Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer testified this week before a House subcommittee on the “Health of the Commercial Real Estate Markets and Removing Regulatory Hurdles to Ensure Continued Strength.” (Videos of DeBoer’s testimony | Entire hearing | Select clips from the subcommittee’s wrap-up)

CRE Issues

  • The April 30 hearing before the House Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on Health Care and Financial Services included The Roundtable’s views on market liquidity, the state of the office sector, remote work, affordable housing, and property conversions. (DeBoer’s oral statement and written testimony)
  • DeBoer emphasized that all stakeholders in the regulatory and private sectors should work together to ensure real estate continues to be a leading driver of the economy—and a primary way cities grow, business needs are met, and housing challenges are solved. (Transcript of entire hearing)
  • DeBoer also clarified, “The commercial real estate industry is not seeking a bailout of any sort.” (MarketWatch, April 30)
  • Subcommittee members heard testimony on how liquidity in CRE markets, particularly office, is an overriding industry concern. As nearly half the value of the $4.7 trillion property debt market is scheduled to mature by 2027, base interest rates have risen nearly 500 basis points in 24 months while lenders are considering reductions in their CRE portfolios. (RER’s written testimony and Mortgage Bankers Association testimony)
Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer testifies before House Oversight Subcommittee on April 30, 2024
  • DeBoer urged policymakers and regulators to acknowledge that not all CRE is the same. “In the office market, there are notable differences. Some individual owners are facing considerable pressure, potentially leading to increases in mortgage defaults, foreclosures and large losses of equity. Many top-tier modern office buildings with strong ownership and workspace amenities are currently weathering the storm. There needs to be a better distinction and not a monolithic treatment of commercial real estate.”

Policy Solutions

  • The Roundtable’s policy recommendations submitted to the subcommittee address a wide swath of concerns for owners, lenders, and local communities, including:
  • Ensure federal employees return to the workplace. DeBoer testified, “The federal government should lead by example by highlighting the value of in-office work” as it is critical for the health of cities, local economies, tax bases, and small businesses. (GlobeSt, May 2)

    He also commended efforts by House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY) to bring federal workers back as the lead sponsor of the Stopping Home Office Work’s Unproductive Problems (SHOW UP) Act (H.R. 139). “This bill passed the House over a year ago and should be enacted into law,” Deboer said. (Roundtable Weekly, Oct. 20 and Feb. 3, 2023)
House Oversight Subcommittee wide shot
  • Encourage banks and loan servicers to extend maturing loans and restructure maturing loans with new equity—effectively making “cash-in refinances”—by converting non-performing and criticized loans to new performing loans.
  • Encourage foreign capital investment in U.S. real estate by amending or repealing the outdated Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA).
  • Reject pro-cyclical measures such as the Basel III Endgame and other regulatory measures that will restrict credit and capital formation.
  • Stimulate the production of affordable housing. The Roundtable and a broad real estate coalition submitted a set of specific policy recommendations this week to Congress detailing a host of pending legislative and regulatory actions that would help provide housing to more Americans.

  • DeBoer informed the subcommittee that these solutions include converting obsolete buildings into housing, increasing the Low Income Housing Tax Credit volume caps, incentivizing local zoning and permitting reforms, increasing efficiency in the Section 8 housing voucher program, and more. (see Affordable Housing story below)
Left to right: Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer with House Oversight Subcommittee Ranking Member Katie Porter (D-CA) and Subcommittee Chairwoman Lisa McClain (R-MI)
House Oversight Subcommittee Chairwoman Lisa McClain (R-MI), right, and Ranking Member Katie Porter (D-CA), center, with Jeffrey DeBoer
  • He added, “Rent control and eviction moratoriums are on first blush appealing concepts, but they've proven time and again, that they're counterproductive to addressing the housing shortfall.”
  • Congress should also enact a time-limited tax incentive to convert older, underutilized commercial buildings to housing that would help revitalize America’s cities, accelerate the economic recovery of office buildings, and create new supplies of housing in close proximity to jobs.

Property Conversions

  • Separately, The Roundtable provided a list of specific agency actions to accelerate property conversion projects in a recent letter to Jared Bernstein, Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. (Roundtable Weekly, April 19)
Doug Turner, Sr. Fellow, Housing,
Center for American Progress
  • Turner stated in his written testimony and oral comments, “I want to compliment The Real Estate Roundtable for a second. They sent a letter to the Council of Economic Advisers in April and offered some very specific suggestions on how to improve the conversion process. Many of these are sensible. And they could help direct what is an evolving policy. We haven't seen an attempt to convert this much real estate in a short period of time.” (Video clip of Turner’s full comment, or click on photo above)

The Roundtable’s all-member Annual Meeting on June 20-21 in Washington, DC will include speakers and policy advisor committee meetings focused on many of the topics discussed during this week’s House hearing. 

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Roundtable and Industry Coalition Urge Congress to Enact Affordable Housing Policies and Incentives
Housing Coalition April 29, 2024 joint letter to Congress

This week, The Real Estate Roundtable and a broad real estate industry coalition encouraged lawmakers to pursue bipartisan solutions that would increase the supply of affordable and market-rate housing through specific policies and programs to help communities meet their housing challenges. (Coalition letter, April 29)

Legislation and Programs

  • The coalition letter to Congress and the Biden administration detailed policy solutions to help develop and preserve housing at all price points by enacting industry-supported bills in the House and Senate, encouraging incentive-based programs, streamlining regulatory burdens, and supporting public-private partnerships.
  • The specific proposals detailed in the letter will work best when paired with state and local government policies to meet the demand for rental homes.
  • Specific policies outlined in the letter would streamline and fast-track the entitlement and approval process; provide density bonuses and other incentives for developers to include workforce units in their properties; and enable “by-right” zoning and create more fully entitled parcels.
  • Other programs and bills defer taxes and other fees for a set period of time; lower construction costs by contributing underutilized buildings and raw land; create incentives to encourage higher density development near job and transportation hubs; and expand and strengthen the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. Legislation would also encourage Yes In My Backyard (YIMBY) policies to remove discriminatory land use policies and other barriers that depress housing production.
  • Among the key bills strongly supported by the coalition are the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act (S.1557 & H.R.3238), Workforce Housing Tax Credit Act (S.3425 & H.R.6686), and Revitalizing Downtowns Act (S. 2511 & H.R.419). 
  • The coalition expects the Opportunity Zones program to spur the production of new multifamily housing, but to maximize its effectiveness, the industry groups recommend Congress revitalize and enhance Opportunity Zones to incentivize rehabilitation of housing units.

Biden Administration Proposals

The White House
  • The coalition described the Biden Administration’s Housing Supply Action Plan as a thoughtful proposal that rightly acknowledges that there is no single solution to the housing shortage. The letter also expressed support for several proposals included in the President’s FY25 federal budget proposal, including proposals to expand and enhance the LIHTC, the Neighborhood Homes Credit, and increased funding for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program.
  • However, the coalition also urged Congress to reject certain tax proposals included in the administration’s FY25 budget, such as increases in the capital gains rate. These policies would directly impact the operations of housing providers, as most are structured as “flow-through” entities where earnings are passed through to owners who pay taxes at the individual level. The tax increases under consideration would reduce real estate investment and inhibit the capital flows that are so critical to the development and preservation of critically needed housing. 

It is unlikely that new housing or tax-related legislation will be enacted before the November presidential election. Proposals now under consideration may have better opportunities for advancement in a post-election lame-duck session or during a new Congress in 2025.

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Biden Administration Determines Federally-Financed Housing Construction Must Comply with Costly "Model Energy Codes"

The Biden administration recently issued a “final determination” that all new single- and multifamily homes financed with federal mortgages must be built to stringent “model energy codes.” The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates this federal mandate on residential construction will add at least $7,229 to the cost of building a new single-family home, effectively establishing a disincentive to increase the supply of affordable housing—a federal policy strongly opposed by The Roundtable. (Bloomberg, April 25 and National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), April 26)

Federal Compliance

  • The Roundtable believes this new federal regulation will reduce the supply of housing, increase home prices and rents, and make it more difficult for buyers to assemble a down payment.

  • The “final determination” from HUD and the Department of Agriculture (USDA) is, in effect, a new federal-level building energy code that could impact approximately 150,000 units per year.
  • Although the energy code update technically takes effect May 28, the dates for “compliance” are May 2025 for multifamily, Nov. 2025 for single-family homes, and May 2026 for homes in “persistent poverty rural areas.” (NAHB, April 26)
  • This action stands in stark contrast to a set of policy recommendations submitted this week by The Roundtable and a broad real estate coalition aimed at broadening housing supply and lowering costs. (Coalition letter to House policymakers, April 29 and Affordable Housing story, above)
  • Additionally, Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer testified on April 30 before a House Oversight Subcommittee on the need to “create more effective incentives and programs to stimulate the production of affordable housing.” (see Policy Landscape story, above)

Varying Energy Standards

  • The HUD-USDA notice may also conflict directly with local energy codes in jurisdictions throughout the country.
  • The federal action will require all HUD- and USDA-financed new single-family construction housing to be built to the 2021 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). All HUD-financed multifamily housing must be built to 2021 IECC or ASHRAE 90.1-2019.

Zero Emissions Buildings (ZEB)

Apartment building with carbon neutral design
  • As Bloomberg reported, the Biden administration also issued this latest update as part of a larger effort to modernize building codes to reach its climate goals. Earlier this year, the Biden administration issued a draft of a federal definition for a Zero Emissions Buildings (ZEB). (Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 5)
  • RER and Nareit submitted comments on Feb. 2 to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on the draft ZEB definition, which would impose no federal mandates. (Joint comments' cover letter and addendum | Roundtable ZEB Fact Sheet, Jan. 18 | Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 5)

The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) will discuss the repercussions of the HUD-USDA rule during its next meeting on June 21 in Washington, DC.

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