House Republicans Win Majority as Democrats Face Leadership Transition; Lame Duck Session May Include Tax Extenders
Rising Interest Rates, Tighter Liquidity, Hybrid Work, and Cost Cutting Reflected in Roundtable’s Q4 Sentiment Index
White House Releases Net-Zero “Road Map” as EPA Credits Strides in Building Efficiency
Roundtable Weekly
November 18, 2022
House Republicans Win Majority as Democrats Face Leadership Transition; Lame Duck Session May Include Tax Extenders
Capitol reflective photo

Significant transition came to Washington this week as Republicans officially secured a slim majority in the House of Representatives for the 118th Congress that convenes on Jan. 3. The GOP will control House committees for the final two years of President Biden’s current term, ensuring a clash of policy approaches. (Associated Press, Nov. 17 and Wall Street Journal, Nov. 16)

New House Leadership

Nancy Pelosi steps down as Democratic House Leader
  • Confirmation of the new majority ushered in leadership votes in both chambers. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), above, and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced they will step aside while continuing to serve in Congress. (Pelosi’s House floor comments | C-Span video, Nov. 17 | The Hill, Nov. 17)

  • The announcements pave the way for a new generation of House Democratic leadership likely to be filled by Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (NY) as minority leader; Katherine Clark (MA) as House whip; and Pete Aguilar (CA) as caucus chair. (Politico, Reuters and Wall Street Journal, Nov. 18 | Business Insider, Nov. 17)

  • House Republicans voted this week to nominate House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA) for speaker. (Axios and NBC News, Nov. 15)

  • Other members of the House Republican leadership team include Representatives Steve Scalise (LA), Elyse Stefanik (NY), and Tom Emmer (MN).  (The Hill and Times Union, Nov. 15)

  • Several House races remain too close to call. (NY Times, Nov. 18)

  • In the Senate, Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) defeated a challenge by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) for Republican Minority Leader. (Louisville Courier Journal and USA Today, Nov. 16)

  • Democrats retained their control of the upper chamber and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will continue in his position as Senate Majority Leader. (BuzzFeed, Nov 16)

Lame Duck Session

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR)

  • During the lame duck session, lawmakers will consider which policy riders to attach to must-pass spending legislation. Current government funding expires on Dec. 16.

  • Tax issues of importance to CRE that may be considered include rules related to business interest deductibility and an expired, temporary increase in allocations of low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) to states. Additionally, the 100% bonus depreciation benefit starts phasing down at the end of this year. (BGov, Nov. 16 and Roundtable Weekly, Nov. 11)

  • Senate Finance Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), above, said this week that tax extenders are “obviously” a priority for the panel. “All of the negotiators are committed to getting this done before we wrap up,” Wyden commented. (PoliticoPro, Nov. 15)

  • Wyden added that he is also focused on energy and housing issues, including a new tax break to subsidize housing for average Americans. “There’s room to work on these issues in a bipartisan way as well,” Wyden noted. “Housing tax credits, for example, have long had bipartisan support.” (BGov, Nov. 14)

Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, the top Republican on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, last week said he is talking with Democrats about a potential lame duck deal on taxes. (PoliticoPro, Nov. 10)

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Rising Interest Rates, Tighter Liquidity, Hybrid Work, and Cost Cutting Reflected in Roundtable’s Q4 Sentiment Index
Q4 Sentiment Index chart

The Real Estate Roundtable’s Q4 Economic Sentiment Index dropped to an overall score of 39, five points lower than the previous quarter. Commercial real estate executives cited a reduction in available equity and debt capital, changes in post-pandemic office use, general business cost cutting, and employee layoffs among the contributing factors causing market uncertainty and a decrease in transactions. (News Release and Entire Q4 Report, Nov. 18)

Roundtable ViewJeffrey DeBoer Real Estate Roundtable

  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, above, said, “Industry executives report that asset valuation difficulties, coupled with the tightened availability and cost of capital, have caused a slowdown in commercial real estate investment and overall transactions. This situation, magnified by steep inflation and interest rate hikes, is leading to investor hesitancy. Additionally, while some businesses are instituting greater return-to-the-workplace policies, many are not, partially due to employee reluctance. Ultimately, greater clarity on businesses’ future post-pandemic workspace demands is needed to provide a more reliable window into asset valuations, particularly in the office sector.”

  • “As an industry, we’re working with tenants to provide attractive building safety and use amenities—and where possible, converting underutilized property types to other uses, including housing. We continue to urge policymakers and business leaders to push for the safe return of workers to their shared, physical workspace. A back-to-the-workplace movement would increase overall economic productivity and competitiveness, help preserve urban small businesses, and lower the threat to the property tax base of municipalities throughout the nation,” DeBoer added.

  • The Roundtable’s Economic Sentiment Index—a measure of senior executives’ confidence and expectations about the commercial real estate market environment—is scored on a scale of 1 to 100 by averaging the scores of Current and Future Economic Sentiment Indices. Any score over 50 is viewed as positive.

  • Although the Q4 Overall Index registered an Overall score of 39, the Current Index registered 29—a nine-point drop from Q3 2022—and the Future Index posted a score of 48 points, a dip of three points from the previous quarter. (Download Q4 report, Nov. 18)

Market Perspectives

RXR's Scott Rechler on CNBC's Squawk on the Street
  • The return of office workers to buildings in New York, Boston, Atlanta, San Francisco and other cities is languishing well below pre-pandemic levels as hybrid work, layoffs and higher interest rates act as drags on the office market, according to a Nov. 17 New York Times article. Despite the headwinds, office owners believe demand will eventually return.

  • Roundtable Chairman Emeritus (2015-2018) William Rudin (Co-Chairman & CEO, Rudin Management Company, Inc.) noted in the article that occupancy was much higher at buildings occupied by financial companies, many of which have required employees to return to the workplace.

  • The impact of layoffs, macroeconomic trends, and office demand were discussed this week by Roundtable Board Member Scott Rechler (Chairman CEO, RXR), above, in a CNBC Squawk on the Street interview. Rechler, a member of the New York Fed, said he expects the next 12 to 18 months will be "choppy" as the Federal Reserve continues to fight inflation, but that a strong economy will emerge with significant growth potential.

Economic conditions and commercial real estate markets will be discussed during The Roundtable’s Jan. 24-25 State of the Industry in Washington.

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White House Releases Net-Zero “Road Map” as EPA Credits Strides in Building Efficiency
White House Climate Goals

The Biden administration this month released a “road map” to reach net zero emissions by 2050 by focusing on five key areas for research and development, including efficient buildings and grid decarbonization. (White House Fact Sheet)

Buildings Sector Emissions

  • One of the priorities in the administration’s net zero initiative is to accelerate innovation in “efficient building heating and cooling.” It notes that HVAC is responsible for nearly a fifth of commercial building energy use.

  • Innovation is required to reduce upfront costs to enable widespread adoption” of retrofits that replace traditional HVAC systems with heat pumps, automated controls that interact with the grid, and the switch to refrigerants with low global warming potential, according to the R&D report.

ENERGY STAR Commercial Buildings

ENERGY STAR - 2 Decades
  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a separate report this week marking two decades of ENERGY STAR Commercial Buildings. EPA concluded that the overall stock of U.S. office buildings has become 30 percent more energy efficient since the turn of the century. Top-of-class “certified” office buildings decreased energy use by 30 percent in the last decade alone.

  • EPA’s “Two Decades of ENERGY STAR” study also found that owners and managers cite “operations and maintenance” as the most important factor to optimize building energy performance—more than investments in original design and construction, or to retrofit older buildings with new equipment.

Net-Zero Tracker

MSCI Net-Zero Tracker
  • New data show corporate emissions cuts still lag far behind their pledges. A "Net-Zero Tracker" by the investment research firm MSCI finds public companies' emissions are out of step with global targets. (Axios, Oct. 18 and Nov. 3)

  • Additionally, an Accenture report shows that more than 90 percent of large companies that have made net zero emissions pledges will miss their goals at their current pace. (The Hill, Nov. 3)

Clean Energy Incentives

RER comments - image Nov4 2022

  • Various clean energy tax incentives in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) passed by Congress in August were the focus of extensive comments submitted by The Real Estate Roundtable to the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) earlier this month. [Nov. 4 letter and Roundtable Weekly, Aug. 12]

  • Stacking multiple incentives on the same buildings “must be encouraged for the real estate industry to strive towards net zero emissions,” The Roundtable stated in its comments.

The Roundtable’s Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) will discuss the IRA’s clean energy incentives during its Jan. 25, 2023 meeting, which will be held in conjunction with The Roundtable’s State of The Industry meeting.

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