2023 Loan Extensions Increase as Lenders and Borrowers Seek Workouts
Approximately $5.65 billion in commercial real estate loans have been modified with extensions in 2023, with nearly 73% of the total from the office sector, according to a recent Trepp report. The rise in loan extensions—sparked by higher interest rates, lower valuations, and remote work—also come at a time when commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) have been subdued. (Trepp CRE Research Report)
Trepp reported that term increases of 1-12 months comprised the largest share (37%) of extensions. The largest quarter upon maturity came in Q2 2023, when $957 million in loans were extended.
Office properties comprised 72.9% of the total $3.2 billion in loan extensions, or roughly $2.4 billion. Trepp stated, “Of all property types, the office sector faces the steepest refinancing challenges as office properties are struggling with occupancy and financial performance in the post-pandemic era.” (Trepp CRE Research Report)
The increase in modifications follows a joint policy statement from federal regulators in June that encouraged financial institutions to work with borrowers on pending loan maturities. (Agencies’ joint statement, June 29 and National Law Review, July 9)
In March, The Roundtable had originally requested that federal regulators accommodate commercial real estate borrowers and lenders as the industry continued to endure a difficult time of historic, post-pandemic transition—and enthusiastically welcomed the Agencies’ subsequent, joint action. (Roundtable Weekly, June 30 and Roundtable letter to regulators, March 17)
During a Sept. 26 Marcus & Millichap webcast, Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey (above) said, “We’re seeing some impact. Trepp put out a report about loan modifications and extensions. Time is the most important aspect for the most challenged part of our industry, office. We have to let time settle in and let businesses and employers determine how they want to use office space going forward.”
Additionally, bipartisan legislation (H.R. 5580) introduced in the House last week would reduce the tax burden on a borrower that can arise when a troubled commercial real estate loan is modified as part of a debt workout. The Tenney-Higgins bill would build on existing tax provisions by effectively deferring cancellation of debt (COD) income. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 22)
The legislation, introduced by Reps Claudia Tenney (R-NY) and Brian Higgins (D-NY), could help smooth the transition to a healthy and stable post-pandemic real estate market. The Roundtable’s DeBoer was quoted in support of the House legislation by GlobeSt,Connect CRE, and Commercial Observer.
Capital and credit policy issues facing CRE, especially office assets, will be among the topics discussed during The Roundtable’s Oct. 16-17 Fall Meeting (Roundtable-levelmembers only) in Washington.
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Partial Government Shutdown Would Impact Policies Important to CRE
A partial government shutdown looks likely to begin after midnight on Sept. 30 as House and Senate policymakers pursue different short-term funding bills amid hardened resistance from conservative Representatives to pass any continuing resolution (CR) without certain concessions. (The Hill’s live updates and ABC News Sept. 29)
Lapse in Program Funding
A lapse in funding could impact the industry by suspending the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) rulemaking on climate disclosure, and the Treasury Department’s expected guidance on the energy efficient commercial buildings deduction under section 179D. (New York Times, Sept. 28 – “Government Shutdown May Hurt Home Sales in Flood-Prone Areas”)
Additionally, Senior White House Adviser John Podesta on Sept. 26 said a shutdown would delay billions to implement the Inflation Reduction Act, including Treasury guidance on how to distribute the measure’s tax credits. (Bloomberg, Sept. 26 | Roundtable Clean Energy Tax Incentives Fact Sheet, July 31 | Roundtable Weekly, July 28)
Government agencies are preparing to furlough employees for an uncertain amount of time. The most recent shutdown lasted 34 days from December 2018 to January 2019, and cost the economy approximately $3 billion (equal to 0.02% of GDP) according to the Congressional Budget Office. (Government Executive, Sept. 29 and Reuters, Sept. 25)
The shutdown would also come amidst a flurry of regulatory rulemakings impacting commercial real estate capital markets. During a House Financial Services Committee hearing on Sept. 27, Rep. Andy Barr (R-KT) questioned SEC Chairman Gary Gensler (above) on the “perfect storm of regulations” that could further impair liquidity for commercial real estate capital markets. (Watch 1:27 video clip of the exchange | Committee Hearing Memorandum, Sept. 22)
The Roundtable’s Fall Meeting on Oct. 16-17 (Roundtable-level members only) will address numerous regulatory proposals impacting CRE, and assess the state of the economy and capital markets in the wake of a potential shutdown.
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Climate and Energy Policy
Biden Administration to Prepare Unifying, Voluntary Definition for “Zero Emissions Buildings”
This week, the White House’s climate policy chief announced the imminent release of voluntary, uniform federal-level criteria for “Zero Emissions Buildings.” The “ZEB” definition could bring much-needed consistency to help CRE owners and investors establish long-term goals for buildings that align with varying climate programs adopted across numerous jurisdictions and international frameworks. (Washington Post, Sept. 28)
Proposed ZEB Definition in October
National Climate Advisor, Ali Zaidi, stated in yesterday’s keynote address at the Greenbuild 2023 conference in Washington, D.C. that the proposed federal ZEB definition will be released next month.
Zaidi noted The Real Estate Roundtable in his comments as an important group for addressing the need to transform buildings at scale.
When the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announces the proposed ZEB definition it will kick-off an anticipated 30-day public comment period. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ENERGY STAR program is coordinating closely with DOE. A final ZEB definition could be published by the end of this year.
Federal Consistency is Essential
DOE’s ZEB definition would not be mandatory on the private sector. It will be a voluntary, aspirational guideline at the federal level.
However, a definition from the U.S. government can finally build a uniform understanding of what it takes for a building to achieve “zero emissions” over time, along a realistic and achievable pathway.
Not all real estate assets will be able to reach a level of “zero emissions.” But an overarching and workable term—developed with feedback from industry and other stakeholders—can bring greater uniformity and consistency to:
A CRE coalition of real estate organizations including The Roundtable sent a Sept. 14 letter to US-EPA supporting development of standard methods and metrics for buildings and tenants to quantify their emissions.
Federal standards, definitions, and tools “are the North Star though which local governments can inform their law-making, and this helps bring some sense and order to the otherwise conflicting patchwork of climate laws and frameworks developed by states, cities, and NGOs,” said Roundtable Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC) Chair Tony Malkin (Chairman, President, and CEO, Empire State Realty Trust). (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 15)
A Climate Priority for CRE
Roundtable Senior VP and Counsel Duane Desiderio was quoted yesterday in the Washington Post and Popular Science about how CRE executives welcome the idea of a single federal standard. “A workable, usable federal definition of zero-emission buildings can bring some desperately needed uniformity and consistency to a chaotic regulatory landscape,” Desiderio said. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 15)
Yesterday, The White House also released a National Climate Resilience Framework in anticipation of an eventual White House Climate Resilience Summit. The Framework identifies climate resilience principles and specific actions to expand and accelerate progress towards six objectives that includes, “Expand adoption of the latest consensus-based building and energy codes and high-performance standards.” (White House Fact Sheet, Sept. 28)
The Roundtable will continue to work with our partner organizations and develop comments on the ZEB definition upon its anticipated release next month.
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House Lawmakers Reintroduce Legislation to Extend and Reform Opportunity Zone Incentives
Bipartisan legislation introduced this week by a group of House policymakers would update and amend the Opportunity Zones (OZs) program. The Roundtable-supported bill (H.R. 5761), if enacted, would extend the tax deferral date for OZ investments from the end of 2026 to the end of 2028, expand transparency and reporting requirements, and authorize investment structures that permit an Opportunity Fund to own and operate multiple real estate assets. (House OZ bill text)
Reps. Mike Kelly (R-PA), above, —chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Tax—along with Dan Kildee (D-MI), Carol Miller (R-WV), and Terri Sewell (D-AL) introduced the bill on Sept. 27. The bill is similar to legislation (H.R. 7467 and S. 4065) introduced in the last Congress. (Rep. Kelly news release, Sept. 29)
Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer welcomed the Opportunity Zones Improvement, Transparency, and Extension Act. “Opportunity Zones have delivered on their promise to create new economic opportunities in low-income communities. Real estate developments spurred by the Opportunity Zone tax incentives are expanding the supply of affordable housing and creating vibrant commercial centers where small businesses can reside, jobs can grow, and the local tax base can expand.”
“Unfortunately, certain OZ incentives have already expired. The new legislation would strengthen the program's integrity and ensure Opportunity Zone investment continues into the future. Congress should act quickly to enact these measures,” said DeBoer.
2023 OZ Reforms
The OZ program, created in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, designated low-income census tracts where qualifying investments are eligible for reduced capital gains taxes, channeling investment into areas prioritized by states and local communities.
This week’s legislation includes a 2-year extension of the initial capital gains deferral period for prior gain that is rolled into an opportunity fund by an investor. (Legislative text for H.R. 5761 | Roundtable comment letters: Dec. 21, 2021 and May 14, 2020)
The 2-year extension from the end of 2026 until the end of 2028 will allow OZ investors to benefit from a partial step-up in basis that reduces their tax liability on their prior gain if their opportunity fund investment is maintained for at least five years.
Additionally, the bill would facilitate fund-of-fund investment structures that allow opportunity funds to own and operate efficiently more than one asset. Similar to traditional real estate funds, the structure would allow an opportunity fund to sell a property and reinvest the proceeds in another qualifying Opportunity Zone investment without triggering a taxable event for the fund’s underlying investors, provided the investors themselves have not disposed of their interest.
Other provisions would establish robust OZ reporting requirements, mandate Treasury to produce certain studies and reports on the OZ program, sunset high-income OZs, and create a new $1 billion fund for states to support business activities in OZs
Prospects for the 2023 bill are uncertain, but the legislation is a likely candidate for consideration if, and when, House and Senate Leaders sit down to negotiate an end-of-year tax package that focuses on expired provisions—such as the expanded child tax credit, the expensing of R&D costs, and bonus depreciation.