Congress Aims for Continuing Resolution by Nov. 18 Funding Deadline

Congress needs to pass a continuing resolution (CR) by next Saturday, Nov. 18 to avoid a partial government shutdown if appropriations bills are not enacted for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. (CQ and The Hill, Nov. 9)

CR vs Shutdown

  • New House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) may introduce a funding bill early next week, giving only days for Congress to agree on a CR or risk a partial government shutdown. House Republican leaders have signaled they still may pursue a “laddered” approach—with several spending bills to last until December and the remainder in January. By contrast, The Senate is considering a short-term CR to fund the government until mid-December. (Punchbowl News, Nov. 9)
  • Another major consideration is a White House $106 billion supplemental request that includes aid for Ukraine and Israel. Republicans have voiced opposition to the package unless President Biden includes policy changes on border security.
  • Today, Biden commented today that he was “open to discussions about the border” on the tarmac before boarding Air Force One.
  • The administration has also requested another $56 billion for domestic policies that include childcare, broadband subsidies, and disaster relief. (Roll Call, Nov. 7)

CRE Conditions

  • Real Estate Roundtable Chairman Emeritus Bill Rudin, above, (Co-Chairman and CEO, Rudin Management Co.) this week discussed challenges facing CRE on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street, including a massive wave of loans that need to be refinanced over the next few years and the need for property conversions.
  • Rudin emphasized that each CRE sector, and region, is different, noting that multifamily properties and high-quality commercial buildings may be doing well while certain office assets face significant challenges. The Roundtable’s Q4 Sentiment Index released last week reflects these conditions, which include higher financing costs, increased illiquidity, and uncertain post-pandemic user demand. (Roundtable Weekly, Nov. 3 and GlobeSt, Nov. 7)

Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer said, “Various CRE markets and asset classes need more time to adapt to the new preferences of clients; more flexibility to restructure their asset financing; and patience while adjusting to the evolving valuation landscape. In addition to conversion activities, The Roundtable continues to urge the federal government to return to the workplace and support measures to assist loan modifications and increase liquidity available to all asset classes and their owners. We also remain opposed to regulatory proposals that impede capital formation.” (Roundtable news release, Nov. 3)

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Roundtable Chair John Fish Honored at Annual Lamplighter Awards

Roundtable Chair John Fish (Chairman and CEO, Suffolk), right, was honored this week with the Lamplighter Award from the American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad), along with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kurt Newman, President and CEO of Children’s National Medical Center. (Photo: Mr. Fish with Rabbi Levi Shemtov, left. | Watch Mr. Fish’s powerful comments)  

Lamplighters

  • The American Friends of Lubavitch (Chabad) is a part of the largest network of Jewish educational, cultural and humanitarian institutions in the world, with branches in all 50 states and over 100 countries on six continents.
  • The annual Lamplighter Awards honor exceptional communal, political, corporate and academic leaders. Several hundred people attended the Oct. 24 event reception and dinner, including 8-12 U.S. Senators; House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and several House members; 20 Ambassadors from foreign nations; and seven family members of hostages now held in Gaza. 

Roundtable Leaders’ Comments

  • Mr. Fish commented, “It pains me to discuss the reality that many of us have discussed here this evening. There is, unfortunately, a rise in anti-Semitism and hate in the world today. A reality that played out tragically several weeks ago.” The Roundtable issued an Oct. 13 statement condemning the violence and urging humanitarian aid.
  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, above, gave introductory remarks as the co-chair of the event, stating that each one of the three honorees exemplified a unique combination of leadership and optimism. DeBoer added that Mr. Fish is a selfless person who provides The Roundtable with steady guidance, positive advice, and consistent support in his role as Chairman of the organization.

DeBoer asked the Lamplighter audience “… for a moment of silence to internally pledge that each of us will do our part, every minute, hour and day to reject evil, to help those in need, and to embrace the goodness of ethnic and religious diversity worldwide.” (Read DeBoer’s remarks and watch Mr. Fish’s comments)

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Biden Administration Announces Support for Financing Commercial to Residential Property Conversions

The Biden administration today revealed a suite of federal resources—including low-interest loans—to assist commercial to residential conversions that increase housing supply, revitalize urban downtowns, and cut climate pollution. (White House fact sheet; Bloomberg, Oct. 27).

Holistic Federal Strategy

  • Roundtable President and CEO, Jeffrey D. DeBoer said, “The pandemic’s indelible impact on where Americans live and work continues to reverberate through the real estate industry, which is at the center of this societal transition. The Roundtable supports innovative policy that reimagines the adaptive reuse of CRE, rejuvenates affordable housing and urban downtowns, and addresses the climate crisis. The guidance released by the White House today checks all these boxes—and bolsters our agenda to improve the health of our cities, local tax bases, and small businesses.”   
  • Among the actions announced today, conversion projects located near mass transit hubs would be eligible for low-interest financing under U.S. Department of Transportation programs. “TIFIA” and “RRIF” loans are pegged to US Treasuries at 5.03 percent interest (today’s rates).
  • Transit-oriented projects supported by TIFIA and RRIF financing do not require affordable housing units—although they can be “stacked” with projects supported by low-income housing tax credits and local laws may have independent inclusionary zoning mandates. (FAQs on project eligibility)
  • The White House announcement also directs the General Services Administration (GSA) to identify “surplus” federal properties that private developers may help to convert to housing.
  • A fact sheet summarizing the administration’s actions indicates that training workshops will be held this fall for real estate owners, developers, and lenders on how to use federal programs included in the White House’s new “Commercial to Residential Conversions” guidebook, which describes how 20 programs across six federal agencies can be used to support adaptive re-use projects.
  • The Administration’s guidebook also explains how mortgage insurance and grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can leverage state, local, and private sector capital as layers in the capital stack to support adaptive reuse.

Adaptive Reuse a “Win-Win”

  • Real estate market conditions with high office vacancies “present[ ] an area of opportunity to increase housing supply while revitalizing Main Streets,” said National Economic Council Director Lael Brainerd. “It’s a win-win.” (POLITICOPro, Oct. 27) (WH Council of Economic Advisors blog post)
  • White House efforts to assist property conversions lands as national office vacancy stands at nearly 18 percent—with some major metro areas experiencing vacancies higher than one-fifth of their entire inventory—according to a report from  analytics firm Yardi Matrix released on Thursday. (Commercial Observer, Oct. 26)
  • Architectural firm Gensler released a report on Monday that estimates 25% of under-performing U.S. office properties are suitable candidates for conversion projects.

The initiative builds on the Biden Administration’s announcement last July to boost the nation’s housing supply. (Roundtable Weekly, July 28).  The Roundtable will continue to serve as a conduit between our members and the Biden Administration to help design impactful policies that can assist with office to residential conversions.

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Roundtable Condemns Violence; Urges Humanitarian Aid

The Real Estate Roundtable today issued the following statement:

“The Real Estate Roundtable strongly condemns last weekend’s violent, murderous attack on Israel and its citizens. Long standing regional conflicts cannot justify this abhorrent behavior. We urge all civilized people and organizations to stand in opposition to it, and to provide assistance to mitigate the rapidly growing humanitarian crisis.

Congress Seeks to Include Legislative Language in Spending Bills Addressing Federal Workers’ Return to Offices

House and Senate lawmakers are looking to change current federal workforce telework policies by including language in annual spending bills under consideration by Congress. Yesterday, a House Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee held a hearing on “Oversight of Federal Agencies’ Post-Pandemic Telework Policies” and efforts to mandate federal workers return to their offices. (BGov, Sept. 14)

Federal Telework

  • The Real Estate Roundtable has urged President Biden and national policymakers for months to end government policies that encourage remote working arrangements for federal employees. (RER letter to President Biden, Dec. 12, 2022)
  • The White House directed Cabinet officials on Aug. 4 to increase the return of federal employees to their offices this fall as a “critical” part of fulfilling the mission of government agencies. (Government Executive, Aug. 7 | Axios, Aug. 4
  • In the House, Republicans inserted language into the Financial Services-General Government spending bill (H.R. 4664) that would defund any agency that does not return to 2019 telework practices.
  • The House bill states, “Within 30 days of enactment of this Act, the Committee requires Federal agencies to reinstate and apply their pre-pandemic telework policies, practices, and levels in effect as of December 31, 2019, or they cannot obligate or expend funding for fiscal year 2024.”
  • The Senate’s Appropriations bill for FY 2024 (S. 2309) is far more flexible, requiring agencies to only “examine how policies for in-person work, telework, and remote work impact agency productivity and performance as well as how effectively and efficiently agencies are able to carry out their missions and serve the public.” (Government Executive, Sept. 5 and FedWeek, July 18)
  • Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) is seeking to add an amendment to federal spending bills that would force agencies to provide details on the cost of telework. “You have bureaucrats that are doing bubble baths during their conference calls for work. So you federal employees that are out there, we’re coming after you,” Ernst said recently. (BGov, Sept. 14)

Roundtable Calls for Workplace Return

  • Today Real Estate Roundtable Chairman Emeritus Bill Rudin (Co-Chairman and CEO, Rudin Management Co.) discussed the return-to-office trend in New York City, the challenge of property conversions, the need to increase the housing supply, and other issues facing CRE on CNBC’s Squawk on the Street.

Marcus & Millichap President and CEO, Hessam Nadji and former Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, will lead the live webcast discussion on the economic factors, including Federal Reserve policy, impacting the commercial real estate market. DeBoer, Tom McGee, President and CEO of ICSC and Sharon Wilson GĂ©no, President of NMHC will join the conversation as CRE industry leaders. (Register here)