Real Estate Roundtable Leaders Discuss Market Conditions, Policy Issues Facing CRE

Real Estate Roundtable Chair John Fish (Chairman & CEO, Suffolk)
Real Estate Roundtable Chair John Fish (Chairman & CEO, Suffolk) on Bloomberg’s Wall Street Week.

This week, Real Estate Roundtable Chair John Fish (Chairman & CEO, Suffolk) and Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer discussed market conditions and policy issues impacting commercial real estate with Bloomberg’s Wall Street Week and the American College of Real Estate Lawyers (ACREL).

Markets and Federal Actions

  • Roundtable Chair John Fish addressed how current economic challenges facing commercial real estate, cities, communities, businesses and individuals have led to a somewhat “somber” mood in his Feb. 26 Wall Street Week interview.
  • Fish emphasized the importance of CRE to the overall economy and the need for policymakers to work with the industry to ensure a soft landing. He also discussed the wave of maturing CRE debt coming due at higher interest rates as remote-work continues to press the industry—and the ramifications of a large number of environmental regulations moving forward in a compressed time period.
  • The Roundtable’s chair noted, “Back in June of 2023, the Federal Reserve, the FDIC in the OCC issued forward guidance on working with borrowers, and that was credit worthy borrowers. I would encourage them to continue with their policy and reinforce that policy. It’s extremely important to the industry as a whole because creditworthy borrowers should not get hurt through this process.” (Roundtable Weekly, June 30, 2023)
  • He added, “We need the Federal government to work with us on interest rates. We also need the federal government to ask workers to come back to work. That’s one of the reasons why some of our buildings in downtown urban areas are 25, 30 percent vacant today. As an industry, we need to work together, collaborating with the government to try to solve these problems.” (Bloomberg’s Wall Street Week)

The Roundtable’s Policy Role

Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, right, with Jay Epstein, former president of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers, left.
  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer spoke with Jay Epstein, former president of the American College of Real Estate Lawyers on the Feb. 26 edition of the ACREL Files podcast about The Roundtable’s policy advocacy role in Washington and compelling issues now facing the industry. 
  • DeBoer explained that The Roundtable is a unifier between industry and lawmakers on policies that benefit the economy and communities by using a non-partisan, data-centric, asset-based approach.
  • DeBoer also said the industry is at an inflection point as issues—including post-pandemic remote work and CRE needs, office-to-residential property conversions, affordable housing, building energy usage, insurance costs, and xenophobic attitudes to foreign real estate ownership—are “all rushing forward on top of the market challenges.” (ACREL Files podcast)

“By and large, the industry has stepped up to challenges, met them, and helped the economy and the country move forward.” He added, “Today there are other problems with financing and remote work, but I have no doubt the industry will overcome those challenges and emerge stronger.”

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Congressional Tax Package and Supreme Court Case Focal Points at Roundtable Meeting

Tax policy issues impacting commercial real estate were front and center during This Roundtable’s Jan. 23 State of the Industry (SOI) meeting as policy discussions with congressional tax writers, issue experts, and Roundtable members ranged from specific measures in a recently approved tax package by the House Ways and Means Committee to a landmark Supreme Court case.

Tax: What Lies Ahead

Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey Deboer shakes hands with Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR)
  • Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR), right with The Roundtable’s Jeffrey DeBoer, discussed the recent tax package passed by the House Ways and Means Committee and its uncertain path in the Senate. In addition to an expansion of the low-income housing tax credit, the $77 billion bill includes a retroactive, four-year extension (2022–2025) of the taxpayer-favorable EBITDA standard for measuring the amount of business interest deductible under section 163(j). It also contains an extension of 100% bonus depreciation through the end of 2025. (Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 19)
Tax panel with Ryan McCormick and congressional tax staff
  • “What’s in Front of Congressional Tax Writers: 2024 and Beyond” was explored by (left to right) Roundtable Senior Vice President and Counsel Ryan McCormick; Mark Roman, (Staff Director, Republican Majority House Ways and Means Committee); and Joshua Sheinkman (Staff Director, Democrat Majority Senate Finance Committee).  The congressional tax experts discussed measures in the recent tax package and noted the scheduled expiration of Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) incentives at the end of 2025—and what proposals may emerge to extend them.

Supreme Court Challenge

•	Roundtable Tax Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) member Don Susswein (Principal, RSM US LLP)
  • Roundtable Tax Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) member Don Susswein (Principal, RSM US LLP) presented an overview of an important Supreme Court case (Moore v. United States) that challenges the federal government’s constitutional authority to tax unrealized income. (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 8)

TPAC holds monthly Zoom calls on timely, compelling tax policy issues affecting CRE. If you are interested in joining, contact The Roundtable’s Ryan McCormick.

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Senator Joe Manchin and Financier Michael Milken Among Roundtable’s SOI Meeting Guests

2024 photo: left, Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer with Roundtable Chair John Fish (Suffolk)

Roundtable Chair John Fish, right, (Chairman and CEO, Suffolk) and Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, left, launched this week’s Real Estate Roundtable 2024 State of the Industry (SOI) meeting, which focused on many of RER’s 2024 Policy Priorities. (See Executive Summary and the SOI meeting agenda)

  • The meeting featured a discussion with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Financier Michael Milken on America’s leadership role in the world. Additional presentations by prominent policymakers and industry leaders focused on issues of importance to commercial real estate, including updates on select market conditions by Roundtable members. (See below)

Economic Leadership & Future Challenges

Sen. Joe Manchin, left, with Financier Michael Milken at The Real Estate Roundtable's 2024 State of the Industry Meeing
  • Sen. Manchin, left, and Mr. Milken, right, discussed the need to preserve American economic leadership; the crucial, long-term importance of an educated workforce; and global demographic trends that pose new challenges to U.S. strength.
  • Sen. Manchin noted that he is retiring from the Senate at the end of this Congress but not retiring from his efforts to encourage bipartisan policy solutions to America’s big challenges such as immigration, the national debt and deficit, and electoral system issues.
  • An international financier and philanthropist, Mr. Milken discussed a variety of his successful initiatives in access to capital, medical research, education, and public health. He leads a new DC-based initiative called the Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream while spearheading the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan think tank focused on financial, physical, mental, and environmental health issues affecting critical global issues.
The Real Estate Roundtable's 2024 State of the Industry Meeting was well attended.

Three additional U.S. Senators and other guests at the Jan. 23-24 SOI meeting addressed a variety of other policy issues, including affordable housing, tax policy, banking and climate regulations, evolving security threats, and the current election cycle. (RER’s 2024 SOI meeting agenda and stories below).

Next on The Roundtable’s 2024 meeting calendar is the Spring Meeting on April 15-16. The upcoming meeting is restricted to Roundtable-level members only

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RER President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer Recognized with Commercial Property Executive’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer

A “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the national publication Commercial Property Executive recognized the accomplishments of Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, who spoke about current policy challenges facing the industry, The Roundtable’s evolution, and the industry’s historical effectiveness in Washington. (Watch the Jan. 18 webcast | Read DeBoer’s written comments | CPE article, Jan. 19)

  • DeBoer noted that real estate is entering a period of increased national public policy risks, which include issues such as liquidity, energy and resiliency, tax policy, and more.  
  • DeBoer stated, “[The Roundtable’s] job is to focus on these policy risks, gather the facts, prepare the analysis, develop sound messages, and fine-tune our messages and our message delivery system.”
  • DeBoer added, “It’s very important that everyone in the industry recognize that to ignore Washington in the coming years is to increase business risk.”

Current and upcoming challenges facing the industry will be the focus of The Roundtable’s Jan. 23-24 all-member State of the Industry Meeting in Washington, DC.

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RER President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer to Receive Commercial Property Executive’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Jeffrey DeBoer, President and CEO of The Real Estate Roundtable

Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, above, will receive Commercial Property Executive’s Lifetime Achievement Award during CPE’s virtual 2023 Influence Awards on Thursday, Jan. 18 at 1 pm ET, when he will deliver the keynote address. (Register here for the event)

As the founding President and CEO of The Real Estate Roundtable and in previous Washington-based positions, DeBoer has been at the forefront of national policy affecting the real estate industry for the past 40 years.

The prominent Capitol Hill publication, The Hill recently recognized DeBoer as one of the “Top Lobbyists” in Washington, DC for 2023. This was the sixth consecutive year DeBoer has been included in the list. (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 8)

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Roundtable Chairman Raises Concerns About Florida Law Impacting Foreign Investments in Real Estate 

Real Estate Roundtable Chairman John Fish during The Roundtable's Fall 2023 Meeting

Roundtable Chairman John Fish (Chairman & CEO, Suffolk), above, was quoted in media articles this week raising concerns about certain aspects of a new Florida law that would limit and regulate the sale and purchase of certain Florida real property by “foreign principals” from “foreign countries of concern.”

Foreign Investment in Florida Property

  • Fish commented to Bloomberg about Florida’s SB 264, stating, “The law is far-reaching, very, very confusing, and the unintended consequences would be very, very detrimental.” (Bloomberg, Dec. 11 | Bisnow and Inman, Dec. 12)
  • The Real Estate Roundtable urged the Florida Real Estate Commission on Sept. 5 to consider specific concerns about implementing the state law, which could impair capital formation and hinder the important role legitimate foreign investment plays in U.S. real estate, the broader economy, and job growth. (Roundtable Weekly, Sept. 8)

Need for Clarifications

Florida State seal
  • In response, the Florida Department of Commerce on Sept. 21 proposed a positive clarification to one section of the law, which could have implications for similar laws in other states.
  • Montana and Alabama have also passed legislation with similar restrictions to Florida’s that ban the sale or lease of agricultural land, critical infrastructure, and properties near military bases to “foreign adversaries,” including China. (Inman, Dec. 12)
  • Broader prohibitions in another area of Florida’s SB 264—Section 204—generally preclude Chinese investors from acquiring “any interest”in any Florida real property anywhere in the state. The Roundtable is hopeful that Section 204 will be subject to clarification during the rulemaking process. (See highlighted areas in the Notice of Proposed Rule)
  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer noted in his Sept. 5 letter, “Our concern with the new law is that U.S.-managed investment funds, which are controlled and managed by U.S. nationals, may now be precluded from pursuing investment opportunities in Florida if there is any level of investor participation in the fund from countries of concern like China.”
  • The Roundtable is seeking a technical clarification that would permit U.S.-managed investment funds, which may include passive investor participation from investors across the globe to continue to pursue investment opportunities in Florida.
  • Non-U.S. investors routinely subscribe for small, generally passive minority interests in these funds. These investors exercise no control over the investments or the operation of the assets. Importantly, the investment decisions are made by the U.S.-managed funds, not by passive investors who simply commit capital for a return, not to control the underlying investments.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has launched the SecureFlorida Portal, where foreign principals from foreign countries of concern like China must register property.

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The Roundtable’s Jeffrey DeBoer Recognized as a “Top Lobbyist” for 2023

Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer

Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer, above, is one of the “Top Lobbyists” in Washington, DC for 2023, according to the widely-read Capitol Hill publication, The Hill.  This is the sixth consecutive year that DeBoer has earned the recognition. (The Hill, Dec. 6)

  • The Top Lobbyists 2023 list includes “impactful advocates (who) stand out for the results they’ve delivered for their clients, companies, trade associations and advocacy groups in the nation’s capital.”
  • The Hill also noted that after pandemic restrictions were lifted, “these top lobbyists had to navigate a divided Congress—and not just the traditional Republican and Democratic divisions” as a flood of regulatory activity flowed from the Biden administration.

DeBoer commented, “I am honored to lead The Real Estate Roundtable’s policy advocacy efforts and very humbled to be included on The Hill’s top lobbyist list. This personal recognition by The Hill reflects the collective efforts of the Roundtable membership, leadership, and staff. Together we work very hard to deliver non-partisan, data-based policy positions, guided by what is good for communities, job creation, and the economy. This has always been the foundation of our organization’s effectiveness, and it has proven to be even more critical given today’s increasingly challenging policy environment.”

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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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