Roundtable Recommends Agency Actions to Accelerate Property Conversions

Jared Bernstein, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, right, and Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer

The Real Estate Roundtable urged the Biden administration to take a series of actions to support commercial-to-residential property conversions in an April 15 letter to Jared Bernstein, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors. (see Meeting story above)

Improving Agency Resources

  • The Roundtable’s letter aims to harness various federal loan programs and tax incentives to provide financial support for CRE conversions.
  • These programs, enhanced by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act, can ideally be tailored to accelerate projects that transform underutilized assets into housing
  • RER’s letter states, “The Federal Guidebook’s featured programs have not lived up to their promise—yet.” The Roundtable’s suggestions to improve these U.S. agency resources support goals to increase housing supply, revitalize urban downtowns, and cut carbon emissions.

Roundtable Recommendations

Real Estate Roundtable letter on property conversions April 15, 2024
  • The April 15 letter urges agency actions to streamline environmental reviews, hasten the federal loan underwriting process, and layer various agency loan platforms to help finance housing conversions.
  • The letter recommends specific improvements to the Department of Transportation’s loan programs for transit-oriented development, which can also resonate for resources offered by HUD, DOE and EPA.
  • The Roundtable letter also details changes to the tax code and exisiting incentives that can increase energy efficiency and renewable energy investments in commercial-to-residential building conversions.

The Roundtable will continue to coordinate with White House staff and encourage modifications to federal regulations and laws that can improve CRE conversion projects.

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White House Recommends Policies to Increase Affordable Housing

2024 Economic Report of the President & Council of Economic Advisers

The White House Council of Economic Advisers released a report yesterday on policies to boost the supply of affordable rental and ownership units—proposals that could form the foundation of a housing push during a second Biden term. (2024 Economic Report of the President and New York Times, March 21)

Zoning Reform, LIHTC

  • The report explains that the federal government could reduce exclusionary zoning via grants and other spending, and directly subsidize affordable unit construction through programs like the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC). The report adds, “Ultimately, meaningful change will require State and local governments to reevaluate the land-use regulations that reduce the housing supply.”

Addressing Equity

  • The Council’s report addresses how increasing the housing supply could increase access and equity for groups with few financial resources, increase overall wealth, and reduce disparities across groups. (Page 163 of the Annual Report of the Council of Economic Advisers)
  • The report notes that exclusionary zoning policies, such as prohibitions on multifamily homes, are a “subset of local land-use regulations that can constrain the housing supply and thus decrease affordability.”

This week, President Biden also spoke in Las Vegas about his plans to “establish an innovative program to help communities build and renovate housing or convert housing from empty office spaces into housing, empty hotels into housing.” (White House remarks, March 19 and Roundtable Weekly, March 15)

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White House Focuses on Affordable Housing Policy Proposals

This week President Biden and his top economic advisor previewed a new Housing Innovation Fund and forthcoming proposals to encourage additional housing development. The White House’s focus on affordable housing confirmed it will be a top administration priority as the presidential election season picks up momentum. (Politico, March 14)

Administration’s Housing Remarks

  • Following his March 6 State of the Union address, which addressed new tax incentives for homebuyers and an expansion of the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), President Biden spoke this week about other aspects of his housing plan. (Roundtable Weekly, March 8 | White House Fact Sheets: Budget, March 11 and Housing, March 7)
  • Biden stated during comments at the National League of Cities, “The federal budget that I’m releasing today has a plan for 2 million more affordable homes, including housing — a housing innovation fund to help communities like yours build housing, renovate housing, and convert empty office space and hotels into housing. The bottom line is we have to build, build, build. That’s how we bring housing costs down for good.” (White House transcript and C-Span video, March 11)

New Initiatives

White House National Economic Advisor Lael Brainard
  • White House National Economic Advisor Lael Brainard, above, also addressed the president’s housing proposals this week. “While tax credits are a proven way to boost supply, it is also vital to support the efforts of governors, county executives, and mayors who are pioneering new approaches that can be scaled. That’s why the president is proposing a new $20 billion Innovation Fund for Housing Expansion to help communities expand their housing supply,” Brainard remarked. (White House transcript, March 12)
  • Brainard also previewed forthcoming administration housing policies. “In the months ahead, we will take further action– from supporting communities in identifying and removing barriers to housing production to promoting the use of federal resources for conversions from office to residential,” Brainard said. (Urban Institute video of speech and interview, March 12)
  • She confirmed that “the centerpiece of the president’s Plan is an expansion of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) that would produce or preserve 1.2 million affordable units over the next decade.” (HousingWire, March 12)

During a Senate Banking hearing on March 12 on Housing Affordability, Availability, and Other Community Needs, bipartisan support was also expressed for expanding the LIHTC—a policy strongly supported by The Roundtable. (Roundtable Weekly, March 1 and Feb. 16)

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President Biden’s FY2025 Budget Calls for $4.9 Trillion in Tax Increases

The Biden administration this week released its $7.3 trillion FY2025 budget request, which includes $4.9 trillion in tax increases and several tax proposals impacting capital gains. The Treasury Department also released its “Green Book,” which provides detailed descriptions of the budget’s tax proposals and associated revenue estimates. (White House budget and Treasury news release, March 11)

Capital Gains Focus

  • The White House’s annual budget represents the economic policy agenda of the Biden administration. While it is a wish list with no immediate impact, it sets a marker for upcoming debates on spending and fiscal priorities in Congress and throughout the upcoming election. This week’s budget document includes many of the same tax proposals in President Biden’s previous budgets and policies outlined during his State of the Union address last week. (Roundtable Weekly, March 8 and White House Fact Sheet on the Budget, March 11)
  • The FY2025 Green Book repeats the administration’s proposal to tax capital gains at ordinary income rates—nearly doubling the capital gains rate from 20% to 39.6%.  The budget would also increase the net investment income tax from 3.8% to 5% and extend the tax to all pass-through business income, effectively ending the exception for real estate professionals active in the business. As a result, the top combined tax rate on real estate capital gains and rental income would rise to 44.6%.
  • Other tax proposals in the budget would create a 25% minimum tax on the unrealized gains and income of individuals with more than $100 million in wealth, recapture depreciation deductions at ordinary income rates when real estate is sold, and raise the top personal income tax rate from 37% to 39.6% for those making more than $400,000. The president also proposes to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%. (The Hill, March 13)
  • Biden’s 2025 budget would largely eliminate the deferral of capital gain through like-kind exchanges (section 1031) and tax all carried interest as ordinary income. (White House Fact Sheet, March 11)

Tax Debates Begin

  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will testify on the administration’s budget and tax proposals before the Senate Finance Committee March 21 and during an upcoming House Ways and Means Committee hearing.
  • The Green Book will serve as a reference for congressional Democrats who develop large-scale tax legislation for the next Congress in anticipation of the expiration of 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provisions at the end of 2025.
  • As the FY2025 budget proposals spark a wide-ranging tax debate, a current $79 billion tax package—passed by the House and supported by The Roundtable—is pending in the Senate. (CQ News | Politico Pro | Tax Notes, March 15). Additional proposals in the budget impact housing policy—see story below.

Joint Employer Rule Struck

  • Separately, a federal court on March 8 blocked the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) final joint-employment standard rule. The decision from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas addressed whether the expansive definition has the potential to expose broad swaths of employers to liability for labor law violations committed by contractors or franchisees. The court vacated the NLRB rule, stating the joint-employment standard interpretation is too broad. (Politico Weekly Shift, March 11, 2024 and Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 17, 2020)

As an appeal from NLRB is expected, employers should continue to comply with the current joint-employer rule adopted in 2020. (JD Supra, March 14)

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President Biden Proposes New Housing Incentives, Increased Taxes on Wealthy Individuals and Public Corporations

President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address last night included proposals to levy a 25 percent minimum tax on wealthy individuals, increase the corporate tax rate from 21 to 28 percent, and raise the alternative minimum tax on large corporations from 15 to 21 percent. He also called on Congress to pass legislation to support the construction or rehabilitation of more than 2 million homes and rolled out new tax incentives for homebuyers. (Biden’s Remarks | White House Fact Sheets on Taxes and Housing, March 7)

Proposed Tax Increases

  • Biden proposed to levy a 25 percent minimum tax on those with wealth of more than $100 million. He committed to not raising taxes on those making $400,000 or less while heavily criticizing the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) as a $2 trillion giveaway to high-income households and corporations. (Tax Policy Center | Forbes, March 8)
  • Most of the Biden tax agenda is carried over from his prior budgets and includes provisions that he was unable to pass when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress. While not detailed in his speech, the White House’s upcoming 2025 budget could include past proposals to raise taxes on real estate like-kind exchanges and carried interest income. (Roundtable Weekly, March 10, 2023)
  • Many provisions from the 2017 tax bill will expire at the end of 2025, including the 20 percent deduction for pass-through business income, the cap on the deductibility of state and local taxes, and the reduction in the top individual tax rate from 39.6 to 37 percent. The approaching expiration of the individual provisions creates a tax “cliff” that is likely to drive tax negotiations next year.

Housing Plan

Real Estate coalition  response to President Biden's SOTU housing proposals.
Real estate coalition response to President Biden’s SOTU housing proposals.
  • The White House’s Fact Sheet on housing describes the administration’s plans to establish new tax credits for first-time homebuyers and individuals who sell their starter homes. The tax credit for home sellers seeks to address the “lock-in” effect associated with current high interest rates.The president would also increase spending on affordable housing by Federal Home Loan Banks. (PoliticoPro and White House Fact Sheet on Housing, March 7)
  • The White House Fact Sheet also includes an expansion of the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) to support an additional 1.2 million affordable rental units and a new Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit to encourage the construction or preservation of over 400,000 affordable, owner-occupied homes. Bipartisan legislation to expand LIHTC passed the House in January and is pending in the Senate.
  • The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and nine industry groups responded to the negative aspects of Biden’s housing plan. A coalition letter explained how proposals to limit fee for service arrangements would hurt renters by undermining the administration’s objectives of lowering housing costs, driving new housing development, and creating more affordable rental housing. President Biden has also supported Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission investigations into rental rate fixing—investigations that many in the industry believe are highly questionable. (NMHC statement and real estate coalition letter, March 7)

Funding Watch

  • After the House passed a spending package this week to fund several federal agencies through September, the Senate has until midnight tonight to pass the bill and avoid a partial government shutdown.
  • Approval from all 100 senators is necessary to fast track the process. The consideration of multiple amendments could delay a final vote until Saturday, necessitating a temporary funding extension to avoid disruption and get the final bill to President Biden for his signature. (The Hill, March 8)

The next government funding deadline is March 22, which requires a new spending package to fund the Pentagon, Health and Human Services, Labor, and other agencies. Policymakers agreed on this two-tiered stopgap funding plan (March 8 and 22) to buy time to negotiate a full-year appropriations bill. (Roundtable Weekly, March 1)

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