POTUS Declares National Emergency to Combat Coronavirus; House of Representatives Readies COVID-19 Response Legislation that Puts “Families First”

Trump Rose Garden Announces National Emergency

President Trump declared a national emergency this afternoon to unleash billions of disaster reserve funds to combat the coronavirus, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced this evening that she “clinched a deal” with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on legislation to assist families and businesses immediately impacted by the pandemic.  (POLITICO, March 13)  

Emergency Declaration 

  • “To unleash the full power of the federal government today I am declaring a national emergency,” President Trump announced today in the Rose Garden.  “Through shared sacrifice and national determination we will overcome the virus,” he added.  Stocks rallied throughout the day today and shot-up after the announcement, regaining some of this week’s historic losses.  (CNBC, March 13)   
  • The declaration authorizes the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to utilize over $42 billion available in the Disaster Relief Fund, to pump money into the economy for COVID-19 response.  States and cities can use the funds for emergency protective measures such as widespread coronavirus testing, diagnosis, treatment and stabilization.  The money can also be used to purchase durable medical equipment, set-up temporary treatment tents, deploy portable and mobile care facilities, store a 30-day supply or prescriptions for acute conditions, and disseminate public health information.
  • Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) led other Senate Democrats in a March 11 letter urging President Trump invoke the Stafford Act to declare a national emergency.
  • Trump also announced a public-private partnership to mobilize COVID-19 testing.  “We want to make sure that people who need a test can get one safely, quickly, and conveniently,” he added.  The aim of the effort is to supply up to 1.4 million tests next week and five million in a month, with drive-through tests available in critical locations.
  • Google will aim to build an online screening website for COVID-19 testing.  Debbie Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said during the news conference that website users will have to log in, fill out a screening and risk factor questionnaire, and then be directed to a “drive through” testing facility.  The goal is to provide test results within 36 hours.  (AP and Techcrunch, March 13)  
  • This is a “pro-active, leaning-forward, aggressive” response to stay ahead of the pandemic, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert at the National Institutes of Health, at the Rose Garden event.  The emergency declaration removes constraints on government, public health experts, and medical professionals “to do everything they possibly can” to contain and mitigate the virus’s spread.  

Congressional Action

  • On Capitol Hill, the House of Representatives today is expected to pass the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201),  following reports of agreement reached by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.  (POLITICO, March 13)  
  • The Senate cancelled its planned recess next week to consider a relief package. “I am glad talks are ongoing between the Administration and Speaker Pelosi,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).  “I hope Congress can pass bipartisan legislation to continue combating the coronavirus and keep our economy strong.”  (Roll Call, March 12)  As of this writing, Republicans are reportedly waiting for a “high sign” from President Trump for GOP support of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.  (POLITICO Playbook PM, March 13)
  • Pelosi remarked that H.R. 6201 is “focused directly on providing support for American families.”  She added, “the three most important parts of this bill are testing, testing, testing.”  Specifically,  the Families First Coronavirus Response Act includes:  

    • required medical insurance coverage for COVID-19 testing for all Americans;
    • extension of unemployment insurance benefits;
    • expansion of paid leave for full-time and hourly employees affected by the virus, including those staying home to care for family members;    
    • shoring up SNAP and other programs that provide food security for school children, low-income families, and the elderly;       
    • additional funds for Medicaid; and 
    • a credit to reimburse companies for mandatory paid sick leave
  • Meanwhile, a framework suggested by Senate Democrats, and a plan of executive actions President Trump announced Wednesday in his oval office address, show that leadership of both parties want a quick economic response from Washington. (Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck“Coronavirus Economic Update,” March 13)  
  • Lawmakers are focused on swift resolution of matters that have the highest chances of immediate bipartisan consensus.  To that end, Congress is unlikely to address the European travel ban on foreign nationals announced by President Trump on Wednesday, which takes effect tonight at midnight.  (New York Times, March 12).  Likewise, a payroll tax holiday opposed by Democrats (CNBC, March 11), and long-term paid sick leave unrelated to the virus and opposed by business groups (The Hill, March 12), are off-the-table.
  • Business groups most directly impacted by the COVID-19 fallout have recommended their own tailored measures of government response to assist their industries.  For example, the U.S. Travel Association, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, and the American Resort Development Association joined 150 travel-related organizations urging “calm, rational, and fact-based decisions” as policy makers and public health officials respond to COVID-19.  (March 10 Travel Industry Statement).
  • Also, the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) urged Congress to consider targeted assistance for tax-exempt organizations and trade groups suffering from event cancellations and reduced meeting attendance as a result of the pandemic. (ASAE Letter, March 6)
  • Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer notified all Roundtable members on March 9 that the organization’s March 31 Spring Business Meeting was canceled “in light of health and safety issues surrounding COVID-19.” 
  • The imminent economic relief package anticipated from the House today follows the $8.3 billion measure Congress sent to President Trump’s desk last week.  That legislation focused on public health measures to bolster vaccine development and research, increased equipment stockpiles, and support for state and local health responses to the virus.  (Roundtable Weekly, March 6).   

In the coming weeks, further policies from Congress and the Administration are expected to address longer-term stimulus of the U.S. economy through measures such as infrastructure investment, workforce development, increased lending for small businesses, and stabilizing the capital markets.  The Roundtable will continue to work with our colleague partner associations to unify the real estate industry’s message as policy makers develop and implement measures to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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Fannie & Freddie Get Updated Duty-To-Serve Criteria for Manufactured, Affordable and Rural Housing

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Strict criteria for how the Government Sponsored Entities (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac must facilitate a secondary mortgage market for very low-, low-, and moderate-income families in manufactured, affordable and rural housing were released on March 11 by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA). (Updated FHFA Guidance)

  • FHFA oversees the GSEs, which remain in government conservatorship since the financial crisis of 2008.  The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 established a duty for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises) to serve the three specified underserved markets.  (FHFA Duty-To-Serve Program)
  • Under the Duty-to-Serve regulation, each Enterprise must prepare a three-year plan showing how it will increase the liquidity of mortgage investments and improve the distribution of investment capital available for mortgage financing for the three markets.  The new evaluation criteria, which take effect 2021-2023 incorporate several changes:
    • Revised ratings framework – The revisions establish four ratings to describe Enterprise performance;
    • Higher expectations for impactful plans – The revisions require a minimum concept score of 30 for each objective, rather than the previous requirement that the concept scores of all objectives average a 30;
    • Increased threshold for determining compliance – The revisions increase the threshold for compliance scores; and
    • Technical changes – The updated Guidance also includes technical changes to reflect current practices that have streamlined processes and improved program administration.
  • The evaluation guidance sets forth the process and standards by which FHFA will evaluate, and report annually to Congress on the Enterprises’ performance and achievements under their plans.  The updated guidance will ensure that the Enterprises Duty-To-Serve programs have a measurable and significant impact in underserved communities.

Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria addressed his agency’s oversight of Fannie and Freddie – who own or guarantee $5.6 trillion in single and multifamily mortgages – during The Roundtable’s 2020 State of the Industry Meeting in January. (Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 31)

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Central Banks Around the World Move to Combat Economic Fallout of Coronavirus

WHO world map coronavirus

Central banks around the world took dramatic action this week to mitigate the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. 

  • The Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced a bold move yesterday to pump a series of cash injections totaling more than $1.5 trillion of temporary market liquidity into markets and begin buying longer-term bonds.  
  • This week’s actions are designed to mitigate investor fears as the Dow Jones industrial average plummeted more than 2,300 points yesterday – a 10 percent drop that is the worst one-day decline since the 1987 crash.  (Wall Street Journal and Federal Reserve Bank of New York, March 12)
  • “These changes are being made to address highly unusual disruptions in Treasury financing markets associated with the coronavirus outbreak,” the New York Fed said in its March 12 announcement.  The short-term funding move was directed by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, in consultation with the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee. (Los Angeles Times, March 12)
  • The Fed’s substantial intervention opens the door to a resumption of bond-buying stimulus known as quantitative easing used during the financial crisis of 2008.
  • U.S. central bankers meet are scheduled to meet next week in Washington, when they could move to slash rates again after implementing an emergency half-percentage-point cut last week.
  • Economists widely expect another quarter-point rate cut at the Fed’s March 18 meeting, if not more, from the current range of 1% to 1.25% (Roundtable Weekly, March 6 and BGov, March 12)

European Central Bank and Individual Nations Respond

After the US Federal Reserve and Bank of England announced aggressive rate cuts in recent days to stimulate their respective economies, the European Central Bank (ECB) left its key interest rate unchanged at minus 0.5%. 

  • Instead, ECB President Christine Lagarde said the central bank would move forward with its $2.9 trillion (2.6 trillion euro) bond purchase program, while making bank loans available at rates as low as minus 0.75%.  (ECB press release, March 12)
  • In her March 12 statement, Lagarde noted the ECU will “add a temporary envelope of additional net asset purchases of 120 billion euros ($135.28 billion) until the end of the year, ensuring a strong contribution from the private sector purchase programmes.”  She also stated, “We welcome the commitment of the euro area governments and the European Institutions to act now, strongly, and together in response to the repercussions of the further spread of the coronavirus.” (Video of ECU press conference, March 12)
  • After Lagarde’s announcement, the spread between German and Italian government bonds increased to more than 2.5 percent as Italy battles a widespread outbreak.
  • Today, the ECB’s chief economist Phillip Lane sought to further reassure European markets.  In a blog post, Lane wrote, “We clearly stand ready to do more and adjust all of our instruments, if needed to ensure that the elevated spreads that we see in response to the acceleration of the spreading of the coronavirus do not undermine transmission [of monetary policy].”
  • British regulators temporarily banned short selling on Italian and Spanish after regulators in Italy and Spain did the same to stem the market slide.  (Financial Conduct Authority  and Reuters, March 13)
  • Germany’s state development bank KfW announced today it will provide a massive expansion of loans to companies in need and defer billions of euros in tax payments.  Olaf Scholz, the German finance minister, told reporters in Berlin, “This is the bazooka, and we will use it to do whatever it takes.”  He added there was “no upper limit on the amount of loans KfW can issue.” (rfi and Financial Times, March 13)
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated yesterday, “We are in a situation that is unusual in every respect and I would say more unusual than at the time of the banking crisis because we are dealing with a health problem, a health challenge for which scientists and medicine does not yet have an answer,” Merkel said. (Reuters, March 12)
  • Central banks in Australia, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Norway and Sweden also announced stimulus measures today to relieve the strain on their banking systems. 
  • In China, The People’s Bank on Friday said it will release nearly $80 billion in liquidity into its financial system to assist loans to small businesses and low-wage individuals as the country continues to contend with the coronavirus.  (Wall Street Journal, March 13)
  • The US Federal Reserve’s first emergency move on March 3 to contain the coronavirus economic fallout was to cut interest rates half a point. The move came shortly finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of 7, which includes Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, held a conference call.

On March 5, Federal Reserve Bank of New York President John C. Williams confirmed that the international community of central bankers are working together to stem the economic shock of the coronavirus. “… policy actions by central banks are clear indications of the close alignment at the international level,” Mr. Williams said.  (NYTimes, March 5)

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Senate Committee Considering Comprehensive Energy Bill that Includes Roundtable-Supported Measures

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A bipartisan, omnibus energy bill with provisions supported by The Real Estate Roundtable was prepared for debate in the Senate this week, as Republicans and Democrats negotiate a package of amendments that may be added to the base bill.  

  • The American Energy Innovation Act (S. 2657) – introduced on Feb. 27 by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Ranking Member Joe Manchin (D-WV) [ above ] – is a compilation of more than 50 energy-related measures considered and individually reported last year.  (Bill Summary and text)
  • The AEIA focuses on energy efficiency, renewable energy, energy storage, carbon capture, grid modernization, and workforce development to build energy-related infrastructure.
  • The bill includes language supported by The Roundtable to improve the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) process. 
    • AEIA Section 1001 would require Congress to oversee coordination by federal agencies to gather and report higher quality CBECS data – the only nationwide government survey that estimates the number, location, age, energy consumption and other characteristics of the U.S. commercial real estate stock.
    • Significantly, CBECS data provides the underpinning for EPA’s ENERGY STAR scores – a key real estate performance “label” relied upon by building owners, investors, and tenants.
  • The Senate’s AEIA bill includes other sections of interest to real estate, including authorizations for:  
    • a “Federal Smart Building Program” to implement and demonstrate smart building technologies across the federal real estate stock; 
    • a nationwide survey of “Private Sector Smart Buildings” for study and evaluation by the U. S. Energy Secretary; 
    • codification of the U.S. Energy Department’s “Better Buildings Challenge” – a program that has attracted Roundtable members’ participation; and
    • a “CHP Technical Assistance Partnership” to provide project-specific engineering and economic assessments for combined heat and power systems.


  • Thus far, Senators have filed over 185 amendments for consideration as additions to the underlying bill.  Among them is one offered by Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) to drive greater transparency and consideration of building owner costs in the process to develop model building energy codes.  (Roundtable Weekly, July 19, 2019).   The Roundtable has long-supported the Portman-Shaheen energy codes provisions, which Portman addressed this week on the Senate floor
  • ENR Chairman Murkowski said this week she was working on a “managers’ package” of certain, less controversial measures to be voted on in a block.  “I want to have a managers’ package, but it is entirely possible — we’ve seen it before — that that opportunity is spoiled,” she said.  (CQ, March 4) 

If Republicans and Democrats can agree upon the AEIA amendments eligible for a vote, the Senate will be poised to pass its first major piece of energy legislation in over 12 years, according to Murkowski’s press release.  The measure would then move to the House of Representatives, where the Democratic majority might append provisions that more aggressively address climate change.  (Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 7, 2020) 

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House of Representatives Passes Affordable Housing Bill to Reduce Zoning Barriers with No Opposition

The United States House of Representatives on Monday passed the bipartisan Yes in My Backyard (YIMBY) Act (H.R. 4351) on a voice vote, following last week’s unanimous approval by the House Financial Services Committee.  (Roundtable Weekly, Feb. 28, 2020)

  • Sponsored by Reps. Denny Heck (D-WA) and Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN), the YIMBY Act avoids a mandate from Congress to compel cities and towns to enact certain land use laws.  Municipalities that receive HUD’s Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) would be discouraged from limiting housing supplies through reporting on and disclosing their land use and zoning policies that inhibit high density land uses. 
  • The YIMBY Act would direct a community receiving federal CDBG money to consider, track, and report on implementation of over 20 pro-housing strategies, such as:
    • Enacting high-density zoning, and expanding by-right multifamily zoned areas;
    • Allowing manufactured homes and accessory dwelling units on single-family lots;
    • Reducing minimum lot sizes;
    • Increasing allowable floor area ratios for multifamily projects;
    • Providing property tax abatements to existing home owners to garner support for high development densities in their communities; and
    • Ensuring that impact fees paid by developers accurately reflect infrastructure needs generated by new units.
  • “Sunlight is the best disinfectant and we need to identify and reduce barriers to housing construction at the local level,” Heck said following the House vote. “I am proud that Congress is taking a critical first step towards bringing relief to cost-burdened renters and homeowners across America.”  (Heck press release, March 2.)
  • “We want more affordable homes for American families,” Hollinsgworth said on Monday.  The YIMBY Act’s unanimous approval “signals strong support across the aisle to reform our nation’s housing regulations at all levels of government.” (Hollingsworth Press Release, March 2)
  • The Roundtable joined Feb. 24 and March 2 coalition letters signed by real estate, “smart growth” and subsidized housing advocates, in a show of wide stakeholder support for the YIMBY Act.
  • The Roundtable also urged support for the YIMBY Act in comments filed with HUD in January.  (Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 17, 2020). Companion legislation is pending in the Senate (S. 1919), sponsored by Todd Young (R-IN) and Brian Schatz (D-HI).  The bill also reflects the goals of President Trump’s Executive Order for “Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing.” (Roundtable Weekly, June 28, 2019)
  • Speaking at the 2020 Pension Real Estate Association Spring Conference this week Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey D. DeBoer, said: “The Roundtable has long recognized that safe, decent, and affordable housing is essential to the well-being of America’s families, communities and businesses. The YIMBY Act is a positive first step in eliminating discriminatory land use polices and removing barriers that prevent much needed affordable housing from being built throughout the country.”

The Roundtable and coalition partners will continue to urge lawmakers to make progress on the YIMBY Act in the Senate and similar legislation that eases burdensome rules that inhibit affordable housing development.

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Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Addresses FIRPTA Reform at House Ways and Means Hearing


Testifying before the House Ways and Means Committee on the President’s FY 2021 budget, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was questioned this week on the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act (FIRPTA) and addressed potential steps he could take to encourage greater real estate investment from abroad.  (Watch 2:35 video of March 3 exchange with Mnuchin)

  • During the hearing’s Q&A with Secretary Mnuchin, committee member Kenny Marchant (R-TX) noted a recent letter that he and other GOP taxwriters sent to the Treasury Department urging a reevaluation of FIRPTA and related IRS guidance (Notice 2007-55).  
  • The congressional letter, led by Ways and Means Republican Devin Nunes (R-CA), encourages Treasury to withdraw section two of the IRS Notice, which effectively imposes U.S. capital gains tax on the liquidating distributions of domestically controlled real estate investment trusts (REITs).   Often, when a foreign investor is a minority partner in a U.S. real estate or infrastructure investment, the joint venture employs a domestically controlled REIT structure.
  • The 16 signatories of the February 20 letter wrote, “repealing the IRS Notice will restore the intent of Congress with respect to the tax law governing liquidations, provide parity to investors, and increase direct foreign investment in U.S. commercial real estate and infrastructure in every corner of the nation.”
  • During the hearing, Rep. Marchant called attention to the letter – and noted the IRS guidance applies FIRPTA to previously untaxed transactions involving domestically controlled REITs.  
  • Mnuchin responded that the Feb. 20 letter prompted a briefing at Treasury this week – and that he shares the concerns the letter  raises about FIRPTA.  “[I]t makes no sense that we discriminate against foreign investors,” Mnuchin said.  “But in my mind, anything we can do legally to encourage those investments we will do.  So thank you for the letter.  We are reviewing it.  It is at the top of my list,” he added. (Watch 2:35 video of Marchant and Mnuchin)
  • During another Ways and Means tax hearing last month, Rep. Marchant said, “FIRPTA is an outdated, discriminatory law.  It applies to no asset class other than real estate and infrastructure … Economic studies indicate repealing FIRPTA could drive $65 to $125 billion in new investment.”  (Watch video of Feb. 11 FIRPTA exchange).  Rep. Marchant is lead sponsor of the bipartisan Invest in America Act (H.R. 2210), a bill that would repeal the entire FIRPTA law. 
  • A similar letter was sent on December 18, 2019 to Secretary Mnuchin by a bipartisan group of 11 Senate Finance Committee Members led by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) – a longtime lead sponsor of FIRPTA repeal bills.  Another bipartisan letter to Secretary Mnuchin urging repeal of the IRS Notice was signed by 32 Representatives of the House Ways and Means shortly before introduction of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA). (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 20, 2019)

Members of the Roundtable’s Tax Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC) have met with Treasury officials on multiple occasions to discuss the harm caused by IRS Notice 2007-55.  Leading industry experts also convened on Oct. 30 at the National Press Club in Washington for an in-depth discussion the economic damage incurred by the IRS Notice.  An industry coalition is scheduled to meet with officials in Treasury’s Office of Tax Policy next week to discuss the issue.

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Emergency Coronavirus Response Package Enacted, Fed Attempts to Blunt Economic Impact with Interest Rate Cut

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This week congressional policymakers overwhelmingly passed, and President Trump signed, an $8.3 billion emergency spending package to combat the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. – after the Fed reduced interest rates by a half-point amid early signs of economic disruption.

  • The president signed the emergency funding bill Friday morning. “We’ve signed the 8.3 billion,” Trump said. “I asked for two and a half and I got 8.3 and I’ll take it.”   (The Hill, March 6)  Photo above:  President Trump, with Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, signs the coronavirus bill into law.
  • The package – H.R. 6074 (116) – will bolster vaccine development and research, increase equipment stockpiles, and support state and local health responses to a virus that has sickened more than 160 people in more than a dozen states.  (NY Times U.S. coronavirus map and Center for Disease Control and Prevention updates)
  • As questions remain about the severity and spread of the illness, the stock market continued to experience historic gyrations this week, with falling yields exerting wide-ranging effects on borrowing costs and bank profitability. (Wall Street Journal, March 5)
  • In an effort to contain the coronavirus’s economic fallout, Fed Chairman Jay Powell announced on March 3 a cut in the federal funds rate cut to a range of 1 to 1 ¼ percent – the largest emergency cut to interest rates since the 2008 financial crisis.  The Fed’s Open Market Committee is scheduled to meet again on March 17-18 to issue updated economic forecasts and any further change to the current federal funds rate.
  • Powell said, “The virus and the measures that are being taken to contain it will surely weigh on economic activity both here and abroad for some time.”  He added, “We are beginning to see the effects on the tourism and travel industries, and we are hearing concerns from industries that rely on global supply chains.”  He added, “We don’t think we have all the answers, but we do believe that our action will provide a meaningful boost to the economy.”  (Powell’s press conference transcript). 
  • The Federal Reserve’s latest nationwide survey of business conditions shows that that half of the central bank’s districts — Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco — were reporting impacts from the coronavirus in tourism and manufacturing chains.  (The Fed’s Beige Book, March 4)
  • The U.S. Travel Association (USTA) on Tuesday issued a report that supports the Fed’s findings.  USTA predicts a 6 percent plunge over the next three months in international inbound travel to the United States, which could result in a loss of two to three billion dollars – the largest dip in global visitation since the financial crisis. About 79.3 million international visitors came to the U.S. last year.  (USTA Travel Trends Index, March 3)
  • [The Real Estate Roundtable is part of the Visit U.S. Coalition, led by the U.S. Travel Association (USTA) and the American Hotel and Lodging Association.]
  • The potential impact of coronavirus on the economy and commercial real estate was part of a recent discussion between Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer and Brookfield Property Partners Chairman Ric Clarke at Colorado University’s Annual Real Estate Forum (see photos here). DeBoer was also interviewed partly about the coronavirus outlook by Rosen Consulting Group’s Chairman Ken Rosen during the Pension Real Estate Association’s Spring conference this week.
  • Coronavirus-related updates and resources are available to the commercial real estate industry through the RE-ISAC’s #COVID Section, which includes:
  • Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Summary, last update March 3.
  • Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the U.S., March 5 update.

The potential impact of coronavirus on the health of global markets and the U.S. economy; commercial real estate sectors and the industry’s response; and how it may affect the routines of millions in American society, will be a focus during The Roundtable’s March 31 Spring Meeting in Washington, DC.

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National Multifamily Housing Council President Doug Bibby Announces 2021 Departure

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National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) President Doug Bibby – an industry leader for nearly two decades who has played a major role in advancing real estate’s policy agenda in Washington, DC – announced on Jan. 29 that he will depart the organization in 2021. 

  • “It has been, and continues to be, a great honor and privilege to serve in this position,” said Bibby. “Representing the apartment industry has been one of the most fulfilling and gratifying experiences of my career. I am proud of the work the team at NMHC has done and the strides the industry has taken during my tenure,” he added.  (NMHC’s bio on Doug Bibby)
  • Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer noted, “Among the 18 national real estate trade associations that The Real Estate Roundtable works with on common issues of importance to commercial real estate, NMHC is one that has shown outstanding leadership on important policies such as housing affordability, regulatory reform and the recent reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.  Doug Bibby has played an essential and exemplary role in his large organization’s successes on the policy front since June 2001.  He deserves the thanks of the entire industry and we wish him well as he prepares for his next endeavor.”

NMHC’s officers have engaged an executive search firm, Russell Reynolds Associates, and hope to introduce Bibby’s successor at its January 2021 Annual Meeting.

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House Democrats Propose $760 Billion Infrastructure Framework as Ways and Means Committee Considers Pay-Fors


House Democratic leaders on Jan. 29 released a five-year, $760 billion framework to improve the nation’s highways, bridges, transit and broadband as the Ways & Means (W&M) Committee held a hearing to consider how to pay for the plan. (Factsheet and Framework text)

  • The 19-page “Moving Forward Framework” was unveiled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and the chairs of three House committees – Transportation Committee Chair Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Energy Committee Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and W&M Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA).  (Video of news conference)
  • Elements of the “Moving Forward” blueprint, estimated to create 10 million jobs, include:
    • $434 billion for highways, bridges, transit and other surface transportation – comprising the package’s financial bulk – with incentives for projects that reduce carbon pollution and improve resiliency to climate change impacts;
    • Streamlining the Transportation Department’s underwriting process for low-interest TIFIA loans;
    • Prioritizing spending from the national Highway Trust Fund (“HTF”) with a “Fix It First” strategy to repair crumbling roads and bridges ;
    • A pilot to sustain the long-term solvency of the HTF (which is frequently bailed-out by Congress) through a “vehicle miles traveled” user fee;
    • Quicker federal grant approvals for transit projects of national and regional significance, to support critical investments like the NY-NJ Gateway program;
    • Priorities for investments that help transform U.S. rail and airport networks;
    • Expansion of renewable energy infrastructure and investments to de-carbonize the electric grid; and
    • New infusions of capital for Brownfields re-development.
  • The Roundtable has long supported legislation for a comprehensive infrastructure overhaul.  It has recommended a number of measures reflected in the Democratic framework. (E.g., March 20, 2019 W&M comments; April 29, 2019 T&I comments.)
  • Projects supported by federal dollars in the “Moving Forward” plan would trigger prevailing wage requirements for laborers and contractors under Davis-Bacon standards.
  • Meanwhile, the W&M Committee held a hearing Jan. 29 on “Paving the Way for Funding and Financing Infrastructure Investments.”  The hearing explored potential funding options for a national infrastructure effort, including raising the gasoline tax; expanding tax-exempt bonds; establishing a vehicle-miles traveled user fee; and greater use of public-private partnerships (P3s).  The Congressional Budget Office reported last week that P3s have accounted for only 1 to 3 percent of spending for highway, transit, and water infrastructure since 1990.
  • Chairman Neal and Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) both endorsed an expansion of dynamic budget scoring beyond tax cuts for infrastructure investments.  In his opening statement, Neal cited tax-preferred bonds, including Build America Bonds, as an important infrastructure financing tool, while also highlighting the new markets tax credit, the low-income housing tax credit, and the historic tax credit.  Rep. Brady proposed creating Opportunity Zones for infrastructure.  (Politico, Jan. 30)

The Trump Administration and Congressional Democrats have long touted a comprehensive infrastructure package as an area for bipartisan agreement.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently stated that infrastructure policy could advance after the impeachment trial ends. (Roundtable Weekly, Jan. 24)

However, during this election year, prospects for a more modest infrastructure plan (compared to the expansive Democratic framework) are higher.  The current Highway Trust Fund of approximately $226 billion – the main funding source for roads, bridges and transit – is set to expire on September 30, 2020.  Shoring-up the HTF is expected to be the main focus of Congress and stakeholders for the rest of FY 2020.  (Roundtable Weekly, Oct. 4)  

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Policymakers and Industry Leaders Address Affordable Housing and Other National Issues as The Roundtable Rolls Out 2020 Policy Agenda

The Real Estate Roundtable’s 2020 State of the Industry (SOI) Meeting this week in Washington featured discussions with policymakers and industry leaders on affordable housing solutions, economic development and job creation, infrastructure, tax regulations affecting CRE and other national issues. 

Policy Issues & Featured Speakers   
The SOI meeting included the following speakers: 

  • Federal Housing Finance Agency Director Mark Calabria addressed his agency’s oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) – who own or guarantee $5.6 trillion in single and multifamily mortgages. Dr. Calabria spoke about the conservatorships the GSEs have operated under since 2008 and the need to responsibly privatize them while ensuring sufficient private capital is in place to protect taxpayers, along with access to affordable rental housing.
  • House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Patrick McHenry (R-NC) focused on affordable housing in the discussion with Dr. Calabria, moderated by Willy Walker, chairman & CEO, Walker & Dunlop.  Rep. McHenry has served as Chief Deputy Whip to build consensus for the House Republican Conference’s agenda – including passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last year.  He spoke about his committee’s recent hearings on challenges for effective affordable housing policies, which include a decrease in available housing supply due in part to counterproductive regulations and zoning laws at local and state levels.
  • House Ways and Means Committee Member Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) is the first Vietnamese-American woman elected to Congress and a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee that originates tax legislation affecting the industry.  Rep. Murphy spoke of her efforts to build consensus among her House colleagues by co-chairing the Blue Dog Coalition, a bloc of Democrats who emphasize fiscal restraint – and her efforts to build a solutions-oriented policy approach that can bridge the gap between left and right.
  • Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (D), recently re-elected, discussed her state-wide successes in attracting increased economic investment, decreasing unemployment and implementing innovative solutions to the challenges of homelessness and affordable housing.  Gov. Raimondo spoke of her recent proposal to build more affordable housing using a housing bond and dedicated funding stream, along with her support for the federal Opportunity Zones program.  She also discussed her executive order committing Rhode Island to be powered by 100 percent renewable electricity by the end of the decade. 
  • Mike Allen, co-founder and Executive Editor of Axios – a three-year old digital media company delivering news and insights on policy, politics, business and tech – discussed the confluence of this election cycle, social media and the “War for Attention” to gain consumer, and voter, brand loyalty.
  • George Will, syndicated columnist and political commentator, concluded the meeting’s evening event with comments on how historical, economic and societal trends directly influence the current political environment, providing a bellwether for what can be anticipated in future elections.

Roundtable Policy Committees 
SOI also included meetings of The Roundtable’s policy advisory committees, which analyzed policy issues in detail with high-level congressional and agency staff.

  • Research and Real Estate Capital Policy Advisory Committee (RECPAC):
    During this joint meeting, two panels of industry experts addressed  investment and market insights into the current real estate market cycle, along with the state of real estate capital and debt markets.
  • Tax Policy Advisory Committee (TPAC):
    The chief tax counsels from the Senate Committee on Finance discussed what lay ahead for tax legislative priorities affecting commercial real estate.  The discussion, moderated by Russ Sullivan (Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck), included Mark Warren, chief tax counsel for Senate Finance Committee Republicans and Tiffany Smith, chief tax counsel for Senate Finance Committee Democrats.  Additional discussions delved into recent and future real estate-related tax regulations with Treasury Department Attorney-Advisor Bryan Rimmke, as well as new Opportunity Zone rules, proposed LIBOR tax regulations, and the tax challenges confronting foreign investment in US real estate.  
  • Sustainability Policy Advisory Committee (SPAC):
    U.S. Environmental Protection Agency speakers provided an update on the ENERGY STAR for Tenants program.  Additionally, U.S. Energy Information Administration speakers provided SPAC information on the Commercial Building Energy Consumption Survey (CBECS) and its impact on ENERGY STAR scores. The New York Independent System Operator (NYISO) discussed its efforts to create a carbon pricing market — an emerging issue as the real estate sector confronts rising obligations to draw clean power from a de-carbonized electric grid.  
  • Homeland Security Task Force meeting (HSTF) and Risk Management Working Group (RMWG):
    The joint meeting attendees heard briefings by government officials on challenges presented by homelessness – and the risk picture posed by the coronavirus to the United States.  The Task Force was also briefed on cyber threats and the state of insurance markets after the recent seven-year reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), enacted one year before its scheduled expiration date – a major policy accomplishment of The Roundtable in 2019.

Next on The Roundtable’s FY2020 meeting calendar is the Spring Meeting on March 31 in Washington, DC.  This meeting is restricted to Roundtable-level members only.

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