Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Browser this week reiterated views expressed by The Real Estate Roundtable to President Biden about getting more federal workers back to the workplace and converting underutilized commercial real estate spaces into affordable housing. (ABC News, Jan. 2 and Roundtable letter, Dec. 12, 2022)
Federal Employees & Remote Work
- “The federal government represents one-quarter of D.C.’s prepandemic jobs and owns or leases one-third of D.C.’s office space,” Bowser, above, said in her third inaugural address on Jan. 2. “We need decisive action by the White House to either get most federal workers back to the office most of the time, or to realign their vast property holdings for use by the local government, by nonprofits, by businesses and by any user willing to revitalize it.” She added that converting office space into housing is the key to unlocking the potential of a reimagined, more vibrant downtown. (MarketWatch, Jan. 4)
- Prominent DC office landlords sent a letter on Nov. 28 to the District’s chief financial officer about eroding local market conditions, including increased vacancy rates, lackluster leasing activity, equity flight, and a financing drought—especially for assets with high levels of vacancy. The landlords warned that DC may face a significant loss of tax revenue that could threaten the city’s fiscal health, and that other cities are experiencing similar conditions. (Commercial Observer, Nov. 29 and Bisnow, Nov. 28)
- A recent federal employee survey from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management reports that about 42% of federal employees “telework” at least a few days per week.
- The federal government maintains facilities in 2,200 communities, influencing local leasing activities, property values, and surrounding small businesses. (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 16, 2022)
- Federal proposals aimed at encouraging more Americans back to the workplace, including enhanced child- care and eldercare benefits, are under consideration as the administration formulates its 2023 economic agenda. (Wall Street Journal and The Hill, Dec. 20)
- Real Estate Roundtable Chair John Fish, above right, and President & CEO Jeff DeBoer, left, wrote to President Biden last month about the consequences of federal agencies’ promotion of permanent remote work—and how remote work magnifies the ongoing, harmful economic impacts on cities, local tax bases, and small businesses. (Roundtable Weekly, Dec. 2 and Dec. 16, 2022)
- Roundtable Chair John Fish also recently responded to plans by the state of Massachusetts to vacate at least 355,000 square feet of its office footprint. Fish told The Boston Globe on Dec. 27 that government agencies at all levels should consider the effects on small businesses and property taxes when evaluating their back-to-office policies.
- The Roundtable comments also expressed supported legislation that could help facilitate “the increased conversion of underutilized office and other commercial real estate to much-needed housing.” The letter stated that incentives for conversion projects could be modeled on the rehabilitation tax credit as a cost-effective means to increase the housing supply, create jobs, and boost the local tax base.
How cities are responding to the impact to hybrid work arrangements will be one of several topics that Miami Mayor Francis Xavier Suarez, who also serves as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors will discuss with Roundtable members at our Jan. 24 State of the Industry Meeting in Washington.
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