The 2016 House Republican tax reform plan calls for eliminating the tax deduction for interest payments as one of the ways to help offset lower tax rates – a provision estimated to be worth $1.5 trillion, according to The New York Times (citing Tax Foundation). Real estate investors, who often use leverage to enhance returns, are one of the main beneficiaries of this deduction.
Another key provision of the GOP plan is immediate deductibility: The expensing of capital expenditures as opposed to the current practice of depreciating assets over time. According to the NYT report, the Tax Foundation has estimated that immediate expensing would cost $2.2 trillion in lost revenue in the first ten years with the loss tapering off as depreciation wanes. Getting rid of the tax deduction for interest payments is expected to offset some of the 10-year loss related to immediate deductibility while retaining the tax deduction and enacting immediate deductibility would lead to a large revenue shortfall.
The Maryland legislature passed a bill this month which lowers the threshold of property owners’ signatures required to create business improvement districts (BIDs) in Montgomery County, according to Bisnow. The bill, which the governor is expected sign, lowers the threshold from 80 percent to 51 percent. Among competing nearby jurisdictions, DC requires 51 percent of property owners’ approval for BID formation (25 percent in the CBD) and Arlington County requires 50 percent.
BIDs are business led partnerships in a designated area intended to supplement government services, create aesthetic upgrades and otherwise market the BID area. BIDs are typically funded via additional taxes, assessments and private funding.
Autocracies systematically build more new skyscrapers than democracies, according to a V-Dem Working Paper. This trend prevails when controlling for income level, state control over the economy, country-fixed and year-fixed effects. The study finds that lack of accountability allows autocratic leaders to realize such projects more easily than in democratic societies. The constraint factors are driven by vertical accountability mechanisms and well-informed voters disciplining politicians who may pursue extravagant projects. Furthermore, the study finds that whereas skyscraper projects in democracies are linked to income and urbanization fundamentals, in autocracies they are less tied to such factors.
The average asking rent rate in Manhattan decreased from $1,008/sf in 2015 to $967/sf in 2016 with 11 of 16 retail corridors recording declines, according to The Business of Fashion (citing CBRE data). Across all 16 corridors, average asking rents dropped by 2.7 percent in Q1-2017 (year-over-year) and by 20.8 percent since 2014 to $850/sf.
New York expects 12.4 million international visitors in 2017 – 300,000 fewer tourists than in 2016 partly due to the stronger dollar and Trump administration policies. According to the report, the spending power of one international tourist equals that of four domestic tourists, so the reduction could mean a sales loss of $600 million in 2017.
In an effort to reduce drunk driving, India’s Supreme Court recently banned the sale of liquor within 500 meters of national and state highways. According to India Times (citing local excise officials), the 500 meters is measured not by aerial distance but by walking distance. To fall into compliance without having to close or relocate, a bar in a suburb of Kochi constructed a maze-like wall which now puts it 520 meters from the highway. Called the “wall of love”, this 250 meter long, 10 meter wide walkway was completed in three days and is likely sufficient to keep the bar operating legally, according to local officials.
The Aishwarya Bar in North Paravoor – Photo: BCCL
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, between December 2010 and December 2015, the nominal median existing-home sales price in Texas increased 34 percent from $149,500 to $200,000 while the nominal median household income increased by only 14 percent. The drop in mortgage interest rates during this time frame was insufficient to offset the increase in property prices.
According to CNBC (citing analysis from Morgan Stanley), home prices in Singapore will double by 2030 (a 5-6 percent increase per year). The city-state’s economy is expected to grow by three percent in the medium term (2016-2030). Singapore’s GDP gained 2.9 percent YOY in Q4-2016 and grew by 2.5 percent YOY in the first quarter of 2017. Last year, residential property made up around 45 percent of total household gross assets with about 91 percent of Singapore’s residents owning their homes.
The increasing scarcity of affordable urban space and the demand for intimate, relaxed urban settings has led to an urban alley revitalization trend across many major U.S. cities. DC’s Height Act of 1899 limiting building heights to 110 feet has made space efficiency gains in the city that much more important.
As of September 2016, the following DC Zoning Commission changes affecting alleys went into effect:
- Alley dwellings will be permitted by-right in R-3, R-4 and R-5 zones in the city along 24-foot wide alleys, and on certain lots within 300 feet of a public street if the alley measures at least 15 feet wide;
- Single-family alley dwellings will also be allowed in other cases with a BZA special exception, pending input from DC Water, District Department of Transportation (DDOT), Department of Public Works (DPW), the local Advisory Neighborhood Committee, or other interested parties wherever applicable;
- Pre-existing alley lots must have a minimum square footage of 450 square feet in order for a dwelling to be built;
- Alley dwellings will also be subject to setback requirements and a height limit of 20 feet in residential zones. The height limit for alley dwellings in commercial zones will be 30 feet;
- In low-density residential zones (R-1 and R-2), alley dwellings will not be allowed;
- Multi-family alley dwellings could potentially be permitted in commercial zones, although they will remain prohibited in residential zones;
- Large alley lots can be split into more than one lot if square footage requirements are still met.
The top five MSAs in the U.S. where the average worker has the most left over after housing costs also happen to be the country’s premier tech hubs and superstar cities (where housing demand exceeds supply and supply growth is limited). In these markets, the most advantaged residents derive the majority of the gains, according to Richard Florida writing for the The Atlantic. In San Jose the average “creative class” worker has $80,503 left over after paying for housing, the average working class worker has $23,109 left over and the average service class worker has $14,372. The working class and service class workers’ post-housing incomes in these MSAs are not much different from the post-housing incomes for these classes of workers in the five MSAs with the overall least post-housing income.
Chart: Martin Prosperity Institute (via The Atlantic) – Data: U.S. Dept. of Labor, U.S. BLS, U.S. Census