North American Lenders Scale Back Activity in UK CRE Market

North American lenders provided $4.2 billion in new credit toward British commercial property transactions in 2016 – a 56 percent reduction from the 2015, according to Bloomberg (citing a De Montfort University survey). New loan volume overall fell by 17 percent in 2016 to 44.5 billion pounds with 48 percent of CRE debt secured against properties in central London – the highest proportion in at least 12 years, according to the report.

Tax Reform and the RE Industry – April 2017

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.

Maryland to Ease MoCo BID Formation

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 and Skyscrapers

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.

New York Retail Update – April 2017

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.

Letter versus Spirit

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

Texas Housing Market Prices Outpace Income Gains

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.

Singapore Property Values Expected to Double by 2030

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.

Urban Alley Revitalization

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.

Source: UrbanTurf