March 20, 2015

Foreign Funding for Real Estate Projects

By David Reiss

Jeanne Calderon and Gary Friedland have posted A Roadmap to the Use of EB-5 Capital: An Alternative Financing Tool for Commercial Real Estate Projects. The paper provides a great overview of a relatively new source of funding for real estate deals. The introduction opens,

From an immigrant’s perspective, the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program (“EB-5” or the “Program”) represents merely one of several paths to obtain a visa.  The EB-5 visa is based on the immigrant’s investment of capital in a business that creates new jobs. However, from a real estate developer’s perspective, the immigrant’s investment to qualify for the visa creates an alternative capital source for the developer’s project (“EB-5 capital” or “EB-5 financing”).

Despite the Program’s enactment by Congress in 1990, for many years EB-5 was not a common path followed by immigrants to seek a visa. However, when the traditional capital markets evaporated during the Great Recession, developers’ demand for alternate capital sources rejuvenated the Program. Since 2008, the number of EB-5 visas sought, and hence the use of EB-5 capital, has skyrocketed. EB-5 capital has become a capital source providing extraordinary flexibility and attractive terms, especially to finance commercial real estate projects. Consequently, many developers routinely consider EB-5 capital as a potential source to fill a major space in the capital stack. As the financing tool becomes more widely known and understood, this source of capital should become even more popular.

The EB-5 investor’s motivation for making the investment accounts for the relative flexibility and favorable terms afforded by EB-5 capital compared to conventional capital sources. Unlike that of the conventional capital providers (such as banks, private equity funds, REITs, life insurance companies and pension funds), the EB-5 investor’s reason for making the investment is to secure a visa. Thus, his primary objective at the time of making the investment is to satisfy the EB-5 visa requirements. Consequently, so long as the investor believes that the investment will qualify for the visa and result in the safe return of his capital, he is willing to accept a below market, if not minimal, return on the investment. Furthermore, the investor might not require some of the other protections that more sophisticated, conventional real estate investors typically seek.

*     *     *

Simply stated, the Program requires that the immigrant make a capital investment of $500,000 or $1,000,000 (depending on whether the project is located in a “Targeted Employment Area”) in a business located within the United States. The business must directly create 10 new, full-time jobs per investor. Thus, the number of jobs that a project will create is a key determinant of the amount of the potential EB-5 capital raise. (3-4)

This once exotic funding technique is now becoming quite mainstream. Of interest to some readers of this blog, the paper describes at various points how EB-5 funds have been used in residential projects. The paper is a useful introduction for those who want to know more about this program.

March 20, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Friday’s Government Reports

By Serenna McCloud

March 20, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

March 19, 2015

Tax Expenditure Wars: Wealthy Households v. Poor

By David Reiss

Henry Rose has posted How Federal Tax Expenditures That Support Housing Contribute to Economic Inequality to SSRN. This short article examines “how federal income tax laws benefit more affluent owner households but provide no benefits to economically-strapped renter households.” (1) Housing policy analysts (myself included) constantly bemoan the regressive nature of federal tax policy as it relates to housing, but it is always worth looking at the topic with updated numbers. And this article contains some tables with some interesting numbers.

One table provides an overview of the estimated tax savings (in billions) in FY 2014 for five federal tax expenditures for owners of housing that they occupy:

Mortgage Interest Deduction  (MID)                                                 $66.91

Property Tax Deduction (PTD)                                                        $31.59

Capital Gains Exclusion on Sales                                                   $35.54

Net Imputed Rental Income Exclusion                                            $75.24

Discharge of Mortgage Indebtedness Exclusion                            $3.1

Total                                                                                                 $212.38

The next table provides an estimated distribution of two of these tax expenditures (FY 2014, savings in millions):

Tax-Filer AGI                PTD Tax Savings         MID Tax Savings                

Below $50,000              $693                              $1,443

$50,000-75,000             $2,190                           $4,330

$75,000-100,000           $3,478                           $6,581

$100,000-200,000         $13,648                         $27,421

$200,000+                     $11,798                         $29,340

Total                              $31,806                         $69,115                               

The article concludes by noting that despite

the great disparity in economic positions between owners and renters, federal tax expenditures lavish tax savings on primarily affluent owners and provide none for renters. The federal tax expenditures for owners are so generous that interest can be deducted on mortgage balances up to $1,000,000 and can also be taken on second homes, even yachts, as well as primary residences. It is difficult to conceive of a federal public policy that more directly promotes economic inequality than the federal tax expenditures that support owners of housing but are not available to renters. (9-10, footnote omitted)

I don’t expect this disparity to be addressed any time in the near future, given the current political environment, but it is certainly one that should stay at the top of any list of reforms for those concerned with promoting equitable federal housing policies.

March 19, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Thursdays Advocacy & Think Tank Round-Up

By Serenna McCloud

March 19, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

March 18, 2015

Reiss on Foreign Buyers in NYC

By David Reiss

MainStreet.com quoted me in Foreign Buyers Driving Up Rental Prices Impacts New York Residents. The story opens,

Emir Bahadir, a native of Turkey, purchased two apartments in Manhattan for the purpose of renting them out. The 24-year-old paid a total of $9 million for the apartments in the West Village and Chelsea and earns some $40,000 a month in rental income.

”Entry into the real estate market in Manhattan by the foreign buyer has become easier because of technology,” Bahadir told MainStreet.

As a result, foreign buyers are increasingly coming into the Manhattan market and buying properties worth $2 to $5 million for the benefit of rental income. That can push rental prices higher for those on Main Street.

“[Foreign buyers] are not keeping them empty but filling them with tenants,” said Tamir Shemesh, a Realtor at the Corcoran Group. “A $2 million apartment can be rented out for as much as $8,500 a month, while a $3 million apartment can go for $11,000 to $12,000 a month.”

The tenants who can afford to pay thousands a month in rent are largely foreign as well.

“The reason we invest in real estate in New York is because of the exorbitant amount of rent that people are willing to pay,” Bahadir said. “That doesn’t happen anywhere else except in the U.K., but because of complications in the Middle East, London is not so popular these days.”

The downside for Americans is that escalating prices impact the overall rental market.

“It lets landlords know what the ceiling is and may encourage them to reach for it,” said David Reiss, professor with Brooklyn Law School.

March 18, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

Wednesday’s Academic Roundup

By Shea Cunningham

March 18, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments

March 17, 2015

CFPB Mortgage Supervision Highlights

By David Reiss

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued its Supervisory Highlights for Winter 2015. The highlights include a section on Mortgage Origination and “largely focuses on Supervision’s examination findings and observations from July 2014 to December 2014.” (9)

The headings of this section give a sense of the CFPB’s work in this area:

  • Loan originators cannot receive compensation based on a term of a transaction
  • Improper use of lender credit absent changed circumstances
  • Failing to provide the Good Faith Estimate in a timely manner
  • Improperly using advertisements with triggering terms without the required additional disclosures
  • Adverse action notice deficiencies and failure to provide the notice in a timely manner
  • Deficiencies in compliance management systems

For good or for ill, these are pretty modest examination findings. They certainly don’t reveal the fire-breathing regulator that some had prophesied. I was particularly interested in the last finding:

an effective compliance management system includes board and management oversight, a compliance program, a consumer complaint management program, and a compliance audit program. The board of directors and senior management should, among other things, adopt clear policy statements concerning consumer compliance, establish a compliance function to set policies and procedures, and assign resources to the compliance function commensurate with the size and complexity of the supervised entity’s practices and operations. A compliance program should include policies and procedures, training, and monitoring and corrective action processes. A compliance audit program should assist the board of directors or board committees in determining whether policies and standards adopted by the board are being implemented, and should also identify any significant gaps in board policies and standards. (13)

Compliance management systems are intended to create a culture of compliance within an organization, from top to bottom. The CFPB found that one or more financial institutions had weak compliance management systems that would allow for numerous violations of federal regulations governing mortgage lending. It is important for the CFPB to focus on these compliance issues now, before the mortgage market really froths up and carries mortgage professionals away from appropriate underwriting and servicing.

March 17, 2015 | Permalink | No Comments