The Impact of Tax Reform on Real Estate

Cushman & Wakefield have posted The Great Tax Race: How the World’s Fastest Tax Reform Package Could Impact Commercial Real Estate. There is a lot of interesting insights in the report, notwithstanding the fact that ultimate fate of the Republicans’ tax reform is still a bit up in the air. Indeed, C&W estimates that there is a 1 in 5 chance that a bill will not pass this year.

Commercial Real Estate

C&W states that history

suggests that tax law changes by themselves are often not key drivers for transactions or for investment performance. However, there is likely to be a period of transition and market flux as investors restructure to optimize tax outcomes with implications for the underlying asset classes. Corporations are likely to separate the real estate aspects of their businesses. (2)

The commercial real estate industry is largely exempt from the biggest changes contained in the House and Senate bills. 1031 exchanges, for instance, have not been touched. C&W sees corporations being big beneficiaries, with a net tax cut of $400 billion over the next 10 years; however, they “anticipate that the tax cut will be preferentially used to return capital to shareholders or reduce debt, rather than to increase corporate spending.” (2)

Residential Real Estate

C&W sees a different effect in the residential real estate sector, with a short-term drag on home values in areas with high SALT (state and local tax) deductions, including California, NY and NJ:

The drag on home values is likely to be largest in areas with high property taxes and medium-to-high home values. There is also likely to be a larger impact in parts of the country where incomes are higher and where a disproportionate proportion of taxpayers itemize. Both versions of the tax reform limit property tax deductibility to $10,000. While only 9.2% of households nationally report property taxes above this threshold, this figure rises to as high as 46% in Long Island, 34% in Newark and 20% in San Francisco according to Trulia data.

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) estimates that 22% of mortgages in the U.S. have balances over $500,000, with most of these concentrated in high costs areas such as Washington, DC and Hawaii—where more than 40% of home purchase loans originated last year exceeded $500,000. This is followed by California at 27%, and New York and Massachusetts at 16%. (6)

C&W also evaluated tax reform’s impact on housing market liquidity and buy v. rent economics:

The median length of time people had owned their homes was 8.7 years in 2016—more than double what it had been 10 years earlier. Now that interest rates have begun to tick upward from their historic lows, the housing market may face a problem called the “lock-in” effect, where homeowners are reluctant to move, since moving might entail taking out a new mortgage at a higher rate. This leads to the possibility of decreasing housing market liquidity in high-priced markets.

All things considered, the doubling of the standard deduction and the cap on the property tax deduction is likely to have the largest impact on the buy vs. rent incentive, especially as it seems likely that there will be minimal changes to the mortgage interest deduction in any final tax reform bill. (7-8)

Racial & Ethnic Change in NYC

Brooklyn's poet, Walt Whitman

Brooklyn’s poet, Walt Whitman

Michael Bader and Siri Warkentien have posted an interesting mapping tool, Neighborhood Racial & Ethnic Change Trajectories, 1970-2010. They had set out to answer the question:

how have neighborhoods changed since the Civil Rights Movement outlawed discriminatory housing? We study how neighborhood racial integration has changed during the four decades after the legislative successes of the Civil Rights Movement. We were unsatisfied with previous studies that focused mostly on defining “integrated” and “segregated” neighborhoods based on only on whether groups were present. We thought that the most interesting and important changes occur within “integrated” neighborhoods, and we set out to identify the common patterns of those changes.

We used a sophisticated statistical method to identify the most common types of change among Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Whites in the metropolitan neighborhoods of the four largest cities in the U.S.: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston. We were disappointed to learn that many integrated neighborhoods were actually experiencing slow, but steady resegregation — a process that we call “gradual succession.” The process tended to concentrate Blacks into small areas of cities and inner-ring suburbs while scattering many Latinos and Asians into segregating neighborhoods throughout the metropolitan area.

While we reserve a healthy dose of pessimism about long-term integration, we also find neighborhoods experiencing long-term integration among Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and Whites. We call these “quadrivial” neighborhoods, which derives from Latin for the intersection of four paths. We thought that seemed appropriate given the often different paths different racial groups took to these neighborhoods. (emphasis in the original)

I was, of course, interested in the New York City map. While NYC is highly segregated, it was interesting to see the prevalence of these so-called quadrivial neighborhoods. The authors find that

About 20 million people call the New York metropolitan area home. The metro area is one of the most segregated in the United States and, as a result, New York has a large proportion of neighborhoods following stable Black and stable White trajectories. Some of the segregation came about because of White flight during the 1970s. Black segregation following this path clusters in the Lower Bronx, North Brooklyn, and in and around Newark, New Jersey.

Large-scale Latino immigration to the New York metro area has been relatively recent, and the number of recent Latino enclaves bears out that pattern. Neighborhoods experiencing recent Latino growth are scattered throughout suburban New Jersey, Long Island and northern New York neighborhoods. New York also experienced high levels of Asian immigration relative to other metropolitan areas. Neighborhoods experiencing recent Asian growth are scattered throughout the metropolitan region.

New York also contains a large number of quadrivial neighborhood and the highest proportion of White re-entry neighborhoods. The latter are found near transportation to Manhattan in the gentrifying areas of Jersey City and Weehawken, New Jersey and the Brooklyn terminals of the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges.

New York, therefore, contains the contradiction of containing a large number of segregating neighborhoods along with a distinct trend toward integration.

I am not sure that I have any insight to explain that contradiction, although Walt Whitman, Brooklyn’s poet, notes:

Do I contradict myself?

Very well, then I contradict myself,

(I am large, I contain multitudes).