Monday’s Adjudication Roundup

Foreign Funding for Real Estate Projects

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.

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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.

Affordable Housing in the De Blasio Era

Mayoral candidate de Blasio’s position on affordable housing policy can be found here. The key points include:

  • Require developers to build some affordable housing when they build in neighborhoods that have been upzoned (mandatory inclusionary zoning)
  • Direct $1 billion in city pension funds to affordable housing construction

  • Apply the same tax rate to big, vacant lots as applies to commercial properties and earmark the increased revenues for affordable housing

  • Ensure that affordable housing subsidies meet the needs of lower-income families and are distributed equitably throughout the City

As I had mentioned previously, NYU’s Furman Center (and its Moelis Institute for Affordable Housing Policy) ran a great series of ten conversations on the big housing issues facing New York City’s mayor. Since then, the Furman Center has posted ten policy briefs about those issues.The ten issues are

  1. Should the next mayor commit to build or rehabilitate more units of affordable housing than the Bloomberg Administration has financed?

  2. Should the next mayor require developers to permanently maintain the affordability of units developed with public subsidies?

  3. Should the next mayor adopt a mandatory inclusionary zoning program that requires developers to build or preserve affordable housing whenever they build market-rate housing?

  4. Should the next mayor seek to expand the use of city pension funds to develop affordable housing?

  5. Should the next mayor provide a rental subsidy for moderate- and middle-income households?

  6. Should the next mayor permit more distant transfers of unused development rights to support the development of affordable housing?

  7. Should the next mayor support the New York City Housing Authority’s plan to lease its undeveloped land for the construction of market-rate rental housing?

  8. Should the next mayor allow homeless families to move to the top of the waiting list for housing vouchers or public housing?

  9. Should the next mayor offer to cap the property tax levy on 421-a rental properties in order to preserve the affordable units within those buildings?

  10. How should the next mayor prioritize the preservation of existing affordable housing units?

Mayor-Elect de Blasio and his team will have to struggle with all of these issues. There are few easy answers in New York City when it comes to housing policy.