By Erin Stackley, Esq.
Sr. Policy Representative, Commercial Issues
National Association of REALTORS®
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The National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) has advocated throughout the pandemic for federal relief specific to commercial real estate. These issues include:
NAR successfully advocated for independent contractors to be eligible for PPP loans, which has provided aid to Realtors® and their commercial clients alike during the pandemic.
NAR also pushed for amendments to the program to make it more responsive to the needs of small businesses (notably, lowering the percentage of a PPP loan that must go toward payroll costs to be eligible for forgiveness, freeing up more funds for other expenses such as rent or mortgage interest payments).
Additionally, we are advocating on the Hill for a more streamlined forgiveness for PPP loans under $150,000, and second-round PPP draws for businesses that are most in need. Although the program is not perfect, PPP has served as a lifeline for millions of small businesses, including retail and restaurants, forced to close due to the pandemic.
Extending and improving the program has been a top priority for NAR since day one.
NAR has aggressively sought relief for commercial borrowers impacted by the crisis. NAR is a member of several coalitions with other industry groups working to find solutions to the problems faced by restaurants, retail and office sectors, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, International Council of Shopping Centers, and America Hotel and Lodging Association, Real Estate Roundtable, National Restaurant Association, National Retail Federation and the Commercial Real Estate Finance Council.
We have asked for regulatory relief and assistance for the commercial real estate industry and commercial mortgage borrowers from the Treasury Department, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Federal Reserve, and the IRS.
Through these efforts we were able to secure confirmation from the banking agencies that CMBS (Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities) borrowers are eligible to work with their lenders to seek better loan terms and adjustments to help them through this time and neither they nor their lenders will be penalized.
NAR supports H.R. 7809, the HOPE Act, which provides economic support for the commercial real estate market through the creation of a federally-backed lending facility to help CMBS borrowers hurt by the pandemic.
NAR successfully advocated to extend the deadlines for 1031 like-kind exchanges and Qualified Opportunity Zones to account for delays in these deals caused by the pandemic, giving those who began such deals before April 1 through July 15 to meet those requirements.
NAR is looking ahead at what the long-term impact of the pandemic will be on real estate generally and the commercial sectors specifically. NAR is updating our 2015 study on 1031 like-kind exchanges and their impact on the U.S. economy, along with commissioning work to highlight Opportunity Zones and how they can assist with rebuilding communities.
We are considering avenues of regulatory relief to help commercial borrowers have more access to capital, along with how behavioral changes tied to the pandemic may impact the way we utilize and develop office space, retail centers and other commercial properties.
While businesses must limit their operations or close entirely to protect the health of the public and comply with safety regulations, most are unable to keep all of their staff on full salary. The unprecedented circumstances have required unprecedented solutions, but the additional pandemic unemployment assistance is temporary.
NAR is focused on supporting policy solutions that both meet the needs of the individuals – the NAR members, their family, the business owners and tenants they work with – and also create an environment in which businesses remain solvent and are there to participate in the economic recovery. We will continue to be the leading voice for real estate in Washington, DC and around the country, and are dedicated to finding solutions and assistance for all our members and the country as a whole.