Jul 2 2021 38376 1

Dated: July 2 2021

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Top 10 Issues Affecting Real Estate in 2021

Remote work and mobility are expected to have the most significant impact on real estate over the next year, according to The Counselors of Real Estate’s list. The group identified current and emerging issues expected to have an influence over real estate in the 2021-2022 cycle. Remote work and mobility and its influence over commercial buildings globally was named as the top issue, followed by technology and ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance).

The pandemic was a stress test, revealing vulnerabilities, appetites, and new and increased risks.  These themes present themselves in the 2021-2022 Top Ten Issues, which are highly interconnected and indicative of a newly changed and further evolving real estate environment. We have been awakened to some familiar but nascent areas of importance, namely cyber-security, supply chain, and price instability. None of these are new concepts, but in a span of months or even just weeks, we saw high profile hacks, shortages of resources like microchips, lumber and labor, and rising prices across the board.  Here are the top 10 issues.

1. Remote work and mobility

The pandemic greatly disrupted the workplace as many employees began to work remotely—and still are more than a year later. Commercial properties may need to be repositioned as the workplace adapts to more flexible and even shareable spaces.

2. Technology acceleration and innovation

The Counselors of Real Estate also ranked the acceleration and adoption of technology as having the second greatest impact on the real estate industry.

3. ESG at a tipping point

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives are growing. In 2020, ESG funds more than doubled net new money intakes. “The growth in recent years is fueled by multiple drivers, including consumer shifts, regulatory requirements, trillions of dollars of wealth transferring to generation Z and millennials committed to philanthropic living, a blurring of work and societal expectations, and a full sprint to attract and retain top talent,” the report notes.

4. Logistics

“Whether it’s a port, rail line, pipeline … manufacturing facility, warehouse, farm, ranch, or grocery store, all these real estate assets are a critical segment in the supply-chain funnel that is logistics,” the report notes. “How logistics is functioning impacts the utilization of commercial real estate.

5. Infrastructure

The Civil Engineers estimates the U.S. infrastructure funding gap in 2021 to be $2.6 trillion, a 24% increase compared to 2017.

6. Housing supply and affordability

The National Association of REALTORS® and the Rosen Consulting Group released a report last week calling for a “once-in-a-generation” response to address decades of underinvestment and underbuilding in the housing market. The nation has faced a shortfall of 5.5 million to 6.8 million housing units since 2001, according to the report.

7. Political polarization

“Political friction is holding back America’s economic productivity,” the report notes. “We are squandering resources as we try to address problems that arise from the partisan divide rather than problems confronting us as common issues …. And the real estate industry’s well-being is a function of our economic growth.”

8. Economic structural change

Economic growth is mostly an unknown. As the report notes, how do we assess the real potential of the economy for sustainable growth? What numbers indicate a true trend and which are merely adjustments from the low bottom of the second quarter of 2020? Which behavioral changes made by U.S. households in the pandemic will persist?

9. Adaptive Reuse 2.0

The term is not new but the focus is getting bigger. CRE refers to Adaptive Reuse 2.0 as “The Neighborhood Approach.” It aims to address the challenges of what to do with defunct suburban malls and thousands of empty big-box retail stores that are surrounded by desirable and affordable neighborhoods

10. Bifurcation of capital markets

Debt capital markets have been volatile since the pandemic, namely public markets like commercial mortgage-backed securities, mortgage REITs, and agencies such as Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

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