NAR Says Congress Needs to Act Soon to Ease Credit in Challenged Commercial Real Estate Markets

Testifying before a House panel today, Jim Helsel, treasurer of the National Association of Realtors® and commercial real estate specialist, told members that a strong commercial real estate sector is vital to millions of U.S. jobs and helps keep the national economy afloat.

“As the leading advocate for private property rights, NAR believes it is critical for Congress to act soon and to get capital flowing to small businesses and to the commercial real estate market,” Helsel, president of Helsel Inc., Realtors®, in Camp Hill, Pa., told the House Committee on Financial Services.

“Lack of available credit remains a significant challenge for our industry right now,” Helsel said. He commended the panel for passage in June of H.R. 5297, “The Small Business Lending Fund Act of 2010,” which ensures community banks have both the incentive and capacity to increase total loans to small businesses. Raising the SBA loan limits and allowing SBA 504 loans to be used to refinance performing property can help ease the liquidity crisis in the commercial sector, he said.

Another credit avenue, credit unions, could increase available credit to small businesses, Helsel said. NAR strongly supports legislation, H.R. 3380 introduced by Reps. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.) and Ed Royce (R-Calif.), that would raise the credit union member business lending cap from 12.25 percent to 25 percent of total assets. Currently, small regional and community banks account for almost half of the small business loans issued in the U.S.

“That has put a significant dent in the credit available to the small business community and has reduced cash flow and elevated vacancies in commercial real estate,” he said. The Credit Union National Association estimates that if H.R. 3380 becomes law, credit unions could extend up to $10 billion in additional business loans and help create 108,000 jobs. Helsel said NAR is strongly urging the Senate to include such provisions when it considers H.R. 5297.

Helsel also said that NAR supports the Senate’s efforts to include more generous depreciation allowances for commercial properties in the Senate bill. “Accelerated depreciation would incentivize new equity investment to commercial real estate, reducing debt-to-income ratios and strengthening income-producing properties,” he said.

NAR also applauds the goals of H.R. 5816, the “Commercial Real Estate Stabilization Act,” to clear troubled properties off the market, and is ready to work with the committee when it begins to review the proposal, Helsel said.

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