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Katonah NY Real Estate

Dottie Herman sells her Douglas Elliman share to Howard Lorber | Katonah Real Estate

Dottie Herman and Howard Lorber (Credit: Douglas Elliman)

UPDATED: Dec. 31, 5:40 p.m.: Douglas Elliman CEO Dottie Herman — who partnered with Howard Lorber 15 years ago to buy New York City’s largest residential brokerage — is selling her stake in the firm for $40 million.

Herman will retain her spot on the management team, according to Elliman’s parent company, Vector Group, which is purchasing her 29.41 percent interest, it said Monday afternoon. Vector, which is controlled by Lorber, already owned 70.59 percent of Douglas Elliman.

In a regulatory filing, Vector said it already paid Herman $10 million and will pay the remaining $30 million in 12 equal installments between Jan. 1, 2020 and Oct. 1, 2022. She will also receive interest on the outstanding balance.

In a statement, Lorber said Herman’s “vision for and dedication to Douglas Elliman” helped turn the brokerage into a national brand with 7,000 agents — including 2,600 in New York City.

The pair acquired the brokerage in 2003 for just under $72 million, and its overall success led to Forbes in 2016 naming Herman as the richest self-made woman in real estate, with an estimated net worth of around $260 million.

But lately, the firm has been battered by the national housing slowdown and sluggish new development sales. Elliman reported net income of $7.8 million for the first nine months of 2018— down 62.5 percent from $20.8 million in 2017.

On Monday, shares of Vector closed at $9.73 — down around 54 percent from $20.70 per share in January 2018 — giving the company a market cap of $1.3 billion.

‘End of an era’

In recent years, Herman has retreated from the firm’s day-to-day operations, fueling rumors that she was on her way out.

On Monday, Herman disputed the idea that she has — or will — take a backseat at Elliman, despite selling her stake. “When a company gets to be a size like ours, any CEO should take the time to be strategic,” she said. “I still take every call from agents. Look, I helped four people get listings in the last two weeks.”

Although she will remain as CEO, sources told The Real Deal that Herman forgoing ownership represents the end of an era at Elliman.

While Herman held a significant stake in the company and had a legion of loyal followers, Elliman agents and managers said the balance of power has always favored Lorber. He’s the dealmaker who brings gobs of new development business through his investment vehicle New Valley, which bought into such projects as 111 Murray, 125 Greenwich76 11th Avenue and 160 Leroy. Through that connection, Elliman was tapped to market billions in condo product.

“The main impetus behind the company has been Howard for years,” said Andy Gerringer, who ran Elliman’s new development marketing group until he left in 2010. “Dottie was corralling managers and running meetings but when the big decisions had to be made it was Howard anyway.”

The veneer of diplomacy between the owners started to wear thin in recent years, as Herman stayed out of the spotlight (whether by choice or direction). Then in December 2017, Lorber promoted COO Scott Durkin to president — a role previously held by Herman. At the time, Herman and Lorber emphatically denied she was going anywhere. “She’ll have to be carried out,” Lorber said last year. “I’ll be the same way.”

But sources said although Herman resisted the change at first, she acquiesced over time. “In the beginning, she didn’t want to give up the day-to-day operations of the company,” the source said. “At the same time, she’d had enough.”

During a brief phone interview on Monday, Herman, 65, said selling the stock was the “hardest decision” she’s made in her life, and added that she wavered for two years before deciding to cash out. Twenty years ago, she would have kept going, she said.

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Mortgage rates average 4.63% | Katonah Real Estate

Mortgage Rates Drop to Lowest Point in Three Months

Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing that rates dropped significantly after several weeks of moderating.

Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, says, “The 30-year fixed fell to 4.63 percent this week – the lowest it has been since mid-September. Mortgage rates have either fallen or remained flat for five consecutive weeks and purchase applicants are responding with an uptick in demand given these lower rates. While the housing market softened in response to higher rates through most of this year, the combination of a low unemployment and recent downdraft in rates should support home sales heading into the early winter months.”

News Facts

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.63 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending December 13, 2018, down from last week when it averaged 4.75. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.93 percent.
  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 4.07 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 4.21 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.36 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 4.04 percent with an average 0.3 point, down from last week when it averaged 4.07. A year ago at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.36 percent.

Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey

Plogging to clean your neighborhood | Katonah Real Estate

Many athletes have been doing it for a long time without even knowing it is now a fitness trend. It’s called plogging, a combination of jogging and picking up. And what is being picked up is trash. The Swedes are credited with starting the trend and now it’s spreading in the United States.

A sunny and breezy day is perfect for plogging. Jeff Horowitz, a personal trainer at Vida Gym in Washington, is plogging with a couple of his friends. To him, nothing is new about this routine.

“This is just my personal ethics, where I would go for a run and if I happen to see a piece of garbage laying around and it’s within my reach,” he says. “It was a kind of a little test for me to see if I can grab it and throw it in a near trash can without stopping. That way I thought it gave me a little bit of exercise, a little focus for my run and helped clean up the neighborhood.”

Now, he knows he’s one of a growing number of people worldwide who are plogging. He often organizes plogging events.

Rules of Plogging

Getting ready to plog is similar to getting ready to jog. You have to warm up by doing weight squats, some calisthenics, some balance exercises. Then, grab a trash bag and you’re ready to go, but not before wearing a pair of gloves.

Like other athletes, ploggers have to warm up first. (Jeff Horowitz)
Like other athletes, ploggers have to warm up first. (Jeff Horowitz)

“Gloves are important,” Horowitz says. “You want to make sure this is going to be healthy for you. Even if you’ve good intentions, you never know what you’ll find. It might be broken glass, medical waste.”

Like any other fitness routine, plogging has rules. The first of these rules one shouldn’t suddenly bend over in front of someone else, which seems like common sense.

“You can’t do that.” Horowitz explains. “It becomes like a three stooges’ event and you’ll end up falling over.” So, when plogging with a group a runner usually calls it out, stops and bends, so other members of the group become aware of his move.

Ploggers also need to cover all different territory.

“People kind of naturally follow that rule,” Horowitz says. “So, if I’m a little bit more to the curb side, I’ll look toward the gutter and someone else a little bit closer to the hedges they’re going to pick up there. So, you get a rhythm going between people without sometimes agreeing to it.”

Organizing plogging events encourages more joggers to try it. (Jeff Horowitz)
Organizing plogging events encourages more joggers to try it. (Jeff Horowitz)

Running with Purpose

Sports event organizer Dana Allen finds plogging interesting. Like other runners who consider themselves environment custodians, she likes it when streets are trash-free and clean. That’s why she plogs, but admits she doesn’t do it all the time.

“When I’m running seriously, in training for a marathon, I probably wouldn’t be as inclined to stop regularly because I’m focusing on a certain goal,” she says. “But then there are other days, where I’m out and into sort of a more relaxed running that would be a situation where I might do it.”

On other occasions, a group of runners gets together early on a weekend morning, and goes plogging.

“We go for run, pick up some garbage, then we go for brunch. We kind of make a little bit of event of it.”

Plogger Azell Washington says participating in such events makes him feel better. “It would clear a lot of space for me. And I’m rewarded myself.”

Washington DC: Clean and Fit

Encouraging more people to plog helps raise awareness about Washington’s litter problem, says Julie Lawson, who works with the mayor’s Clean City Office.

“When the street looks bad and it’s dirty, you’re going to feel bad about the neighborhood, about the community. You may even feel less safe because of that,” she says. “So if we’re all doing our part and picking it up, it’s very easy to help beautify it, help build those social connection, you get to know your neighbors, you get to feel some social responsibility and community feel, when you do this.”

Plogging also helps advance a city-wide fitness initiative.

“FitDC is Mayor Muriel Bowser’s initiative to get DC back to number one in the country as the fittest city in the nation,” Lawson adds. “And as part of that our Department of Parks and Recreation put up a couple of plogging events combining fitness activities with beautifying the city. We look to continue to support that.”

Participants of all ages are welcome to plog. (Jeff Horowitz)
Participants of all ages are welcome to plog. (Jeff Horowitz)

Plogger Allen hopes one day there won’t be a need for plogging.

“I would just hope people around would think twice before dropping a garbage on the ground,” she says. “We have receptacles, seems like on every block. So, it’s easy to put your garbage in the trash can. So, I just think people should think about it a little bit more and be cognizant of keeping the city as beautiful as possible.”

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https://www.voanews.com/a/plogging-around-the-us/4673842.html?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=today-at-voa-t46&utm_source=newsletter&utm_content=2018-11-27

Who is buying houses? | Katonah Real Estate

Super-low inventory and quickly rising prices largely framed this year’s housing market. But a closer look at 2018’s buyers and sellers reveals other intriguing real estate trends, captured by a new report from the National Association of Realtors.

Here are five big takeaways:

Marriage not needed: 

The share of married couple buyers hit the lowest point since 2010 at 63 percent. Single females made up the second-largest buyer group at 18 percent, following by single males at 9 percent and unmarried couples at 8 percent.

The decline in married couples reveals that marriage is no longer a prerequisite to buying a home. “You don’t need a ring,” says Jessica Lautz, director of demographics and behavioral insight for the NAR.

Tough for first-timers:

Low inventory for entry-level homes and rapid price increases continue to befuddle first-time homebuyers. This year, the share of first-time buyers fell to 33 percent, down from 34 percent last year and well below the historical norm of 40 percent.

“They didn’t bounce back,” Lautz says.

Almost a quarter of first-time homebuyers (23 percent) moved directly from their parents’ homes before purchasing a house, a new high. Lautz notes that may be how some first-timers can compete in today’s market. “They’re not stuck in a lease and its time frame,” she says. “They can save for a down payment because they’re not paying rent.”

First-time homebuyers contributed a median 7 percent of the sales price to their home purchase, up from 5 percent last year and the highest level since 1997. Overall, buyers put down 13 percent, up from 10 percent in 2017 and the highest since 2005.

Older repeat buyers:

Repeat buyers are getting older. The median age was 55 years, up from 54 last year and an all-time high for the survey.

Lautz says that these younger Boomers are healthier than their counterparts in the past, so they don’t need to move to an assisted-living facility or downsize, which has become less and less common. “Many are purchasing multi-generational homes and taking care of parents, or their children are moving back home,” Lautz says.

Many homeowners who bought their homes eight to 10 years ago at the peak of the previous housing bubble also stalled their home sale as they waited to regain equity. That’s another reason repeat buyers could be older.

Student loan woes:

College debt remains a significant challenge for potential homebuyers. Almost a quarter of all buyers reported having a median of $28,000 in student loan debt, while two in five first-time buyers said they had a median of $30,000 in education debt.

Of the 13 percent of buyers who said saving for a down payment was the hardest part of buying a home, half said their student loan debt had hampered their ability to save for a home purchase or down payment.       

“Even with a thriving economy and an abundance of job opportunities in many markets, monthly student loan payments coupled with sky-high rents and rising home prices make it exceedingly difficult for potential buyers to put aside savings for a down payment,” NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said in a statement.

Fewer children:

The share of homebuyers with children under 18 reached the lowest point in the survey’s 37-year history at 34 percent, mirroring recent low birthrates in the country, says Lautz. “This changes the neighborhoods buyers are looking at. Schools are a reduced preference. Some buyers may be willing to move to up-and-coming neighborhoods more than before.

Additionally, buyers without children may be content with houses with less than three bedrooms, no recreation room or even a townhouse or condo if they don’t see children in their future. Many buyers also are interested in how their homes work for their pets. Fifteen percent of buyers this year said it was important that their home is close to green spaces or a veterinarian for their pets. This is the first time the NAR posed this survey questions.

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https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/10/29/housing-market-older-repeat-buyers-fewer-children-trends-2018/1803185002/

The World’s Biggest Real Estate Bubbles in 2018 | Katonah Real Estate

Hong Kong real estate tops the bubble list

With the current stock market bull run reaching nearly 10 years in length, it’s understandable that many investors are nervous about the end of the party coming sooner than later.

However, as UBS notes in its latest report, there is also growing concern about another prominent bubble that’s been in the works since the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Large amounts of easy money have fueled real estate bubbles in the world’s major cities – and the Swiss investment bank now sees the property markets in six global cities as being at risk.

THE BUBBLE INDEX

In the 2018 edition of the bank’s Real Estate Bubble Index, here are the major cities around the globe that are in or near bubble territory:

The biggest real estate bubbles

Any city with a score over 1.5 is considered at “Bubble Risk”, and right now those include two cities from Canada, one from Asia, and three from Europe.

Hong Kong (2.03) tops the index this year, leaping past Munich (1.99), Toronto (1.95), and Vancouver (1.92) which all remain at bubble risk themselves. Amsterdam and London are the two other cities that score higher than a 1.5 on the rankings.

It’s also very important to note that there are four cities that score just under the 1.5 threshold: Stockholm (1.45), Paris (1.44), San Francisco (1.44), and Frankfurt (1.43).

A COMING CORRECTION?

Investor and writer Howard Marks has noted in recent months that the wider market is in its “8th inning”, and the same case could be made for real estate.

Historically, investors have had to be alert to rising interest rates, which have served as the main trigger of corrections.

– UBS Report

According to UBS, the cracks are already starting to show at the top end of the market, with housing prices declining in half of last year’s list of bubble cities. Some of the worrying factors include rising interest rates, as well as growing political tensions as the crisis of affordability makes it harder for average people to live in these global financial centers.

Here is annualized growth in percent over the last year, as well for the last five years for cities in the index:

Real estate bubbles and their growth rates

As you can see, some of these cities have had negative growth over the last 12 months, including New York, Toronto, Sydney, London, and Stockholm.

CHARTING SPECIFIC MARKETS

In Hong Kong, you need to work 22 years to afford a 645 sq. ft (60m²) apartment, when that took just 12 years just a decade ago. In recent years, Hong Kong’s ascent to becoming one of the biggest real estate bubbles has become very evident, especially when juxtaposed with Singapore:

Hong Kong

In Canada, the two cities in the index are starting to go in alternate directions, although recent signs also point to a potential slowdown in Vancouver:

Vancouver and Toronto

Finally, the U.S. market – which felt the pain of the housing crash in the late 2000s – is home to zero cities in the bubble risk category, according to UBS.

American cities

Whether it is a bubble or not, many people agree that San Francisco’s housing situation is still a crisis. In the Bay Area hub, 60% of all rental units are in rental-controlled buildings, and the median single-family house price is a hefty $1.7 million.

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The World’s Biggest Real Estate Bubbles in 2018

NY home prices drop 5.5% | Katonah Real Estate

The S&P/Case-Shiller and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) released their home price indices for July 2018. National home prices rose at the slowest annual growth rate since June 2014. Moreover, seven metro areas experienced home price declines in July.

The Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, reported by S&P Dow Jones Indices, rose at a seasonally adjusted annual growth rate of 1.9% in July. It was the lowest seasonally adjusted annual growth rate since June 2014. The Home Price Index, released by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), rose at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.7% in April, slower than the 3.7% increase in June, confirming the deceleration in home prices for this month.

Figure 2 shows the annual growth rate of home prices for 20 major U.S. metropolitan areas.

Among the 20 metro areas, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Cleveland had the highest home price appreciation. Las Vegas led the way with 14.6%, followed by San Francisco with 11.4% and Cleveland with a 9.3% increase. Eleven out of the 20 metro areas had higher home price appreciation than the national level of 1.9%. In July, thirteen metro areas had positive home price appreciation while seven metro areas had negative home price appreciation, including San Diego (-0.2%), Detroit (-0.2%), Los Angeles (-0.5%), Dallas (-1.6%), Chicago (-1.8%), Boston (-2.4%) and New York (-5.5%).

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Home Price Growth Slowed in July

Refis could see uptick in second and third quarters | Katonah Real Estate

In the first quarter of 2017, refinances fell 45% from the fourth quarter, however the second and third quarters could see a turnaround in refi activity, according to a first look at Black Knight’s soon to be released Mortgage Monitor.

This chart shows refinance activity each week from October through June as refinance candidates fell from 8.6 million to 4.4 million.

Click to Enlarge

Black Knight

(Source: Black Knight)

Since interest rates fell below 4%, the financeable population rose to its highest point for 2017. While the current 4.4 million borrowers is down significantly from October, it is an increase of 56% or 1.6 million borrowers from mid-March’s low.

Borrowers who refinanced in the first quarter of 2017 cut their monthly mortgage payments by an average of $109 per month, or a total aggregate savings of $36.5 million per month. This marks the lowest total monthly savings since 2008 and a decrease from the fourth quarter’s $59 million.

But since the first quarter, savings have increased once again to a total of $1.1 billion or $260 per borrower each month.

This chart shows the total monthly savings borrowers saw each month.

 

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https://www.housingwire.com/articles/40426-refis-could-see-uptick-in-second-and-third-quarters?eid=311691494&bid=1785932

Geothermal heating | Katonah Real Estate

It is cooler than the air in the summer and warmer in the winter. The earth’s subsurface is an enormous heat sink — a solar battery — and it takes a large amount of energy to keep it in equilibrium. This heat energy comes in great part from the sun, a renewable and inexhaustible source of energy. In lesser amounts, it also comes from the center of the earth that we now know is a heat generator. The inner core of the earth is primarily made of a solid sphere of iron within a larger sphere of molten iron. Calculations show that the earth, originating from a molten state many billions of years ago, would have cooled and become completely solid without an energy input. It is now believed that the ultimate source of this energy is radioactive decay within the earth that continues to this day; the decay produces gradually diminishing temperatures from the earth’s center to the surface. This does not mean that dangerous radioactivity is a hazard to us. We can tap into all of this heat energy, transfer it into our home for heating and return that energy back to the earth during cooling: thus we are really borrowing heat from the earth.

Geothermal units use the same 100-year-old technology found in your refrigerator. They are both devices that move heat energy. It is worth noting that the refrigerator is the most reliable, longest-life appliance in your home. As the diagram in the slideshow explains, a refrigerator removes heat energy from food and moves it into your kitchen. A geothermal system removes heat energy from the earth to heat your home and in the summer removes heat energy from inside your home back to the earth.

Heat naturally flows “downhill” from the warmest medium to the coolest medium. A heat pump is a machine that causes heat energy to flow in the direction opposite from its natural tendency, or “uphill” in terms of temperature. Because work must be done (energy must be applied) to accomplish this, the name heat “pump” is used to describe the device.

A refrigerator and a heat pump are about the same physical size, are quiet appliances usually contained within a single enclosure, have similar components (compressor, evaporator, etc.), and both transfer heat energy. And they each require a refrigerant, a material used in a refrigeration cycle which undergoes a phase change from a gas to a liquid, and back again.

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http://www.motherearthnews.com/renewable-energy/energy-efficiency/geothermal-heat-system-ze0z1704zols?newsletter=1&spot=headline&utm_source=WhatCountsEmail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MEN%20GEGH%20eNews%2006.16.17&utm_term=MEN_GEGH_eNews&_wcsid=24FE5BB810FAD26243359F90C7740FB292B789E42357F9D3

Remodeling Market Remains Positive in Fourth Quarter | Katonah Real Estate

The National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Remodeling Market Index (RMI) dropped 4 points to 53 from the previous quarter, but remained above the breakeven point of 50, which indicates that more remodelers report activity is higher (compared to the prior quarter) than report activity is lower. Although the RMI declined, it is consistent with levels seen in the first half of 2016. The RMI has been at or above 50 for 15 consecutive quarters (Figure 1).

The overall RMI is an average of two main sub-indices, one that tracks current market conditions and another tracking future market conditions. In the fourth quarter, the current market conditions index dropped 3 points to 53, but is still consistent with readings from earlier this year (Figure 2). Among its components, major additions and alterations dropped one point to 53, demand for smaller remodeling projects decreased four points to 52, and the home maintenance and repair component declined by five points to 54.

The future market indicators decreased six points to 52, which also marks a return to levels seen earlier this year (Figure 3). Among its four components, calls for bids and appointments for proposals fell to 49 and 54, respectively, the backlog of remodeling jobs dropped three points to 55, and the amount of work committed declined five points to 50.

The RMI level is in line with the NAHB’s remodeling forecast, which predicts that remodeling activity will grow at a moderate pace of 1 to 2% annually over the next two years. For more information about remodeling, including detail tables of this quarter’s results, visit nahb.org/rmi.

 

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http://eyeonhousing.org/2017/01/remodeling-market-remains-positive-in-fourth-quarter/

Trump’s Plan to Fix the Nation’s Infrastructure | Katonah Real Estate

The President-elect’s ambitious proposal relies on private financing, but the plan has its critics.

 

According to President-elect Donald Trump, the answer is yes. You can get $1 trillion in infrastructure using a “revenue neutral” model of private financing that won’t burden government budgets.

The declining state of America’s infrastructure has long been a major issue for both Democrats and Republicans, but the parties have disagreed about how to pay for what the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) has identified as a $3.6 trillion investment gap.

Trump’s senior policy advisers say they have an answer. In late October, Wilbur Ross, a private equity investor, and Peter Navarro, a University at California, Irvine business professor, released a detailed plan for Trump’s vision on infrastructure, which calls for investment in transportation, clean water, the electricity grid, telecommunications, security infrastructure, and “other pressing domestic needs.” Trump’s vision relies heavily on private companies to make American infrastructure great again.

Road work in Kitsap County in Washington state
Kitsap County Public Works – Roads Division via flickrRoad work in Kitsap County in Washington state

To finance $1 trillion dollars worth of new infrastructure, the Trump plan would entice private companies to invest $167 billion of their own equity into projects. In return, these companies would get a tax incentive equal to 82% of that equity investment, or roughly $137 million in government tax breaks. Companies could then leverage their initial equity investment and tax credit financing to borrow more money on private financial markets, where interest rates are at historic lows. “With interest rates so low, this has got to be the best time from a break-even point of view, from a societal point of view,” Ross told Yahoo! Finance.

In addition, companies would be allowed to receive revenue—in the form of tolls or fees from users of this infrastructure—in order to offset their costs and generate profits.

An overpass project on Interstate 595 in Florida
FormulaNone via flickrJosh Lintz”An overpass project on Interstate 595 in Florida

The Trump plan hopes to pay for the financial burden of those government tax credits in two ways: First, through the increased tax revenue that would come from the wage income of construction workers and others building the projects; and second, from the taxes that would be paid on the increased revenues of the companies contracted to do the work. In other words, the income tax of workers and the profits made from fees collected from users of the infrastructure would offset the lost tax revenue from government tax credits.

Creating a deficit-neutral infrastructure plan is nothing new. In 2015, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) championed a bill calling for a $478 billion investment over six years without increasing the deficit. Funding relied on closing corporate tax breaks that allow corporations to stash money overseas. That bill was blocked by the Republican Senate.

Public-private partnerships are common in complex infrastructure projects, but what’s unusual about Trump’s plan is the extent to which private companies would take over the entirety of projects. Private entities, which are beholden to corporate revenue requirements, would be put in charge of public sphere entities. Navarro, responding to that potential criticism, said in an interviewwith Yahoo! Finance that Trump’s “form of financing doesn’t rule out the government managing the whole thing after it’s built. This is not like the prison thing.” (Stock prices of for-profit prison companies, meanwhile, are on the rise with Trump’s win.)

A sewer project in Baltimore
Elvert Barnes via flickrA sewer project in Baltimore

How important is it to close the infrastructure investment gap? The ASCE’s 2013 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gave the country a D+ grade. The next report card is being prepped for release in March 2017. “From ACSE’s perspective, clearly there’s a role for the private sector in infrastructure development, and it’s already been involved for a long time,” says Brian T. Pallasch, managing director of Government Relations and Infrastructure Initiatives at the society. “We still have a bit of uncertainty as to what [private investment] means in the Trump administration’s proposed perspective. They clearly want private investment in infrastructure. When you get the private sector involved in infrastructure, there is going to need to be a rate of return for them to make money. Historically, municipal infrastructure hasn’t had private investors because there hasn’t been a rate of return. How does that solve itself?”

How, for example, might you make the business case for a profit-driven private company to invest in the municipal water supply in Flint, Mich.? The answer may lie in increased fees for users of that service. “We feel very strongly that users of infrastructure should pay for it. That principal is one we support,” Pallasch says. That said, he notes the need to be realistic about the financial burden certain fees could cause. “The idea of raising water rates is a struggle for many municipalities where you have low-income households. We’ve been talking to colleagues in the water world about how do you set up programs where you raise rates and it allows subsidization of lower income residents?”

As for water, the Trump plan suggests tripling funding for state revolving loan fund programs, which supply low cost financing to municipalities, but it does not identify where those increased funds would come from.

Trains in Des Moines, Iowa
Phil Roeder via flickrTrains in Des Moines, Iowa

Critics of revenue-neutral plans such as these say that what would be saved on the front end will get paid for on the back end in the form of tolls and increased fees for users. In general, “revenue neutral tax proposals by definition create winners and losers,” economist Thomas L. Hungerford wrote last year in an op-ed. “The winners would pay less in taxes and the losers would pay more in taxes. The losers tend to be highly concentrated in certain income groups and business sectors, essentially becoming special interests.”

Some economists believe the Trump plan to use tax revenues to offset costs is overly ambitious. It assumes that the income tax revenue generated from construction and other contract workers on these projects will be in addition to existing tax revenue. As Alan Cole, an economist at the independent Tax Foundation, told the Washington Post, the plan overinflates the potential revenue because it assumes workers on these projects were previously unemployed or not already contributing to income tax revenue. (This plan also means that income tax revenue would be diverted from other funding needs to underwrite infrastructure.)

Cole noted, too, that Americans would ultimately foot the bill for these new projects, not only in user fees. “Maintenance and new construction would only occur in communities where it is urgently needed if private investors were convinced users could afford to pay,” he told The Washington Post. And if, as Navarro proposed in his Yahoo! Finance interview, the government takes over the projects once built, then the government would be on the hook for long-term care and maintenance.

Indeed, having so much private investment could weight projects to wealthier demographics. “Under Trump’s plan, poorer communities that need the new projects and repairs the most would get the least attention,” writes Jeff Spross, business and economic correspondent for The Week.

Lents Town Center project in Portland, Ore.
Twelvizm via flickrLents Town Center project in Portland, Ore.

There’s also concern that Trump’s infrastructure plan doesn’t work in tandem with his other proposed policy changes, such as tax cuts for the wealthy. “He’s right that borrowing to invest in infrastructure makes sense in times like these when interest rates are low,” the editors of The New York Times write. “But combined with his other plans, Mr. Trump’s proposed borrowing would do severe fiscal damage.”

Once financed by private enterprise and tax incentives, infrastructure projects under Trump’s plan would speed through the “boondoggle” of “red tape” via a proposed streamlined approval process. Projects would “put American steel made by American workers into the backbone of America’s infrastructure,” according to the vision statement, co-authored in part by Ross. A billionaire investor, he specializes in bankruptcies and has “parlayed a series of ballsy political and financial gambles on left-for-dead assets—midwestern steel mills, southern textile mills, and Appalachian coal mines—into an empire.” It’s unclear how Trump’s administration would dictate that private companies use only American steel when Trump himself relied on cheaper Chinese steelin his own real estate development projects. The Trump vision also touts an increase in private sector investment to “better connect American coal and shale energy production with markets and consumers.” Notably absent is any mention of investment in renewable energy infrastructure.

Overall, the current Trump plan strongly focuses on traditional “horizontal” infrastructure needs—surface roads, pipelines, water distribution. Besides a call to modernize America’s airports, the infrastructure of buildings and other public spaces isn’t explicitly mentioned. The ACSE, meanwhile, categorizes schools, public parks, and recreation among the critical infrastructure needs in its report card.

Fort Irwin hospital project in California
US Army Corps of Engineers via flickrFort Irwin hospital project in California

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has consistently lobbied the government to expand its view of infrastructure. “One of the things that we’ve communicated to presidential transition teams in the past, and will continue to do, is to remember that infrastructure is more than roads and bridges; it’s also schools and libraries and buildings,” says Andrew Goldberg, Assoc. AIA, the Institute’s managing director of government relations and advocacy. “It’s not just the infrastructure that moves people and things, it’s also what happens once you get there. Infrastructure was the first policy related item that Trump mentioned in his victory speech, and I think that there is a strong opportunity coming into next year for some serious work. It will be important to speak to the importance of the built environment and the community assets in addition to ‘traditional’ infrastructure.”

 

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