By: Thomas M. Brophy, National Director of Research & Analytics | Cooke Multifamily Team.

Multifamily Times is an internal publication (which we are releasing publicly given the seriousness of our time) meant to interpret, analyze and dissect the major economic news/market events and how they relate to the multifamily housing market.  Our goal and aim for this newsletter is to encourage discussion, creating a platform to work through ideas in the understanding that none of us have all the answers. Our hope is that in the process of refining, arguing and questioning our own thoughts that not only will we find our individual voices, but our collective voice as well.  In our new era of big data, we have reached peak data overload and our goal is to convert that data into wisdom.  The Cooke Multifamily Team is comprised of nine elite brokers that have a combined 198+ years of experience dating all the way back to 1980. 

Knowledge is a derivative of information; data without context is like a light without a bulb, a market without a narrative or an explanation without a common reference point. Data is but a guide to asking better questions; better questions lead to greater understanding, which, if deployed effectively and purposely, leads to better results. WISDOM, knowledge’s ultimate abstract, can only be gained when tethered to, and guided by, past experience. The Colliers Cooke Multifamily Team has four senior brokers each that have over 35 years’ experience. Over that time, our brokers have not only lived through, but thrived, during several major market disruptions and have the proven wisdom and insight to navigate rapidly changing market conditions.

“Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are our own fears.” – Rudyard Kipling

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” – T.S. Eliot

In Part 1 we focused exclusively on the potential economic fallout specifically in regards to GDP/Production/Output at both the national and local levels.  While our original intent with Part 2 of the series was meant to address potential real estate implications, we found it necessary to pivot as there appears to be stagnation by government in reaching a consensus relief bill. Given the exigent times, and stress induced limitations of imagination, we have a few ideas to offer that we believe not only would receive bipartisan support but also provide a floor upon which a more sustained recovery can be built. 

We want to continue to thank everyone who we’ve talked to over the last two weeks and who have provided ongoing market thoughts, stats and service line insights, as best as you are aware, in these extraordinary times. Your dedication to service, and assistance, is truly extraordinary and we cannot thank you enough! 

Economy Stabilization – Where We Sit

As is now abundantly clear, the Federal Government (in addition to the Federal Reserve’s market interventions), has plans to inject anywhere from $1.5 to $2T in direct stimulus to prevent an economic depression. While plans range widely most have been focused on providing direct cash assistance to the individual taxpayer ranging from $1,200 to $2,000 and based upon family size, income level, etc. At present, the government is at an impasse as to both the extent of the intervention and in how to promulgate after passage.

A Way Forward

We must first fully appreciate the cross-roads at which we stand; for the U.S., we are just beginning to understand the extent of the infected population through greater access to testing kits and locations. Additionally, officials continue to monitor the impacts of social distancing and shelter-in-place approaches in our larger population centers, such as Seattle, Los Angeles and New York, as this approach has proven useful in reducing the infection rate in other areas of the world.

With government injection of money all but guaranteed; a question arises, namely, where to provide it so that it provides maximum benefit? In our way of thinking, if we want to keep not only individuals and family’s solvent but also the banks, stores, restaurants, companies, investors etc. they work for solvent, then we need direct intervention at the housing level.  With many economic estimates from JPMorgan to Morgan Stanley and the like projecting a 30% GDP contraction, in addition to increases in unemployment claims, has left many unsure and concerned regarding their rent/mortgage payments which needs to be addressed.

As of today, Fannie and Freddie provided mortgage forbearance options to those multifamily property owners who suspend evictions, see their latest press release here; while this is an excellent step in the right direction, more stimulus may be needed to stabilize the industry. Our policy recommendations are detailed below.”

The Federal Government, and by extension all of us taxpayers, should agree to pay the median rent and mortgage amount for everyone in the country from now through end of Summer (6 months). For those without either, specifically if your mortgage is paid off then you will get a straight cash payment.

Based on the latest U.S. Census, American Communities Survey (ACS) 2018 1-year estimates, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) uses to calculate Fair Market Rents (FMRs), per State monthly median mortgage (including expenses) and rent relief amounts that would be paid = $171.92B. For six (6) months of mortgage/rent relief for all States = $1.03T.

For Arizona, monthly median mortgage (including expenses) = $1,417/month and median rent = $1,036/month. Total monthly mortgage/rent relief for Arizona = $3.3B, for six (6) months = $19.84B

See the table below that provides per State cost breakdowns with both Arizona and U.S. total highlighted.

Figure 1. American Communities Survey (ACS) 2018 1-Year Estimates

Source: US Census Bureau

How to Implement

Direct lender payments could be instituted for those multifamily properties with a commercial, or private, mortgage and homeowners with a mortgage. 

For those without either rent or mortgage, a direct cash payment could be given by the IRS. 

Our Goal

While this will not address all that is ailing our country, we believe that this would provide a much-needed economic base upon which to build a lasting recovery. By focusing directly on housing, which generally averages between 15% to 18% of our GDP, we stabilize the epicenter of most people’s lives, which not only allows us to continue to shelter-in-place but assists in mental health in alleviating the concern of rent/mortgage payments.

Most importantly this will buy us all more time to figure out what our next steps should be in as judicious and calm way as is possible. In these turbulent times, what we say and do matters.  We are all in this together.  And we will all rise from this together.  It is how we live, help others, endure and overcome this crisis that will define us and make us more creative and efficient….stronger.

Resource Guide

With an ever-changing environment, staying on top of the news and emerging trends has never been more critical. To that end, below you will find a list of essential multifamily and other health and data related resources/websites.

White House – Provides up-to-date Presidential announcements not only about Covid-19, but also economic and other matters.  

CDC – Centers for Disease Control has provided a guide on how to effectively to protect yourself, and communities, during this outbreak and can be found here.

NMHC – The National Multifamily Housing Council is actively working with The White House, Congress and CDC to make the most relevant policy guidance available to members of the multifamily industry. The NMHC has also made this guide available to members of the apartment industry to help develop and implement preparedness strategies for responding to the evolving coronavirus threat.

Moody’s Economics – The Moody’s Corporation is making research data and analysis related to the economic impact of COVID-19 available to the public, free of charge, via a dedicated website. This resource will be updated on a regular basis and collects insights from across the company’s deep network of financial experts. Information provided by Moody’s will help our clients to better understand the financial implications of market disruptions caused by both a short- and long-term health care crisis.