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Real Estate Predictions 2017: Has multifamily housing finally hit its peak?

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Has multifamily housing finally hit its peak? That's the opinion of at least one of our circle of experts for our highly anticipated real estate predictions for 2017.

It’s a mixed bag of opinions from experts connected to the industry in a variety of ways.

Agreements? There are a few, as most still feel urban centers will be where it’s at.

And though most feel the election of business-minded Donald Trump as president is a good thing, many feel real estate could be facing a downturn, especially during the second half of the year.

Take a look for yourself:

Jenny Bernell

Director of development, Kushner Cos.

Jersey City’s transformation into a sought-after place to live, work and visit will hit full stride in 2017. That will be due in large part to a slate of cutting-edge projects either under construction or in the planning phase.

At Kushner, we’re partnering with the KABR Group on more than 4 million square feet of development in Jersey City, including mixed-use projects at 1 and 30 Journal Square, the recently opened 65 Bay St. luxury rental tower, a planned hub for tech and creative firms at 26 Journal Square, and another mixed-use complex at 124-134 Bay St. Thanks to these projects, Jersey City’s burgeoning cultural, retail and restaurant scene will thrive in 2017, and for years to come. 

Christopher M. Cornick

Director, business development, Northeast division, Gilbane Building Co.

Construction will experience tempered growth, mostly within the corporate, health care, education and student housing, science and technology, manufacturing and food processing facilities sectors, in urban centers beyond Jersey City. Newark, New Brunswick and Camden are looking at a burst of expansion.

The growth of design-build and design-assist delivery methods will continue, increasing collaboration between clients, consultants and contractors, ultimately leading to more successful outcomes.

The challenge in finding talented professionals will linger and the talent gap that transpired from the global financial crisis will keep impacting our industry. However, the next generation of graduates are impressive and well educated and I’m optimistic they will begin to close this gap.

Jose Cruz

Senior managing director, HFF

I expect to see continued investment activity into the first half of the year, with carryover transactions and new debt allocations for several lenders, helping to keep the capital markets moving in a positive direction. However, a potential slowdown in the second half of 2017 is possible, given that the (Federal Reserve) has openly signaled continued increases in the rates. This can result in some pricing adjustments for secondary product.

Values on premier assets have thus far remained firm. Despite the aforementioned potential pricing weakness, the adjustment period should be short-lived, given the amount of equity dedicated to real estate and historically low interest rates.

Norman A. Feinstein

Vice chairman, The Hampshire Cos.

Nationally, the industrial market continues to outperform, as demand drivers remain strong due to the continued rise of e-commerce growth, which has caused a reconfiguration of the supply chain leading to positive net absorption.

We anticipate that, in 2017, trade will shift east from the West Coast. This shift in trade volume on the East Coast will lead to an increased demand for already constrained supply in the northern New Jersey industrial market. This trend, when combined with the restructuring of logistics for e-commerce, will continue to create additional topspin for the northern New Jersey market.

Chris Foglio

Founder and CEO, Community Investment Strategies

With regard to multifamily and specifically affordable housing projects, I predict a difficult times ahead. In hot markets, development of apartment projects will see a slowdown as financial institutions are getting concerned with over-built markets. Slow absorption rates will hit the sector, especially in the third quarter of 2017.

The key concern for affordable housing production will be the impact of the Trump presidency, and the proposed corporate tax rate reduction. Regardless of the New Jersey court-mandated affordable housing settlements, the state still is dependent on the low income tax credit to subsidize the construction of units.

Based on projected corporate rates in the low- to mid-20 percent (range), the LITC investment will be affected. Investors will not have the need to shelter income, and will require higher yields in the event they invest for CRA purposes. What this means is that projects slated for development will need to find additional subsidy. This subsidy could come by way of direct municipal contributions, since no large subsidy exists, like the Sandy funding which fueled a tremendous amount of construction in the coastal communities over 2015-2016. Bottom line, bumpy road ahead.

Carl Goldberg

Managing member, Canoe Brook Management, and co-chair, Rutgers Center for Real Estate Studies

We believe that more and more people of all ages are looking for a live-work-play environment that offers a better set of lifestyle choices than the traditional single-family home on an isolated lot. Because of that, we think the key focus going forward should be the repurposing of underutilized suburban office assets for multifamily and mixed-use development, with set-asides for inclusionary development. Create a proximity to existing retail as well as fostering a sense of community with outdoor common spaces and give people a fun place to come home to.

Robert A. Klausner

Partner, Fox Rothschild LLP

I anticipate continued growth in construction in “urban transit centers,” together with surprising rent growth in these areas. While the move to urban transit centers started a few years back with state incentives, it really hasn’t been until the last year or so that municipalities have embraced commercial urban development. Morristown is a perfect example of where the town has, within the last year or so, encouraged new office, self-storage and hotel use. Office rents in Morristown continue to increase, and are even approaching those in Summit, which are the highest in the state outside of the “Gold Coast.” In 2017, I expect to finally see the transformation of Somerville, as well as continued growth in the revitalized New Brunswick.

David Knee

Senior managing director, JLL

Three things to watch this year: 1) At the end of 2016, 6.9 million square feet of industrial product was under construction, and slated to deliver in 2017. With supply remaining historically constrained, other developers are racing to break ground, setting 2017 to be the best year for new construction this cycle. 2) Asking rental rates for Class A and B product around the state have seen significant growth over the past 24 months. With supply and demand dynamics remaining materially similar, continued rental rate appreciation is expected through 2017. And 3) In 2016, leases over 500,000 square feet represented 6.3 million square feet of leasing activity and net absorption. Of this leasing activity, one industry constituted more than half of the square footage leased: E-commerce companies and related last-mile operations represented 51.7 percent of the big box leasing activity in 2016, a trend which is expected to continue over the next 12 months.

W. Nevins McCann

Partner and co-chair of real estate and land use group, Connell Foley

With a Republican governor in our State House, and a Republican president moving into the White House, all should be rosy for real estate in New Jersey in 2017.

The stock market is hitting all-time highs and should only go up. The business-focused agenda of our new president, coupled with his plan to ease regulations, can create a tasty recipe for funding and development in New Jersey. In particular, I think we will see major infrastructure projects take shape, including that third tunnel that we’ve all been waiting for. And industrial space, which has been hot, will only get hotter. 

John Obeid

Senior director, tri-state suburban research, Colliers International

New Jersey warehouse/distribution construction will spike in 2017, in response to high demand and a dearth of available space. Developers will launch speculative projects, especially along the Turnpike corridor, to accommodate the rapidly evolving space needs of e-commerce entities and the companies that service them. At the start of the fourth quarter in 2016, 6.4 million square feet of industrial space was under development in our market. That figure could double in the coming months. We will watch the greater Princeton area with interest, as a shortage of land further north may drive significant ground-up construction there for the first time in decades.

Richard Spengler

Executive vice president, chief lending officer, Investors Bank

Loan demand actually picked up in the latter part of 2016. The probability of rising rates in 2017 has accelerated some financing requests. We see both the residential and commercial loan sectors as continuing to be strong in 2017. Employment gains and stock market strength should help offset any interest rate increases in the residential area. While refinances may decline, this should be offset with a stronger purchase market. We expect the high number of millennials living with their parents to begin to enter the housing market. The commercial market has absorbed some underwriting and credit tightening in 2016. We believe the push for loan demand will be aided by the large number of maturing in 2017.

Deb Tantleff

Founding principal, TANTUM

The residential landscape in 2017 will be marked by a delicate balance of the continued flight to urban living coupled with an increase in housing supply generated by local suburban municipalities and their reaction to their legislative affordable housing requirements. Implementation of thoughtful mixed-income housing will be regulated by capacity in the capital markets from both traditional, private construction lenders as well as from sources of public financing subsidies. Communities that focus on executing appropriately scaled mixed-use and mixed-income redevelopments will benefit from sensible, viable projects that can effectively be absorbed into the marketplace.

Gretchen Wilcox

Founder and president, G.S. Wilcox & Co.

Lock your rates now! With a rise in interest rates likely to occur in 2017, there will be a surge in demand for life insurance companies to lock in rates up to 12 months before funding in order to hedge borrowers from the risk of future rate increases. In addition, President-elect Donald Trump will likely decrease corporate taxes, which will promote businesses growth resulting in increased occupancy levels and strong market fundamentals.

Ted Zangari

Co-chair of real estate department and chair of redevelopment law and public policy practice groups, Sills Cummis & Gross

Incoming Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will quickly become President Trump’s new best friend when the administration confronts its first battle with the Republican-controlled Congress: raising the federal debt limit. With Schumer quarterbacking (and negotiating), the Democrats will deliver the necessary votes to the new president to raise the debt ceiling, and will go on to also help Trump muster the needed votes to enact a massive public infrastructure bill. The public works incentive will greatly benefit redevelopment projects in New Jersey, particularly around transit hubs, along waterfronts and on brownfields. We will have come a long way from when the U.S. Congress gave Northeast states a rough time on disaster relief following Hurricane Sandy.

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