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WASHINGTON, DC-Buried somewhere in the economic stimulus bill is a provision that will make it easier for non-profits to use tax exempt financing to buy or build real estate. So says Richard A. Newman, a partner with Arent Fox LLP. Newman, along with other locally-based real estate executives here, made his comments Thursday at a brokers’luncheon sponsored by J Street Cos., DRI, Transwestern, Lincoln Property Co., CBRE and Akridge. Office condos in the DC market and their growing viability for non-profits was the topic–a subject that attracted a 100 or so strong audience.

Indeed, even with an additional boost from Washington, non-profits are finding that financing for office projects–whether they are condos or acquisitions of existing buildings–is booming right now, Newman tells GlobeSt.com, speaking after the luncheon. Since the start of the year, he has closed three tax-exempt real estate financings for non-profits with an aggregate value of more than $100 million.

“We did a deal that closed earlier this week–a $33.5 million, seven-year, fixed-rate, fully loaded loan under 4.2%. It was new construction residential for a non-profit. We closed another deal in same $30-million range–again fully loaded under 4%. This was a gut rehab of an office building in the CBD.” This building was originally acquired in October 2008 and refinanced in January, he says.

The rest of the commercial real estate sector is clearly suffering right now–but conditions are optimal for non-profits that want to lock in long-term operational efficiencies, CBRE’s Bruce Pascal agrees. Pascal also spoke at the luncheon. “When you look at what is happening in the DC area, the bright spot is what is happening with smaller organizations,” he tells GlobeSt.com. “The cost of funds is so low at this time, that purchasing makes sense for many owner occupied organizations.” He echoes Newman in saying that there have been a glut of office condos purchased or pending purchase in the District over the last few months.

Those numbers may increase even more if the tax code changes. Under current law, tax exempt financing is limited by the definition of “bank qualified” bonds, Newman explains. “There is a provision [in the tax code] that penalizes banks by imposing a special tax on them if they hold tax exempt bonds.” One exception to that rule is bonds that are issued by an entity that only issues a small number of bonds every year, he says. The stimulus bill–if this item makes it to the final version–will change that definition to the amount issued on behalf of any one borrower, Newman says. Under the current definition, only a handful of banks are able to issue these bonds in the DC area. “If it changes,” he explains. “We will see many more flocking to offer these services.”

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