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US property developers seek government ‘bail out’

With a record amount of commercial real-estate debt coming due, some of the country's biggest property developers are pleading for help through the economic crisis.

Leading property firms have told officials that with $200 billion to $400 billion of commercial mortgages due to mature they may be unable to finance because of the banks reluctance to lend.

They want the government to include commercial mortgages in the $200 billion programme established by the Federal Reserve to ease liquidity for car student and credit card loans.

'It is not a bail out as such that we are asking for. It is just a matter of trying to get the credit markets going again,' said Chip Rodgers, of the Real Estate Roundtable, which represents the industry.

The organisation warned that commercial property is in danger of following the residential market into a glut of foreclosures. The commercial property industry accounts for around nine million jobs some of which are at risk.

Under the Federal Reserve's loan facility, which is due to start operating in the New Year, the central bank is willing to make loans to companies that provide troubled asset-backed securities as collateral. Property developers want this extended to include lending to institutions holding securities backed by commercial mortgages, which they say would provide an incentive for banks to lend again.

'There's a big pool of loans underwritten in 2005 and 2006, coming due in 2010 and 2011 that I believe will experience a rise in delinquencies and defaults,' said Victor Canalog, director of research at Reis.

However delinquencies on commercial real estate loans fell in November due to lenders allowing more loan extensions than in the previous month according to Fitch Ratings.

Critics of the move claim that the treasury's extension of aid to banks and carmakers risks letting loose a deluge of pleas for help from other sectors of the economy, which argue that they, too, have been crippled by the dire economic downturn.