Federal Office Conversion Program Slow to Start

Regulatory and financial barriers have prevented developers seeking to take advantage of the federal government’s office-to-residential conversion incentive program from closing on any loans, reports Kriston Capps in Bloomberg CityLab. The funds are being directed to office-to-housing projects near transit and funded via the U.S. Department of Transportation.

According to Capps, “Lengthy approvals, strict environmental reviews and tight credit criteria — standards designed with interstate rail projects in mind — have put this financing out of reach for many developers.” Although no loans have closed, three projects are currently in an underwriting phase.

The program requires a $1 million non-refundable deposit and a costly National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, which developers argue is unnecessary for a building conversion. In some cases, projects that are located near certain types of transit don’t qualify under federal guidelines.

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