- Mark McDowell
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Save the Planet; Prevent Commercial Mortgage Meltdown
A total of $1.4 trillion worth of commercial real estate loans are coming due between now and 2014, with the majority on small- and medium-sized buildings that are either under water or very nearly there. Writing for the Huffington Post, Daphne Wysham says that “crisis breeds opportunity. It turns out that buildings are responsible for about half of America’s emissions of greenhouse gases.” Wysham, a fellow and board member of the Institute for Policy Studies, is founder and co-director of the Sustainable Energy and Economy Network, as well as founder and co-host of Earthbeat Radio, which airs on 54 stations in the United States and Canada.
According to Wysham, “Here’s the crazy truth: With a national effort to boost energy efficiency, we could actually meet the building sector’s greenhouse gas emissions target set by the Obama administration for the next few years, put 1,300,000 million workers – 600,000 of them construction workers, 20 percent of whom are unemployed – back to work and dodge the next wave of mortgage meltdowns. We could make a painless downpayment on our emissions reductions goals, while giving some of our beleaguered businesses a tax break and saving money we’re now squandering on wasted energy.”
Architects and researchers from Architecture 2020 have devised what they call the “CRE Solution”, which would allow small business and business owners in danger of default a multi-year tax break if they retrofit to improve energy efficiency. “The more energy efficient the building becomes, the greater the tax break,” Wysham said. “Commercial building owners could trade or sell these tax deductions to investors, who would be invested in putting our highly skilled construction workers back on the job, retrofitting these properties. For the $6 billion in tax breaks the federal government would provide for this purpose, Uncle Sam would receive $10 billion back in net federal tax revenue, while state and local governments netted $5.25 billion.”