I want to share with you a quick excerpt about Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke. He spoke at the Economic Club of New York last week about the policy on commercial loans. Perhaps this will keep commercial real estate from dipping s far as residential did.
While I am on the topic of bank lending, I would like to add a few words about commercial real estate (CRE). Demand for commercial property has dropped as the economy has weakened, leading to significant declines in property values, increased vacancy rates, and falling rents. These poor fundamentals have caused a sharp deterioration in the credit quality of CRE loans on banks’ books and of the loans that back commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS). Pressures may be particularly acute at smaller regional and community banks that entered the crisis with high concentrations of CRE loans.
In response, banks have been reducing their exposure to these loans quite rapidly in recent months. Meanwhile, the market for securitizations backed by these loans remains all but closed. With nearly $500 billion of CRE loans scheduled to mature annually over the next few years, the performance of this sector depends critically on the ability of borrowers to refinance many of those loans. Especially if CMBS financing remains unavailable, banks will face the tough decision of whether to roll over maturing debt or to foreclose.
Recognizing the importance of this sector for the economic recovery, the Federal Reserve has extended the TALF programs for existing CMBS through March 2010 and newly structured CMBS through June. Moreover, the banking agencies recently encouraged banks to work with their credit worthy borrowers to restructure troubled CRE loans in a prudent manner, and reminded examiners that–absent other adverse factors–a loan should not be classified as impaired based solely on a decline in collateral value.