Public policy—particularly as it relates to climate initiatives—will impact capital allocation across real estate. It will also play an important role in catalyzing building upgrades. Until recently, much of the policy focus has been on regulation, which often used the prospect of a penalty to motivate owners and investors into taking greater action to reduce environmental impact.
As of October 2022, 32 local jurisdictions and two states had enacted Building Performance Standards for existing buildings. These standards require commercial and multifamily buildings to meet certain energy performance targets. Tax benefits from the IRA could reduce costs for real estate owners to meet energy usage criteria, potentially increasing the scope of viable investments, given reduced costs. As such, the IRA is creating new investment possibilities for investors by lowering the cost of retrofits to help bring assets into compliance with new regulations. The installation of solar is one of the most straightforward ways to upgrade buildings and reduce environmental impacts. Notably, this type of upgrade will qualify for subsidies contained in the IRA.
For context, the IRA is designed to help the U.S. reduce carbon emissions by 40% from 2005 levels by 2030. As mentioned, the law includes tax credits for environmentally friendly retrofits and projects. The total estimated investment in alternative energy sources and climate change is $369 billion, accounting for more than 80% of the total spending in the bill.
Commercial buildings that meet prevailing wage and apprenticeship requirements, as well as energy efficiency standards (such as more efficient interior lighting systems, heating or hot water systems) will be eligible for tax deductions of up to $5 per sq. ft. beginning in 2023. New housing developments that meet energy-efficient criteria will also be eligible for tax credits worth as much as $5,000 per dwelling unit. Many of the tax credits are designed to benefit buildings built to meet energy efficiency standards.
Because certain sections of the bill specifically require the primary use of a building to be residential, multifamily will see numerous benefits.
Multifamily is not the only commercial real estate sector that will benefit. For example, the law provides tax credits of up to 30% of the eligible cost for buildings that install and develop clean technology. This tax credit applies to costs of upgrading building systems to be more climate friendly (including the cost of installing solar). Incentives are also available for facilities that produce electric and hydrogen-fueled vehicles, solar panels and wind energy components. All of these will be especially important for industrial and logistics properties.
In summary, investors will find generous tax incentives to modernize and utilize efficient and environmentally friendly systems in their buildings. Such incentives will also help keep many assets viable as investments, particularly in local jurisdictions or states where Building Performance Standards have been adopted. Altogether, the IRA is a significant new law that will influence commercial real estate investment dynamics for some time.
Altus Power, based in Stamford, Connecticut, is a premier commercial-scale clean electrification company serving commercial, industrial, public sector and community solar customers with end-to-end solutions. Altus Power originates, develops, owns and operates locally-sited solar generation, energy storage and charging infrastructure across the nation. Visit www.altuspower.com to learn more.
CBRE Econometric Advisors wishes to thank Altus Power for their contributions to this Viewpoint.