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IREM Blogs


On Shutdowns and Threats of Shutdowns

January 30, 2019 | John Salustri

By John Salustri

IREM President Don Wilkerson took the high road in his latest NREI column concerning the issue of this on-again, off-again, possibly on-again partial government shutdown. As it stands now, the January shutdown has been called off, amid threats to crank it up again in a few weeks’ time. Wilkerson rose above the fray and went straight to the heart of what toll the shutdown took on the management industry.

Citing an NREI report, Wilkerson noted that due to the shutdown, 95 percent of HUD workers were furloughed, with only a handful of field offices remaining in operation. As a result, “rental assistance contracts that expire wouldn’t be renewed until the agency reopened.”

The IREM president pointed out that those expired rental assistance contracts came to a total of 1,150 with private owners. That, in turn, represented 40,000 low-income households, according to Businessweek. “In February—if the shutdown is fired up again—you can add a stack of 16,000 more to that pile,” he wrote.

Commercial properties felt the pinch as well, and Wilkerson cited Businessweek statistics that put “the potential monetary toll at $460 million per month in uncollected rent.

“But there was a bright side to this madness,” he continued, “and it comes, not surprisingly, from outside the Beltway—and within the real estate industry. As just one example, the Hotel Association of New York City (HANY), according to Hotel News Resource, quite literally opened its doors to furloughed government workers. The move was particularly targeted at workers who needed to travel to the city for personal emergencies.”

Wilkerson quoted HANY president and CEO Vijay Dandapani from the association’s press statement: “We don't want to see anyone who needs to be here turned away because of financial hardships created by the government shutdown. Whether it's a family situation or a health issue that requires people to travel to the city, we will do what we can to provide accommodations on a limited basis to those in dire need."

For such reasons, “I’m placing my bets on our industry,” WIlkerson wrote. “If indeed the political powers that be decide once again to activate a shutdown—now or over some future debate—we will as an industry rise to the challenge once again.

“IREM believes that compassion more than a hard line is what is called for,” Wilkerson wrote, “and we urge our members to put themselves into the position of those in our charge who are hitting hard times.

“A ‘Closed for Business’ sign hanging on our governmental institutions at this writing remains a real threat to the American people,” Wilkerson said. “This too shall pass. Given the thick-headedness evident on both sides of the Congressional aisle, the only question that remains is when.”

About the author
John Salustri is editor-in-chief of Salustri Content Solutions, Inc., a consultancy focused on enhancing the web and print content of clients around the nation. He is a regular contributor to JPM Magazine and a frequent blogger for IREM. Prior to launching SCS, John was founding editor of GlobeSt.com, the industry’s premier real estate news website, where he managed the daily output of 25 international reporters, and prior to that, he was editor of Real Estate Forum Magazine. John is a four-time winner of the National Association of Real Estate Editors’ Award for Excellence in Journalism.

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