Is Trump Administration Infrastructure Spending on Ice?

Plenty of “dry powder” is still hoping for traction on funding for needed infrastructure expansion.

President Trump’s ambitious campaign promise to spur more than $1 trillion in infrastructure spending unleased a wave of excitement among investors and developers. More than two years later, investor groups are still in “wait and see” mode, with a growing amount of dry powder on the sidelines.

The commercial real estate industry is watching the infrastructure funding issue with avid interest. Aside from a strong multiplier effect that infrastructure projects can have on the economy, there is a correlation between infrastructure investment and incremental real estate values, particularly surrounding commercial properties within immediate proximity of public transit, notes Jared Balcavage, a research analyst at real estate services firm Transwestern in Denver. On the flip side, a lack of investment in needed infrastructure can create a negative impact by stunting economic development, he adds.

A recent Washington Post article noted that the president still hopes to get legislative approval on upwards of $1 trillion in new infrastructure spending, but Congress so far has allocated a fraction—about $20 billion—with dollars primarily flowing to existing projects. There are a number of reasons why an infrastructure bill hasn’t come to fruition, chief among them political bickering in the current environment.

“Both sides of the aisle have expressed significant interest in working together on this subject, but recent political negotiations have positioned this issue as more of a bargaining chip than a legislative priority,” says Michael Welch, U.S. head of valuation & advisory services at real estate services firm JLL.

The reality that there hasn’t been more progress on infrastructure spending is a disappointment, adds Byron Carlock, national partner, real estate practice leader, at consulting firm PwC. “The $1.2 trillion has not happened or been approved yet, but I think the intent of the administration and both sides of the aisle remain committed to coming up with an infrastructure bill,” he says. In the meantime, there has been a lot of dry powder sitting in infrastructure funds, and people are very hopeful that projects will surface that will help to deploy that capital, he notes.

According to London-based research firm Preqin, private equity infrastructure funds targeting North America raised $47.8 million last year, up 60 percent compared to the $29.9 billion raised prior to the last presidential election in 2016. As of September, private equity infrastructure funds had roughly$79.2 billion in dry powder available to deploy.

Hot topic for CRE

Investors and developers are hoping to benefit from the positive ripple effects that new infrastructure projects would create in the private sector. Potentially, infrastructure projects can have a huge impact on sparking new development. That has clearly been the case with the subway extension in New York City, which some credit as a catalyst for Hudson Yards. “We have proof in the current times of seeing just how much new development can come as a result of responsible infrastructure investment,” says Carlock.

Infrastructure funding is an issue that industry groups are watching closely. For example, the Real Estate Roundtable submitted infrastructure policy recommendations to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Ranking Member Sam Graves (R-MO) in April. In its recommendations, the Roundtable noted that the quality of infrastructure is one of the most important factors that influences real estate development decisions. The Roundtable noted that: “Real estate and infrastructure have a synergistic, two-way relationship as growth in one of these asset classes spurs growth in the other.”

In addition to recommending policy suggestions to improve programs to repair and modernize transportation systems, the Roundtable also suggested targeted changes to the federal tax code to help pay for the infrastructure deficit.

As politicians gear up for the next election cycle, some fear that the outlook for infrastructure spending appears less and less favorable. “With the numerous issues the White House is facing post-Mueller report, there is very little appetite for bipartisan legislation between now and 2020,” says Heidi Learner, chief economist at real estate services firm Savills. “There are numerous bills pertaining to infrastructure that continue to be introduced, but I don’t see prospects for any legislative cooperation during the balance of this session unless it’s for one-off disaster relief,” she says.

Private capital steps into the gap

Everyone is waiting for the “big bill” coming out of Washington that will drive infrastructure spending. In the meantime, private investment is a legitimate option to at least partially fill the nation’s gap in funding for infrastructure spending.

In some cities, philanthropists are stepping up and doing game-changing infrastructure investing, notes Carlock. For example, philanthropists have helped provide funding for the extension of the Klyde Warren Park in Dallas and expansion of green space around the Boston Seaport. Those efforts help to highlight that there is a part to play for public and private funds and philanthropy, he says.

The Opportunity Zone program could also help bring private capital to infrastructure improvement, such as affordable housing, to blighted areas. “The Opportunity Zone movement, which is garnering significant attention and funds, has the opportunity to be a catalyst, in addition to whatever appropriations happen on the infrastructure side,” says Carlock.

“We are seeing private equity funds raise capital to be deployed in unique and creative ways,” agrees Welch. One good example of that is the recent announcement of the $4.5 billion Digital Colony fund, which will seek to support digital infrastructure behind new technologies such as the 5G network. “It’s possible we could see more innovative ways for these firms to deploy capital,” he says. “However, there continues to be a wait-and-see attitude among many investors as the future of infrastructure investment remains held up in Congress.”

Trump promised Americans massive infrastructure spending and we got $0. At this point I think everyone knows not to listen to any promise the lying deal breaker makes.

These wealthy investors are going to be holding their breath. Oh well. I’m sure they can afford it while the rest of us scrape by in the one-sided Trump economy.

You want all the money and jobs to go to illegals and foreigners?

The undocumented are a net positive to the economy. Red states draw more public assistance benefits than blue states.

The undocumented perform the jobs Americans are too lazy or incompetent to do.

The Trump Administration approved the largest foreign aid package to Israel in US history. $3.8B Annually with $550M in military assistance. That’s a lot of money going to foreigners.

Three liberal talking points AND a swipe at Israel.

Congrats!

I’m opposed to the infrastructure spending unless it is funded by cuts elsewhere. (And that ain’t gonna happen. Ever.)

And no, I’m not interested in funding it with a tax increase.

When you say “liberal talking points” you must mean…facts, because that’s what I posted.

Who knew that citing the largest combined foreign assistance / military aid package to one particular foreign country was a “swipe” as you say. I thought the Trumpers were excited about this.

But pack to the OP.

Where’s all the infrastructure money Trump promised?

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They don’t like facts. They just want to repeat “promises made, promises kept” over and over again until they believe it without question.

Look at all this infrastructure spending!

There should be no doubt from anyone that BILLIONS of dollars could be cut from our existing spending habits.

Major expendable facets of our bloated accounts payable include:

  • Grants for useless studies of trivial issues performed by researchers who cannot otherwise maintain gainful employment

  • Bloated government departments that are replete with non-essential personnel (akin to featherbedding)

  • Financial support of artistic endeavors given to people simply because they consider themselves artists

  • Perks for Congress members and their staff…such as free travel, free additional office space, free meals

I’m sure there are many other actual spending cuts (not just the reductions in the increases in spending each year that many in Congress define as spending cuts) that would benefit our pocketbook without substantially reducing our safety or well being.

Left to me, the IRS would be reduced in size by at least 50% after we implement the Fair Tax…and the Department of Education would be abolished…tomorrow.

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That was some post! I noticed that you didn’t mention anything about blowing our tax dollars on endless wars in the Middle East that achieve nothing.

Somehow that is always missing from the Republican assessment of how to reduce spending.

I do not favor going to war at all. I abhor wars that are run from Washington based on politics and polling. When in a war, there should be no budget, just a full bore attack on the enemy until the enemy no longer exists.

Until the present administration, that was the MO. Obama claimed that ISIS was being destroyed when in fact their caliphate was expanding. He didn’t have the balls or the wisdom to let the military experts in the arena run the show and win the war. Trump did.

Withdrawing completely would leave a vacuum that remnants of ISIS or some other terrorist group would quickly fill. I am not in favor of abandoning the Middle East completely.

Military preparedness is essential to winning future conflicts. Part of adequate preparedness is having a presence in the areas likely subject to armed conflict. Such presence also adds to the assistant we are able to give nations in repairing their infrastructure and their own defensive military assets.

I don’t favor the US starting any wars anywhere. I do favor the US ending wars by killing the enemy when the enemy attacks the US or its allies.

Your posit that we achieve nothing is ridiculous.

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Where are Democrats in fixing immigration and the crisis at the Southern border? You might have your answer if your being intellectually honest! Yeah liberal talkings points where words only mean what you want them to mean!

That’s factually untrue… two blocks of NYC project uses more subsidies then all red states combined,

And you didn’t answer my question… do you want these jobs to go to illegals or not?

I like your targeted cuts.

Ditto your response to C’Thinker about war.

We have tons of redundant fiefdoms in the form of departments and agencies and secretariats and commissions and … Overlapping offices that sometimes even place conflicting requirements on personal property and businesses. Consolidate and reduce bureaucracy.

Trump has been slicing regulations. Each regulation requires oversight. Slicing more would reduce the number of bureaucrats to implement them.

It’s a small thing, but I would require each state to pay for its own Senators and Representatives. Fund their offices, and not fund them at the federal level. More localized oversight rather than freewheeling umbrella funding would probably make each congressional office cheaper to run.

But every cut gores SOMEbody’s ox. And politicians can’t stand the sound of constituent ox bleating.

I would also close a lot of domestic military bases. Close them in states that are military-hostile, and consolidate those operations in places that are military-friendly. Reduce administrative, infrastructure, and upper-brass overhead. Sell off the closed bases to developers. Government can shave some of its real estate overhead that way, and turn that land into tax-generating spaces.

I’m totally on board with this proposal. I would even add their salaries and those of their staffs to the state bill. This might cut down on the number of servants each has…to do their work for them.

Democrats are in “resist mode”. They aren’t going to allow Trump to start any new big initiatives that might benefit him in 2020

Isn’t that what the dems accuse the Republicans of doing all the time?

Huh.

22 trillion pushing to 23 trillion in debt. It should remain on ice forever or until they balance the budget and reduce spending.

And the democons have ensured they pass no legislation that may assist Trump.

That includes infrastructure.

Trump promised that he would bring us together. But… I invited AOC for a little …“togetherness” , but I’m still waiting. Trump lied.

BTW dude… you should try to learn where appropriation bills come from.