EB-5立法,争议漩涡中的纽约房地产开发商们 | 美媒报道

我们都知道,当前对于EB-5法案的最大争议,也就是TEA(目标就业区)的定义问题,这也就是所谓的乡村和城市的政治性争议问题。主张当前EB-5计划已经背离国会立法初衷的,以参议院大佬Grassley为代表,认为当前TEA的定义使得EB-5资金绝大多数都注入了大都市繁华地区的项目,而不是被引导进入乡村和真正的高失业地区;而以纽约议员Charles Schumer为代表的大都市项目方的利益代言人,认为EB-5计划的初衷是创造就业促进经济,而不在于具体在哪里创造就业促进哪些经济。

EB-5立法

不管怎样,大都市地区的开发商都处在EB-5争议的风口浪尖上。今天,EB5Sir就陪朋友们来看一篇,纽约地产媒体The Real Deal的一篇文章,关于纽约房地产商在EB-5延期之后的报道,在报道中我们能看到TEA争议以及祖父条款和就业调整等法案焦点,可能对于EB-5项目的影响。本文由业内朋友Yanan义务翻译,特此感谢。

EB-5踢罐大赛

-- 对于充满争议的签证计划(EB-5计划),国会暂缓制定新规则

2015年10月1号,C.J.Hughs

所有依靠EB-5项目进行融资的纽约开发商们,随着金秋十月的到来,都松了口气。

尽管这个联邦计划的一个关键要素(即区域中心)已于上月月底过期,但是好在国会延缓了新标准的出台。EB-5计划用签证交换投资资金、同时为美国创造更多就业,而新标准将会抬高获得EB-5资金的门槛。

联邦法律制定者们选择目前暂不做出任何决定,而是在接下来的几个月内反复商讨。同时,确保在这段时间内该项目不受影响、继续施行。

几乎没有专家认为现存法案能一直保持下去。

“目前可能一尘不变,但是毫无疑问,改变很快就会到来。”Kate Kalmyk如是说,她是Greenberg Traurig的一名律师。该律所为使用EB-5项目进行融资的房地产开发商提供法律咨询,它们的客户包括瑞联集团 (the Related Companies)。

纽约或将出局

新法案可能涉及的改变之一是资金的去向。

佛蒙特州的民主党参议员Pat Leahy 和爱荷华州的共和党参议员Charles Grassley 提议收紧EB-5计划的规则,以期让更多的EB-5资金投入农村地区,而不是像现在这样,聚集在纽约这样的大城市。

在现行法律下,该项目要求每位投资者在为期两年的签证申请过程中创造10个工作,而投资者获得的是一份回报率极低的贷款。大多数投资者(其中大部分为中国大陆居民),相较于贷款的低回报率,他们更关心的是能否拿到签证以及最后的永久居留权,即常说的绿卡。

该计划自1990年建立以来便规定,只要投资者将资金投入位于“TEA - 目标就业区域”内的项目,投资的数额便只需$500,000。TEA被定义为失业率是全国平均失业率的1.5倍的区域。

然而,州级官员常常人为扩大这些“目标就业区域”的范围,将贫困区域与富裕区域连到一起,来抬高失业率。例如,为了让哈德逊园区项目符合EB-5项目的规定,州级官员将哈德逊河沿岸的所有人口普查区块都算在了一块儿。新区块从西切尔西区一路向北延伸到哈莱姆区,因而有较高的平均失业率。

最近,华尔街日报的一项报告称,事实上,至少有80%的EB-5资金都流入了,那些如果没有区域重新划分(gerrymandering)、根本不可能达标的项目中。

Leahy-Grassley新法案针对这一点,提出目标就业区域只能使用单一人口普查区块(census tract)来确定。

专家称,这个新标准对于许多纽约开发商都将是一个巨大的打击,尤其是那些想在翠贝卡、西切尔西和上东区等富裕区域开发项目的地产商。

今年呈给众议院的另外两项法案,分别来自加州民主党议员Zoe Lofgren和科罗拉多州民主党议员Jared Polis。这两份法案则支持保留各州合并相邻人口普查区块的权力。虽然目前仍未有法案通过委员会,但是许多人相信Leahy-Grassley的措施更可能得以最终推行。

对于那些在目标就业区内的项目,Leahy-Grassley法案以通货膨胀为由,建议将最低投资金额增长至$800,000美金。最低投资金额自EB-5法律创建以来,数十载从未调整过。

然而,让纽约开发商们真正焦虑的,是那些处在失业率较低、又无法进行区域重新划分的地区里的项目。目前,在这些地区的投资最低额是一百万美金。而Leahy-Grassley法案将会使该最低额增长20%,攀升至一百二十万美金。

换言之,投资纽约房地产项目以换取绿卡的价格将从$500,000飞升至$1,200,000。涨幅之大,足以让外国投资者们重新审视他们的绿卡需求。

Eric Orenstein目前供职于Rosenberg and Estis律所,该律所的客户主要是那些充当着开发商和投资者中间人的区域中心。Eric表示希望EB-5的市场需求够大,不会太受价格影响。他说,投资底额提高,达到融资总额所需要的投资人数也更少。“(投资底额上涨)并不会有太大的影响。” Orenstein 如是说。

针对申请人的“祖父化”条款

Orenstein担心的是法案改变的时机。他提到一点:  若是移民投资者已经提交了申请,并且已经花费了数月等待移民局做背景调查,该投资者应该按照新数额还是老数额?

投资纽约房地产项目以换取绿卡的价格将从$500,000 美元飞升至$1,200,000。涨幅之大,足以让外国投资者们重新审视他们的绿卡需求。

他补充说到,如果国会山对此事的处理过于草率,中国投资者将无需纠结该选低成本的签证还是那些更贵的。如果过多人选择了便宜的签证,那些相对较贵的项目便会失去资金来源。

“难题是什么会被祖父化?”Orenstein 说到,“这一点如若不澄清,对所有人都没有好处。”

据消息称,移民局这个管理签证的联邦机构,在法案还未有任何更改之前,已经接到了如洪水般的申请文件。

Kalmykov说,相较于只能使用单一人口普查区块 (census tract) 这一解决办法,许多纽约开发商更倾向于建立一个能将工人的居住地考虑在内的标准。例如,在西切尔西区哈德逊开发项目工作的工人可能居住在纽约东部像布鲁克林一样贫穷的地方。这样,EB-5法律的精神 – 为那些需要的人创造工作,就能得以实现。

她补充到,如若缺少类似条款,Leahy-Grassley法案 “即使遵照现在的草拟版本施行,也会有非常负面的影响。”

纽约房地产协会密切关注此事进展,他们表示支持重新授权EB-5项目、抵制欺诈。John Banks, 纽约房地产协会的主席在一次声明中表示到,“反对那些不利于城市地区的改变,我们也在尽力确保任何项目改变都是步调合理的”。

对就业创造的监管

另一些Leahy and Grassley新法案提出的、针对纽约房地产产业的改变则没有那么大的争议。例如,将对创造就业机会的要求变得更加严格。

目前,10个工作可以是任何形式和类型。实际上,据Gary Friedland说,EB-5项目在特定开发阶段的花销能够创造的工作数量是由一个通用的公式计算出来的。Gary Friedland是纽约大学的讲师,他对EB-5项目有广泛的研究。

参议院提案会有更多要求。一个项目可能只能创造9个非直接工作 – 例如,在新建公寓楼商户底层的一间商店。另外一份工作则需要是直接工作,它可以是房东聘用的一位安保人员、或更常见的是,一名建筑工人。在最近几年,法律条款略微放宽,长期的建筑工作也逐渐可被记为直接工作。但如果项目所需的建筑时间少于两年,建筑类工作则不被计算在直接工作之内。

这样的要求似乎相当容易达到。

打个比方,翠贝卡101是一栋63层、130个房间的大厦。它位处于101 Murray 街,由Fisher Brothers and Witkoff 集团建造。据Gary Friedland和Jeanne Calderon(纽约大学教授)一篇名为“EB-5融资指南: 商业房地产项目的又一融资工具”的报告称,该大厦开发成本为七亿三千五百万美金,其中有一亿七千五百万来源于EB-5 项目。

该报告称,翠贝卡101必须要创造的工作数目是3,500,但该项目预期一共将创造4,548个工作(包括非直接工作),很容易完成创造就业的指标。

Gary Friedland写到,就创造就业机会而言,开发商通常会确保创造比EB-5的要求多出20%的工作数量,来应对某些职位被撤销的意外情况。职位短缺可能导致投资者无法拿到他们的签证。

其他在建的、主要通过EB-5融资的项目包括Eos。Eos这个商用大厦共有375个房间,由the Durst Organization开发,位于美利坚大道855号,靠近位于西31街的先驱广场。Gary Friedland在报告中称,该项目开发资金共计四亿两千三百万美金,其中八千万美金来自于EB-5资金。

该报告还提到的项目有Bryant,  一个由HFZ Capital Group 开发的33层公寓酒店,位于中城西40街16号,共有57间公寓、230间酒店房间;在它两亿五千三百万的开发资金中,共有五千三百万来自由EB-5计划。Charles, 位于上东区第一大道1355号的一座28层酒店,由Bluerock Real Estate和the Victor Group出资打造,一亿五千7百万美金的开发资金中有两千两百万美元来自于EB-5。

截止目前,EB-5资金最大的受益者是瑞联集团(the Related Companies),它的哈德逊园区混合型项目有十二亿美金来自于EB-5项目。据Real Deal 六月份的报告,放眼全局,瑞联集团控制了全国三分之一的EB-5市场。

TRD分析报告发现,在过去几年,超过37亿美元的EB-5资金在过去几年,流入了几十个纽约市项目。

Leahy-Grassley 法案中还是有一些受纽约房地产开发商欢迎的新标准的,例如对区域中心的限制。区域中心是营利的、类似银行一样的中间机构,它将来自海外的零散资金捆绑起来,按5%左右的利率借给房地产开发商,这一利率比一般的开发类贷款低很多。设立区域中心的法案在9月30号过期了。

现行法律规定这些中心一次支付6,000美元的启动资金。在新法案下,启动资金可能上涨为20,000美元并且需要每年支付。同时,新法案也会让这些区域中心受到更多的监督。纽约市大概有60个左右这样的区域中心。

Gary Friedland说,纽约市的这些区域中心不可能因此倒闭,“它们仍会在每笔投资中大赚一笔。”

Leahy - Grassley法案中提到的其他改变则没那么多异议,例如它提议移民局这个监管机构会对整个过程有更多的控制,更少依赖自我报告,更多相信证券交易委员会提交的报告。“这将阻止系统中的人为操作。”

 
原文网站:www.therealdeal.com。

 
Kicking the can on EB-5
Congress holds off on tightening rules for controversial visa program
October 01, 2015
By C. J. Hughes

New York developers who rely on the widely popular EB-5 visa program to fund their projects are likely breathing a collective sigh of relief as October kicks off.

Although a key provision of the federal program expired at the end of last month, Congress put on hold tough new standards that could make it more difficult to qualify for overseas capital through the program, which trades visas for investments that create jobs.

Federal lawmakers instead decided to kick the can down the road and revisit the legislation in the next few months, but keep the program intact in the meantime.

Few analysts expect the status quo to be preserved for long.

“It may be business as usual for now, but changes are definitely coming down the pike,” said Kate Kalmykov, an attorney with Greenberg Traurig who represents developers who use the EB-5 program, including the Related Companies.

New York City could lose out

One possible change could be in where foreign investment is directed.

In a bid to push more EB-5 investments toward rural areas and away from cities like New York where they have clustered recently, Democratic Sen. Pat Leahy of Vermont and Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa proposed tightening the rules that govern the EB-5 program.

Under current law, investors in the program are required to create 10 jobs within two years of applying for a visa, in exchange for a loan that is paid back at a low interest rate. Most investors, who are predominantly from China, are less concerned about their payout on the loan, however, than they are about getting visas and eventually permanent resident status, more commonly called a green card.

Since the program began in 1990, the investment required has been $500,000, if the money is spent on a project that’s located in a neighborhood called a “Targeted Employment Area,” which has an unemployment rate that is 150 percent of the national average.

But state officials often stretch the boundaries of those areas to lump in impoverished communities with wealthy ones, effectively boosting the unemployment rate. To make Related Company’s Hudson Yards project eligible for the program, for example, state officials cobbled together census tracts along the Hudson River, from West Chelsea north to Harlem, which pushed the average unemployment in the new district higher.

In fact, according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, at least 80 percent of EB-5 money is flowing to projects that wouldn’t qualify without gerrymandering districts.

The Leahy-Grassley bill would do away with that practice, and require just a single census tract be used to identify a targeted employment area.

That would be a huge blow to many New York developers, analysts said, and to projects they aim to build in affluent neighborhoods like Tribeca, West Chelsea and the Upper East Side.

Two other bills offered in the House this year, from Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California and Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado, both Democrats, would preserve the status quo and allow contiguous tracts to be combined, as states see fit. None of the bills have yet moved through committee, but many observers think the Leahy-Grassley measure is more likely to see action.

For projects that are in targeted employment areas, the Leahy-Grassley bill would also raise the minimum investment amount to $800,000, arguably to keep up with inflation, since the dollar amounts have not changed in the decades since the EB-5 law was created.

But what really makes some New York developers anxious is what could happen with projects in areas with lower unemployment rates that can no longer be gerrymandered. Right now, the investment threshold in those locations is $1 million. That would climb 20 percent, to $1.2 million, under the Leahy-Grassley proposal.

In other words, the price of investing in many New York real estate projects in order to obtain a visa could soar to $1.2 million from $500,000, a huge swing that is sure to make some foreign investors rethink their visa needs.

Eric Orenstein, an attorney with the firm Rosenberg and Estis who represents regional centers, which act as intermediaries between developers and investors, said he’s hopeful that there will still be enough demand out there that any change in the price tag won’t hurt business. He noted that higher thresholds also mean it would require fewer investors to hit the same dollar amounts. “It won’t really change the equation,” Orenstein said.

Grandfathering in applicants

What does worry Orenstein is the timing of any changes to the law, he said. Among his concerns: Will an immigrant investor who has applied for a visa and spent months waiting for a background check be required to pay the old amount or the new amount?

He added that if handled sloppily by Capitol Hill, Chinese investors could actually wind up with a choice between low-cost visas and more-expensive ones. If enough pick the cheaper option, pricier developments could lose their financing.

“The snag is, what will be grandfathered?” Orenstein said. “It could create a lot of confusion in the marketplace, which is not good for anybody.”

As it is, sources say, a flood of applications are now pouring into the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency that regulates visas, before any changes to the law are made.

Instead of a single-census-tract solution, many New York developers prefer a standard that factors in where workers live. The same people who work, say, in West Chelsea, at the Hudson Yards development, may live in an impoverished part of Brooklyn like East New York. So the spirit of the EB-5 law — to create jobs for people who need them — would be honored, Kalmykov said.

If some provision like that is not made, the Leahy-Grassley bill “would have a very adverse impact if implemented as drafted,” she said.

For its part, the Real Estate Board of New York, which is closely monitoring the issue, says that it supports the reauthorization of the program to protect against fraud, but “opposes changes that would disadvantage urban areas, and we are working to ensure that whatever program modifications do take place are phased in reasonably,” John Banks, the group’s president, said in a statement.

Job creation monitoring

Other changes proposed by Sens. Leahy and Grassley are less controversial in the New York real estate industry, like making the jobs requirement slightly more rigid.

Presently, the 10 required jobs can come in all shapes and sizes. In fact, a general formula usually determines how many jobs are created at certain levels of development spending, according to Gary Friedland, a New York University lecturer who has extensively researched the EB-5 program.

The Senate bill would require more. A project could create only 9 indirect jobs — for instance, in a store that opens in the retail base of a new condo building. One job would be required in which the person is employed directly by the landlord, like a security guard, or more commonly, a construction worker; in the last few years, after a provision of the law was loosened, long-term construction jobs began to be counted as direct jobs. But if the project takes less than two years to build, construction jobs are not counted.

That would seem easy to satisfy.

Take, for instance, 101 Tribeca, a 63-story, 130-unit condo tower at 101 Murray Street being built by Fisher Brothers and Witkoff Group. Its $735 million development cost is being defrayed by $175 million from EB-5 funds, according to “A Roadmap to the Use of EB-5 Capital: An Alternative Financing Tool for Commercial Real Estate Projects,” published in May by Friedland and NYU professor Jeanne Calderon.

The report says that the site must generate 3,500 EB-5 jobs, though with 4,548 overall jobs, including indirect jobs, expected to result from the project, it should easily hit its target.

In terms of job creation, a developer usually makes an effort to ensure there are about 20 percent more jobs than may be required, just in case anything goes wrong and positions are eliminated, Friedland said. Falling short could lead to investors not getting their visas.

Other major EB-5-funded projects under development include Eos, a 375-unit rental tower from the Durst Organization at 855 Avenue of the Americas, near Herald Square at West 31st Street. It raised $80 million in EB-5 funds, toward its $423 million cost, according to Friedland’s report.

There’s also the Bryant, a 33-story condo-hotel from HFZ Capital Group with 57 apartments and 230 hotel rooms at 16 West 40th Street in Midtown, with $53 million in EB-5 funds out of $253 million total, the report says. And the Charles, a condo with 28 full-floor units at 1355 First Avenue, on the Upper East Side, from Bluerock Real Estate and the Victor Group, with $$22 million out of $157 million.

But Related is by far the largest recipient of EB-5 money in the city, with $1.2 billion so far for its Hudson Yards mixed-use project on the far West Side, according to the Journal report. More broadly, Related controls one-third of the EB-5 market nationwide, The Real Deal reported in June.

Overall, more than $3.7 billion in EB-5 money has flowed to several dozen New York City projects over the past several years, a TRD analysis found.

The Leahy-Grassley bill, for all its proposed changes, has other features that New York developers embrace, like an effort to clamp down on regional centers, the for-profit bank-like intermediary organizations that bundle equity payments from overseas, then lend the money to developers at about a 5 percent interest rate, a much lower rate than on a typical development loan. The legislation creating the regional centers is what expired on Sept. 30.

Existing law required these centers pay a one-time launch fee of about $6,000; that amount would swell to $20,000 and become an annual fee under the bill, which would also subject the centers, about 60 of which are in New York City, to more oversight.

It’s not entirely clear if changes to the law would hurt the B-5 market in New York. However, if the thresholds change and investors seek projects outside of New York in order to obtain visas at a lower cost, that could have a negative impact on the regional centers here.  It is not certain that every center would survive, Friedland said.

Other proposed changes in the EB-5 law seem less controversial. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, the oversight body, would have more control over the process, which would depend less on self-reporting and more on documentation turned over to the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to the Leahy-Grassley bill. “It will prevent bad actors from operating in the system,” Kalmykov said.

 

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