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Key issues impacting relo in 2021

COLLEEN: And now with that, I'd like to hand it over to our host today, Brian Smith.

BRIAN SMITH: Thank you for that, Colleen. Good morning, good afternoon, everyone, depending on which part of the country you're calling in from. And Happy New Year to you all as well. We're so happy that you joined us today.

Again, my name is Brian Smith. I'm one of the national sales managers, part of the U.S. Bank corporate programs team. And on behalf of all of the team, many of which you work with on a day in and day out basis, we welcome you to our first webinar of 2021. For those of you that maybe have joined us in the past during 2020, probably you may have heard this in the past, but I'm just going to take a quick look back real quick just to explain how we got to where we're at today.

Prior to the lockdowns that happened last year after the first quarter, some of the travel restrictions that came about because of COVID-19, we were previously doing these forums regionally in-person. The team here at U.S. Bank quickly shifted to become a virtual platform. As we transitioned throughout the year in 2020, we brought five of these presentations to everyone. And again, we're excited to kick off 2021 with our first webinar.

For those of you who may be new to us today, where this might be your first webinar, we extend a very warm welcome to you as well. Really our goal is simple today. We're hoping what you do is you walk away from this with some very timely and relevant information on key issues that may be impacting your relocation strategies in 2021. So again, we extend you all a very warm welcome and thank you for joining us today.

It's my honor to be able to introduce the three speakers today, the three gentlemen that you see on your screens. I had mentioned just a moment ago timely and relevant information. And while I do need to have a quick shout out to our team here at U.S. Bank, the information that we're presenting today is literally timely and relevant, like hot off the presses. So very excited about that.

Without further ado, I'm just going to quickly introduce-- give you kind of a background of what the day is going to look like or the next hour is going to look like. Our first speaker is a colleague of ours here at U.S. Bank, Mr. Rob Griner. He is with the Federal Government Relations team. Rob is going to speak to us today about the results of the 2020 election and preview the incoming administration congressional priorities. So certainly looking forward to that.

From there, we will transition to Mr. Sameer Khedekar, who is the founder and managing partner of Banyan. Sameer will be providing a glimpse of what the immigration landscape may look like in 2021, both here domestically and internationally. So also looking forward to that.

And then our third speaker will be presenting a 2021 housing market update. And that would be done by Mr. Ryan Gorman, who is the president and chief executive officer of Coldwell Banker. Ryan will discuss the forecast for 2021 National Housing market and what trends to expect. So again, a very exciting lineup, and we look forward to all three of your presentations.

We're going to get things started here with, as I mentioned, Mr. Rob Griner. He is the Vice President of Federal Government Relations for U.S. Bank Corp. He's been with our company for eight years and represents the bank on financial services to Democratic policymakers. Rob has been in Washington for 25 years working on Capitol Hill as a staffer for Congressman Martin Frost out of the state of Texas, as well as serving as Chief of Staff for Congressman David Phelps out of Illinois, and Congressman David Scott from Georgia. So Rob, we'll turn it over to you. And I guess you've got a couple updates for us of things that are happening in Washington right now.

ROB GRINER: Yes, thank you. Thanks a lot, Brian. Very timely, as you mentioned earlier, time to talk today as yesterday was a very big day here in Washington. During the pandemic, I'm sure you all feel time is kind of an elusive concept these days, certainly in the past year. But here in DC, the past two months and certainly the past three weeks have been the equivalent of, I would say, three years in DC, politically speaking.

So I think a lot of us that work in this area are happy to have some finality and understand who the teams on the field are going to be and what the political lay of the land will be so that we can start focusing on the policies that Congress will be looking at. In light of that, I have a number of slides here in the front. Well, they're not-- there you go. And I'm not going to skip over the election result itself.

We all know President Biden was inaugurated yesterday with Vice President Harris. So he won. I do want to look at the congressional elections a little bit. The Senate-- it's important just to get the lay of the land. As you know, yesterday there were also three senators sworn in at the end of the day. Two of them were from Georgia, who had won the runoff elections in late December. And the third was Senator Padilla, who's replacing Vice President Biden-- I mean, Vice President Harris, excuse me, in California.

Those swearing in of those members effectively made the Democrats the majority in the Senate. It made it a 50-50 Senate, but with Vice President Harris as the tie breaking vote, the majority will be controlled by the Democrats. The reason I just point this out is just in laying of the land, it will have an impact on the policy agenda setting, who controls the committees, who controls what things are brought up before the committees.

But it is important to remember that 50-50 is a very, very, very narrow margin. And so that will impact the ability for the Biden administration and congressional leaders to make sure that whatever they want to pass will have to have bipartisan support. In the same vein, in the House, the Democrats lost a few seats. They did retain the majority, but they have a much narrower majority. I think about five seats, there are still a couple of seats that are in question, right now are being challenged.

But basically, the Democrats will have about a five seat majority, which is probably the most narrow majority a party has had in many, many, many years. And that will make it also important to understand that any part of a caucus, the Democratic caucus or the other side, could impact legislation going forward. Before I move to the federal policies, I do want to touch on our state team does a great job covering all the states that we represent.

And in the governor's race and in the State House races, there wasn't as much change as I think people expected. The Republicans still maintain control of the majority of the governorships and the State Houses. They also maintain a majority of the State Houses as well, except for Minnesota, which is the only state that has a split control. This will be impactful on redistricting going forward, but it could also have impact on the state policy issues that our state team is watching in the area of tax.

Certainly tax issues on the state side dealing with education, healthcare, data security, and privacy, and mortgage issues, which are often in states but they do reflect and start impacting the federal area as well. Because a lot of these policies and a lot of these bills kind of grow in the states and then percolate up to the federal stage. So it's very helpful to watch what's going on in those areas. And then also public sector banking, which is an issue on the federal level, I think, that we're going to see a lot of talk about in the coming Congress as well.

Turning now to the policy outlook on the federal side, generally the President Biden's priorities come down to-- there's quite a list here, but the first 12 really should be COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID. You know, that really is going to be the number one-- if you didn't get that before when he released his plan last week for $1.9 trillion in COVID relief-- you certainly got that yesterday with him talking about it.

And that will be the main focus. Economic relief for COVID, relief for the healthcare workers and states and localities on how to address the pandemic and make sure that they have the equipment and protective equipment needed to address the crisis. And then of course, the development and distribution of the vaccine, which we expect will be a lot of emphasis on that as well. Beyond that though-- I don't want to just leave it at that. Beyond that, I think there will be a look in the long-term for the Biden administration priority on infrastructure and tax reform. Those may likely go hand-in-hand when they are finally looked at.

And then more broadly, I think you'll see a more greater focus-- and this may come through just regulatory actions or just through the administration in general-- a focus on racial equality and diversity. He's already put out a number of executive orders asking his administration to make sure they incorporate that in everything they do. And certainly environmental focus across the board too. Yesterday, he signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords.

But there'll be a real focus, I think, just across the board in all industries on climate risk and how different industries are looking at climate issues. And then also immigration, which I know we're going to talk about later, will come up as well. And I'm going to mention that here in the end, but that will also be a high point of priority for the Biden administration.

More specifically to the financial services that we deal with, I think there's just going to be a stronger focus from regulators, on consumer protection, healthy skepticism, I think, a little bit more on banks and how large they get, making sure that they are not getting too stressed or too big. There'll be a focus more on the access to credit and the equality of access to credit and to products in the financial sector. And I include in the financial sector new fintechs who are not necessarily regulated banks who are entering the financial sector.

And possibly exploring, as I mentioned earlier, a public sector banking options for the unbanked, such as postal banking or Federal Reserve accounts to create competition in the banking sector. So that's something I think we'll be following, and certainly the congressional committees will be looking at going forward. Just real quick, I just will put this up here because-- you see the cabinet picks. This will be the other main focus right after COVID for the first couple of months of the administration and of Congress, will be getting these confirmations in place and getting his teams in place.

It's a tremendous amount of time. I think people forget, both on a congressional level and the administration level, of just getting through the confirmation process and getting your folks in these departments. Last night, we had the first cabinet person, the DNI director, Avril Haines, confirmed. So he has one. We expect some of the top ones to come through next week, treasury, defense, state. But there's a lot. And beyond this list, there's a lot more that have to be confirmed by the Senate. So this will take up a lot of legislative time, which is why, I think, other than this the main focus again, will be the COVID relief bill.

In the first 100 days, some of this is a recap-- obviously, COVID relief legislation has already been discussed. We hear that the president may have a meeting with congressional leaders tomorrow to begin discussing that legislation as well. Yesterday, those of you that watched the news, know that President Biden already signed a number of executive orders in four main areas.

Racial equality and discrimination, environmental policy rejoining the Paris Accords, healthcare and COVID relief, executive orders that can help cut through some of the red tape that exist now beyond the extended aid that he's fighting for in the bill, and then immigration. He signed a number of executive orders turning back Trump actions on immigration, including the construction of the border wall. And he ended the Muslim travel ban, reinforced support for DACA and dreamers.

And that's really just the beginning of, I think, the commitment on immigration he's going to have that outlined further, legislation on that as well. I think in Congress, the same thing. I think that will be the main focus. The Biden administration did put out a couple of days ago, their broader proposal on immigration that they hope the Congress will take up as soon as possible too. I think that's very interesting. It addresses more of a path to citizenship and more of the broader issues.

It deals with ending some of the restrictions per country restriction on H-1B visas and encouraging a more lenient treatment for immigrants who come to study here, and so that they can stay here and work here. And so that issue will come up. As you know, in the past, immigration reform has been very difficult. And we've said that even though it is a priority, it will take a lot of congressional time as well.

And then going forward, I think we will see once we get beyond COVID and people start moving again and start moving around again and getting back to the workplace again, I think we will start seeing some policies dealing with housing. Beyond the foreclosure and eviction relief extensions that we're seeing, I think there'll be a greater focus on housing reform, how that can impact the housing market, access to housing. And certainly, in tax reform, we'll start seeing certainly things that can impact all industries across the board and individuals, such as childcare tax credits and the like.

But again, the immediate-- first of all, it's day two. So first of all, it's day two. So that's my take. We've got a long way to go, but the crisis will be the first order of business here in Washington for all parties.

BRIAN SMITH: Wow. Yeah. So Rob, thank you, first of all, so much for all that information. I was laughing when you're saying all of this in what? 25 hours? I would imagine you've logged a little bit of overtime in the last 24 hours just to get us to information, and we really appreciate that.

ROB GRINER: Great. Happy to. Happy to be here.

BRIAN SMITH: Great. And you had touched on as well, which is a great transition here, on a lot of the new immigration pieces that came out of some of the announcements yesterday. With that, Colleen had mentioned at the beginning of our call here that we're going to have the opportunity again, to be a little interactive.

So before I introduce Sameer, our next speaker, I think Colleen-- yep, there it is. She's going to put up a couple of poll questions here for us. They should be appearing on the right side of your screen. The first question, about how many employees do you have on work visas in the U.S.? And the corresponding answers, A to D on that.

As well as second questionnaire, have recent immigration restrictions hampered your new assignments? And if you can select all that apply there. So we'll give everybody a minute to kind of mull that over, give us the answers to the questions.

And in the meantime, I will introduce our next speaker who is here to talk to us about immigration. And that is Mr. Sameer Khedekar, who is the founder and managing partner of Banyan, which is a global immigration firm guiding employers on global immigration policies and best practices. He brings with us over 17 years of experience managing immigration, service delivery for Fortune 500 companies, midsize employers, startups, and entrepreneurs.

So just like I introduced Rob, Sameer, I'm going to guess you've got a lot of very relevant and timely information from the past 25 hours just like Rob did, to share with us today. But before we get started, Colleen, did-- the polling, has that closed yet? Let's get a quick peek on that.

Well, I won't delay. OK, there it is. OK. So it looks like my first question was on how many employees do you have on work visas. It looks like the majority of those answers came out about 0 to 50. And certainly, the second question here about restrictions hampering your assignments. Clearly, there are 76% answered into the U.S., with about a 50-50 split. On outbound U.S. and among other countries.

So thank you very much for taking the time to answer those questions. And Sameer, hopefully that guides you a little bit in your presentation here. And we'll turn it over to you.

SAMEER KHEDEKAR: Thanks, Brian. Thank you so much. And thank you everyone. So happy to be with all of you here on this 21st day of this 21st year of this 21st century. I think I've got that right. So those of us in the immigration world are super excited to talk about or just even think about what the next few years have in store for us. I'm no exception.

But I think it's really important to understand the changes that we'll talk about that we foresee happening, putting them in the context of like what happened over the last four years. And so I'm trying to advance this slide here. And it's been, as we all know, a tumultuous four years.

Immigration is largely guided by changes in policies and procedures within the executive branch. So as such, it's strongly determined by who's holding office and who's in power in the White House at a given time. The last four years-- I don't know if you believe this, but we saw more than 400 immigration policy changes. Looking back, we can kind of understand that now. We can understand why we felt so frenetic, why things constantly seemed to change on us, right?

These policy changes encompassed the employment-based immigration process, family-based, and largely the asylee and refugee in immigration processes. So it was across the board. It was-- you know, each policy might have been on the margins, making slight changes. But as a whole, it really threw immigration into a state of chaos for all of us.

As we all know those of us who have work visa holders, and we have quite a bit here, we all know that things got considerably harder. And that was the theme of almost every policy change was-- short of a legislative change, what can be done to make immigration harder and less appealing for foreign nationals to come to the U.S. And so that being a theme, we saw-- and if that was your goal, you can say that it was a great success, right?

We saw almost a three-fold increase in work visa denials over the past four years. We saw almost 300,000 fewer work visas approved. And that could have been a combination of the fact that many were denied, many might have been encouraged not to apply. We've seen dramatic increases in immigration to countries like Canada and Australia. So it could be a situation where we're losing extraordinary talent to other countries based on, maybe a reluctance or just discouragement, was the emotion that most people felt about the ability to come to the U.S. successfully.

Now as a result, we also saw a huge increase in the number of lawsuits filed to challenge either immigration rules or policy changes that were created, or just to challenge decisions made on specific cases. Now to be fair, a lot of these lawsuits, or at least some of these lawsuits, were started in the Obama era of immigration policy changes.

But they-- and I don't know if there's an actual count on this, but I know for a fact that the rate and the number of lawsuits dramatically increased over the last four years. Our firm has been party to several of those ourselves. And essentially, the theme has been whether you're making a rule, like let's say the H-1B wage rule, for example. The challenge has been, it wasn't done the right way. It was done too quickly. It did not solicit the notice and comment period that most rule changes require, or they've violated the statute, the Immigration Nationality Act.

And that was the argument-- or it violated the Administrative Procedures Act. And that was the argument that most individual lawsuits-- well, the decisions are being made at the case-by-case level were so arbitrary and capricious, did not have any kind of real rational justification to them that people ended up suing them in federal court. And for the most part, they were winning. So that says a lot about just how quickly and tumultuous the changes were.

But enough of that. Well, let's talk about what we see going forward or actually in the present. And I think Brian mentioned that everything's so timely, things are happening so quickly. And case in point for this, Brian. Between the time that I sent you and Colleen the slides yesterday afternoon after Biden signed his executive orders, there's already been a change. But these slides don't reflect that I need to kind of talk to everybody about here.

And I'll get to that in a second, because I do want to mention one aspect of what the Trump administration did that was a little bulletproof, two lawsuits. And that was the visa stamping ban, right? That was essentially implemented as the COVID pandemic hit last year in the March, April time frame. And then it was extended to H-1B visas and other visas that our employees use. And that was extended at the 11th hour by Trump through the end of March.

And we have found that the executive branch does hold a considerable amount of power and discretion with the rules that it makes, as it pertains to those who have not yet come into the U.S. so those that are applying for visas. And that's why any lawsuits challenged in the visa stamping ban were not successful, right? But that being said, the rest of them-- or most of the other ones were.

And going back to the changes that happened within the last 24 hours or so, were these last minute changes by the administration, by the Department of Labor, to once again, try to increase the minimum salaries that H-1B holders can be paid. And also, for those companies that place their employees on client sites, consulting companies, staffing companies. The Department of Labor came out with a rule that said we are going to make those clients also file H-1B.

So not only is the consulting company going to file an H-1B, but the end-client also has to file an H-1B for the portion of the work that the consulting company's employee is going to perform at that client site. And that was going to cause all sorts of complications. And we in the immigration law world knew that it probably wasn't going to stand up to a challenge.

But in fact, what happened was due to instructions from President Biden, that rule has been canceled. So that's what happened. That's not going to happen anymore. It was withdrawn, canceled, were done. Now the one rule that's still out there was this rule to change the H-1B lottery. As you all know, or most of you probably know, there's a quota for H-1Bs. So 65,000 Bachelor's degree holders, and an additional 20,000 US master's degree holders for first time H-1Bs every year.

The way that historically has worked is that it's first come, first serve. If more than that number of H-1B applications have been submitted, the government holds a lottery. They gather all the applications over a five day period, they hold a random lottery, and then take the numbers to meet the quota. The proposal here was for the government to basically scrap that entire process, do away with the lottery, and choose H-1Bs based on who has the highest salary.

So once again, we thought that's not necessarily going to stand up to a legal challenge because that's not consistent with the idea of a random allocation that was promulgated in the Immigration Nationality Act. However, we didn't have a lot of time, right? This rule was introduced in January, the lottery is in March.

What's going to happen? Biden basically has put a hold on this rule for 60 days to evaluate its legality and whether or not it's consistent with the executive branch's directive to implement the immigration rules. So 60 days, that's going to take us towards the end of the lottery process. I think that's effectively stopped that from happening this year.

So I don't think we here in the H-1B world need to worry about that change to the H-1B lottery this year. And then by the time we get around to it next year, I'm almost certain we'll see that rule withdrawn, canceled, and maybe something different put in its place that's more consistent with the philosophy of the Biden administration.

So that's what we're still dealing with. But, yes. It was a flurry. As Rob so bravely mentioned, the executive order. [INAUDIBLE] mentioned the executive orders that were signed by President Biden day one, like Rob said. The travel ban from those who are coming from Muslim majority countries has been reversed.

Extra reinforcements have been placed to help the dreamers-- those are the DACA recipients-- to ensure that they're able to extend their work permits, get travel documents. The travel documents are huge. Because if they're able to travel and come back in, and they're married, and they're otherwise eligible for a green card, they can actually get a green card.

So it's huge for dreamers to have this executive order in place. As Rob mentioned, the order ended the national emergency that was declared by the Trump administration on the border. That was a source of funding for the border wall, but that's over now.

And the other thing that it did was it allowed the inclusion of the undocumented population as part of the 2020 Census. And I'm sure we can talk about what that means from a political perspective. So the executive orders are the things the president can do without going to Congress.

But the far bigger changes that we're going to see, and we'll hopefully see, and that we're pretty optimistic about are there's the legislation of the bill that was already sent to Congress. So this was already, obviously, prepared in the last couple months by the administration, and sent to the House, and sent to the Senate. This is the US Citizenship Act. That's what it's called.

And it's being introduced to the House by Representative Linda Sánchez of California and to the Senate by Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey. So they've already started. The wheels are already in motion for negotiation on this bill, which is the first comprehensive immigration bill that we've seen introduced to Congress in the last 15 years or so. So that's pretty amazing. And it's pretty extraordinary.

And we're very excited for at least most of the propositions here. Because the theme of this bill is that it modernizes immigration. The last time there were changes to immigration rules, it was pre-internet, so that was '96. Right? And so it clearly didn't reflect how business is done, how the economy works. And that by itself made immigration very, very difficult.

So the idea that there's a recognition of that dynamic in the spirit of this legislation is very encouraging. The other encouraging thing about this bill, at least from a big picture perspective, is that it takes the kind of philosophy that immigration is not a zero-sum game. You don't let one person in and that person takes the job of a US worker. That's not how it works, right?

Study after study has shown that immigration and the job creation from the immigration perspective is a dynamic process. You can let one person in who's extremely talented. They can start a company and create jobs for thousands of people. Right? And so that idea that immigration is a dynamic contributor to our economy underpins a lot of the aspects of this bill. So that's very encouraging.

What does this bill say? So Rob mentioned it does provide a path to citizenship for the undocumented population. Really quickly, the way that works is for five years, and they get temporary status. If they're able to pass security checks, pay fees, and do other things, they can get permanent residency. And then a period of time after that, citizenship.

For us in the employment-based field, an area, it would dramatically clear the backlogs in different ways that I won't get into right now in the employment-based green card process. Many of us know that we have people-- employees that have been waiting 10, 15 years for green cards.

And that doesn't mean they're near the end of the line. These lines have been calculated to be over 70 or 80 years long. So something has to change, right? That's not tenable anymore. So it's really encouraging that they're thinking about clearing the backlogs, both on the employment and family-based side.

The thing that I am really, really excited about is this proposal to eliminate the 3 and 10-year bar. If you are unlawfully present here in the US for six months, once you leave, you can't come back for three years. If, for more than a year, once you leave, you can't come back for 10 years.

So that proposal was implemented into our system back in '96. And what it did was before '96, we had huge populations of Mexicans, Central Americans, and South Americans would travel into the US, perform seasonal jobs, and then go back to their countries. Right? Once the bar was created, they didn't want to leave. Because they weren't going be able to come back. So that's what created this tremendous illegal immigration problem here in the US.

And so once again, a recognition of how our economy works, how there can be seasonal employment, and reducing the specter of this bar, which causes not just the situation with illegal immigration, but a great deal of stress for everybody in the immigration process who's worried about, what if I make a small misstep? Had something go on in my life. Suddenly, I can't come back for 10 years if something goes wrong. This idea of getting rid of that and looking at cases on a case-by-case basis makes a lot of sense. And we're very excited about that.

And then the other thing it'll do is it'll make work-based green cards a lot easier, especially for those in STEM fields. And if you have a PhD from a US university, you're almost automatically going to get a green card. So that's very encouraging.

The provision also-- the EAD is the acronym for Employment Authorization Document, so basically work permits for spouses of H-1B visa holders. That's been under attack for many years now. So the ability to just legislate that is very encouraging for those who have been waiting here for years for green cards, guaranteeing that their children will age out of immigration benefits and never have to leave the country or change to some other visa application status.

They're actually suggesting a pilot program for a regional development. So basically, states or localities, municipalities can petition the federal government for more visas, based on their specific needs and their economic conditions. So that's pretty interesting. We'll see how that goes.

And then they're reserving the right to adjust the green card quota, based on stepping back and looking at the macroeconomic positions of the entire country. There are tons of asylum refugee reforms that I won't get into here, but I'm happy to talk to you about offline if you'd like.

And I'm very happy about the fact that they're going to stop calling immigrants aliens, which is a term used in the Immigration and Nationality Act. And they're just going to start calling them non-citizens, which I think is much more humane and commonsensical way to describe people.

And so this is basically what we have here to look at in terms of legislation that's been submitted already. Once again, very encouraging, at least to see this in Congress. However, we should tap the brakes a little bit to actually-- in terms of whether or not we're going to see real change.

As Rob mentioned, we'll need 60 senators to agree to this. And there's going to have to be some bipartisan agreement on many of the factors here and many of the items in this bill. But at least it's encouraging to see, how there's a recognition of what we in the immigration world have known for a long time. But there needs to be a real change, real modernization, and real recognition of how our economy works.

Well, Samir, thank you so much for that. Obviously, there is so much to cover, a very relevant topic. As you're going through that several time, you could have almost included a breaking news headline, because literally changing on the fly. So we appreciate your history here, all that you've given to us, where we were, where we're going, and how we got there, your experience-- so much to me. I appreciate that very much.

My pleasure. Thank you.

You bet. You bet. OK, so as we transition here, trying to keep us on time here, I do want to-- because I did want to say to Samir, your topic there probably garnered a lot of questions, I would imagine. So hopefully, you're utilizing the Q&A forum. We do have one more speaker that we're going to get to. And then from there, Colleen will pick up and host the Q&A session for all of our speakers.

So with that, as we transition to our third speaker who will be going over the 2021 housing market update, we do have another polling question for everybody. Colleen is going to throw that up there. And it's with the current work-from-home environment, are you seeing a shift in employees wanting to move out of cities to more suburban or rural areas? Fascinating question there, so looking forward to your answers.

And with that, I'm going to introduce Mr. Ryan Gorman, who is the president and chief executive officer of Coldwell Banker Real Estate, LLC. In this capacity, he is responsible for the day-to-day franchise and brokerage operations supporting approximately 92,000 agents and 3,000 offices in 44 countries.

Ryan also serves as the president and CEO of NRT, including the NRT-owned brokerage offices doing business as Coldwell Banker Realty. So, Ryan, we're very, very excited to have you. Give us-- as you look what happened in 2020, I will speak for myself. Who would have thought when you go through a global pandemic that certain markets or just nationally throughout the country had such a big impact, an upward impact in housing prices. So hopefully, you'll be able to speak to that--

Sure.

--just a little bit as you transition to 2021 updates. And then real quick here, just to give you some background here, it looks like 64% of our respondents said, yes, that you're seeing a shift in employees move out of cities to more suburban areas. So I'll turn it over to you, Ryan. Take it from here. Thanks so much.

Awesome. Thank you, Brian. And both Samir's and Rob's presentations were so interesting and so on point. Speaking of on the fly, I just changed what I was going to speak about entirely. Because they spoke so much about the political environment. I figure I will start with that and give you a little bit of our perspective.

So the good news is while there's a lot going on in politics, obviously, and the political environment is highly uncertain as was most recently shared, both major parties in the US are pro-housing. And they even define what it means to say pro-housing similarly sometimes.

So we're a lot better off than we are in many other sectors. Because really, truly, we've got both parties that are pro-housing. Now, the party that just came into power and especially the Biden/Harris administration seems to be more results oriented in their policy focus.

So, for instance, the have some explicit renter and owner goals that they're going after as opposed to more of a policy focus. It's more of a results focus. That'll have some implications here. One of them that I'm personally excited about is they're leaning into policy technical assistance. So unlike immigration, for instance, my town here in Morristown, New Jersey doesn't have any responsibility for deciding who comes in to Morristown.

But they have a ton of latitude on making decisions impacting land use. And those land use decisions impact what can be built where, which impacts affordability, and commute times, and where companies can headquarter, and where you're looking for talent, and all of that. So policy technical assistance funding will help many of those towns and cities to be able to modernize their code, which is very antiquated in many cases, to be able to achieve the outcomes they want.

For instance, for affordability and new construction. The new administration also has a big focus on fair housing outcomes, again a results orientation there. And they have an explicit focus on expanding the definitions of fair housing to include LGBTQ+ protection. So that's pretty explicit, some of which already found it's way to executive orders yesterday.

Some of the big news that gets a lot of headlines is this advanceable tax credit. That's been floated for first-time homebuyers-- $15,000 tax credit. Now, obviously, that's not something that can be done with executive order. You're going to need collaboration with Congress, which Rob could tell us a lot more about than I could.

But it does give you an indication. The advanceable nature of that credit means that buyers would be able to use it now. That actually would unlock some opportunity for a lot of buyers. So we'll see what comes of that. But it gives you an idea of the focus the administration has on the purchase side of that transaction.

There's also a lot of talk about fully funding Section 8. Hearing Samir's talk about the immigration lines and how they're calculated to be 80 or 90 years long, I can tell you the Section 8 lines-- there's been a misnomer there. And the people think if you qualify, you basically get Section 8. Those waits can be over a decade. In some cases, people applying for Section 8 housing for children no longer have children by the time they actually qualify for housing.

So the administration wants to contemplate fully funding that. That would be extremely expensive, but also extremely impactful. We'll see what happens there. There's a renter tax credit to bring renters back on par with homeowners. There's a little bit of a subsidy on the homeownership side that the administration wants to explore doing something about and looking to keep housing costs at about 30% or below the overall cost for households.

There's a lot of talk about affordable housing-- $100 billion affordable housing fund. For those of you who take advantage, your companies may take advantage of, for instance, low-income housing credits and new markets tax credits, especially, to be able to bring down your tax bill a little bit and support some of those efforts. Those programs look like they're going to get more attention in the new administration.

And then, finally, a Housing First approach to homelessness. So you may have read about this in some locales. Utah has done some amazing work in this. But essentially, for instance, individuals facing some mental illness, or physical illness, or even those who are recently in the prison system, being able to move to housing first and solving other problems after that.

It's turned out in some very conservative locales to be the lowest cost approach to solve some social ills. So the administration is exploring that. Now, that's on the political side. On the demand side, to Brian's point, no one would have really predicted exactly what we're seeing here.

We did, however, go long and say that we within Coldwell Baker believed people were going to continue to live indoors, even in the pandemic. So we were ahead of the curve on that. Volume today is being driven really by units, more so than price, which to me is a very good indication of health. Inventory-- available homes for sale-- is extraordinarily low, breaking all records and yet volume is high.

So what's happening is the velocity of these homes coming on the market being sold is increasing so much that historically low inventory would be a real constraint. And it is. It's not constraining the ultimate transaction right now, nearly as much as many had thought it would.

So it's a very good sign that we're finding a new path and breaking some old metrics and heuristics that have been around for decades to be able to get people into homes. Low-interest rates-- hugely beneficial, but not the biggest driver here. So obviously, we all love record low-interest rates when you're a buyer getting a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. Maybe some in the banking sector might not love them quite as much, but it is not driving the activity that some see.

I hear this all the time. And it's just crazy. People do not move three states over because they got a great rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. That's not what happens, but it can facilitate opportunity. Today, families are making family decisions in housing. So whether it's moving slowly out from the city, being willing to tolerate a longer commute if you're only going into the office a few days a week or anticipating some flexible balance there, people are moving toward affordability.

Families want more space inside and out. The outdoor space is the newer dynamic in the pandemic, but inside and out. Needing more space to work from home is changing a family's needs. The reason why this is so encouraging is because these are fundamental drivers that are driving the housing market. It's why I think we're seeing a really strong market today and why I think we're going to see a really strong market for a while. This is not a fun, slow dynamic. This is really a fundamental family need move.

And as you could all tell me probably better than I know, that flexible work arrangement-- as companies lean more into that-- we certainly have as a company, others have-- it doesn't mean people are going to work from their basements forever. It does mean they may need to come into the office a little bit less frequently.

Again, that increases the radius that someone can look for a home. And we're seeing that in real time, people moving maybe another 20 minutes out on the train. Because they're only going three days, massively impacts their level of affordability. So home prices are up and yet, affordability for individual families looking is not as negatively impacted as the macro numbers would tell you. Because those families are willing and able to move a little bit farther out and accelerate some other life plans.

So for individual family affordability, it's up, except for-- and this is a big except. Those in the service economy have been so negatively impacted by unemployment, so restaurant space, lodging, travel space-- those folks are less likely to be homeowners to begin with and are very negatively impacted, which is why we're seeing multi-housing trends differ from the homeownership trend, so homeownership remaining strong.

As I think Rob highlighted, some of the Biden administration's focus on historically underrepresented populations and minority groups is going to be impactful here. Because for instance, black homeowners have a lower homeownership rate today than almost any other group. In fact, so low that it's approximately in line with the homeownership levels from before the 30-year fixed rate mortgage even came into existence and was supported by the federal government.

And black renters are facing about twice the likelihood of occurring debt right now on the rent side in this eviction abatement period, so significant social opportunities there for some change to be made. But that's why you're seeing homeownership strong, even though you're seeing unemployment rates concerningly high in some areas.

So we think this is an area of potential congressional action in the future. There's already seen some most recently in rental assistance as well as eviction protection. So that's the rough scoop. There's a lot going on. And I will just say more than ever, people do need a trusted advisor, whether that's a real estate agent.

And of course, if you need one, I have one. Or that's a loan officer getting you a mortgage or someone guiding you through the immigration path. I would say there has never been a greater opportunity for those who are in the professional services space to really differentiate themselves to be able to calm some fears and help people navigate uncertain waters. Hope that helps.

All right. That's great, Ryan. Really appreciate all of the information that's been shared here today. And we're going to move into our Q&A portion here. We've had some questions submitted and a few questions that we even submitted in advance on the registration form. But if you have a question, feel free to type it into that Q&A panel.

We'll go ahead and get started here with a question for-- I guess it could both be Samir and Rob. I'm asking you to get your crystal balls out and asking you how likely it is that you feel the immigration bill will be passed in its current state. Or do you anticipate that it might go through some changes before it's enacted? Rob, I think you're on mute.

Sorry about that. Sure would. Yeah. I think as I mentioned, I mean, Samir really gave the visual about how long ago it's been since we've had any immigration changes. But I think the last shot we had was early in the Obama administration.

And it was very tough. And there were a number of Republicans, some of whom are still in the Senate that supported immigration. But it's going to be very tough. You're going to need 60 votes. And the Democrats have 50. So you have to have 60-- 10 more Republicans.

And I would have to go through, honestly, and look at who's there, how it was supported in the past. But there are senators who perhaps supported it in the past who-- I'm not sure that they would endorse everything in this legislation, so senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio who actually were leaders on the immigration reform in the past that may have a different view of this bill in particular. So I definitely think it would not be exactly this, though. And it's an uphill battle, I think, to get the 60 votes.

Yeah, I totally agree with Rob. I think maybe one of-- possibly positive indicator would be the passage of the per-country limitation bill, both in the Senate and the House. That received bipartisan support. That would have done away with the quotas being allocated per country, clearing the backlog.

So there is some Republican acknowledgment of some of the needs, at least of the business immigration community. So that might possibly help. I think there are going to be provisions negotiated into the bill by the Republican side that are going to be very unsavory for the Democratic side. And there's going to be lots of negotiation to be had.

But I'm pretty hopeful. I feel like comprehensive immigration reform-- there have been a couple of, quote unquote, "amnesties" that have occurred about 20 years apart from each other. And we're overdue for one. So just from that perspective, I think it's possible that something could happen, but maybe that's just me with my rose-colored glasses on.

That's great. Thank you. Question for Ryan. I know you touched briefly on the amount of housing available currently. Wondering if there are any trends that you're seeing or anticipating regionally like West Coast versus East Coast, more central parts of this country. Just curious if you're seeing any regional or anticipating any regional trends

Sure. There's pretty massive variation in two different ways. One is dense, vertical housing elevator served in the cities versus not. Right? So it's a micro-trend, thinking New York City, San Francisco, downtown LA where you've seen some folks have a decreased comfort level with that.

In most cases, what we're seeing is just acceleration of life plan. They were going to move in three years. They decided, why not just move now? Especially with some of the favorable dynamics they have with being able to work from home and low-interest rates. So that's one.

On the larger regional side, you've got state-level issues. Some of them are driven by weather. So for instance, individuals who wanted to retire to a more favorable weather climate are deciding, you know what? I can actually work remotely and even commute in today. So why don't I go ahead and move today as opposed to three years from now when I was going to retire? So it's a little bit of acceleration of some moves that were already going to happen.

The bigger driver, though, is also an acceleration of a long-term trend, which is more tax flight, so think California, Illinois, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York. To a lesser extent, Massachusetts, certainly. There's a lot of folks who are deciding that they're going to make a tax beneficial move to, for instance, a Florida, a Texas, Nevada.

And that's impacting some of those larger trends. Now, that's been going on for a very long time. And the demise of California has been predicted for-- I don't know. I lived there 20 years ago. And back then, people thought the trends were going to show themselves.

The appeal of some of those high-tax markets remains high. But some of those that haven't restructured quickly enough at that state legislative level-- you're going to see, I think, a continued move of some of the higher net worth individuals and some of those business owners making some of those moves sooner rather than later, given some of the ability to be able to work remotely. So I think that's actually more of a political move than anything else right now. And it's a long-term trend.

Now, that's great. And it actually leads quite well into the next question, which may be for Rob. I know you mentioned briefly-- I think it was on one of your slides about possible tax changes. And we recently, last fall, had a session here where we talked about working from home.

And we had a tax expert speak to some of the challenges that people are facing, relocating to other states, while still working for an employer in another state. Do you anticipate any tax changes that may make any of those issues go away or be easier to handle as far as people working from home in other states? Not sure if you might have any insight into that.

Yeah. I don't have any specifics of that. But I think there is going to be a push for tax reform, no doubt, down the road. And I think it's inevitable that the change in how we work and how we live is-- and what people need is going to impact the Biden administration's priorities and what they put in the tax bill or request.

For example, even in the relief bill, we've seen a real push by the Biden administration include a extension of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Care Tax Credit. And that's all a direct result of-- it's been a long time coming, meaning the Child Care Tax Credit. There's been a lot of push on that before, but even magnified during the pandemic when a lot of workers were at home.

And people had to choose sometimes between child care or their jobs. Because with the pandemic, they couldn't do both. And so I think you're going to see those needs and changes in behavior that are going to be reflected in probably tax priorities when the bill comes up later in the year.

Now, that's helpful. Thank you. And, Samir, I have one more question here. We'll send this one over to you. I'm just wondering know if we should expect an immediate change in how USCIS makes decisions on cases, based on all of the information you've shared today.

I don't think so. I think some of these changes in their approach-- if you can ever imagine a consistent shift in how adjudicators view cases, these are instructed by their leadership. Right? And so that takes some time to formulate and filter down to the rank and file officers.

So I wouldn't see any immediate changes in the way that adjudicators are processing cases, at least in the short term. But maybe give it six months, a year. And maybe we can see some natural, tangible manifestations of a shift in policy and approaches.

Now, that's helpful and I think makes a lot of sense. So those are all the questions we have, Brian.

Great. Thanks so much, Colleen. Appreciate that and appreciate the questions that came in. Well, gentlemen, again, I wanted to thank you all for your time and your expertise today to share with our group some of the things that are going on, whether it be from the political landscape, immigration, what's going on in housing. We really appreciate you being with us today and taking your time.

For those participants that are on the phone, we also appreciate you making the time today. And as I led with, our goal here was to make sure that we are providing some of that timely information as you look through 2021 and you're looking at some of the strategies that are going on in your organizations, where our hope today is that some of this information you learned today will help formulate some of that.

Before we sign off here, what we historically will do is within a couple of weeks, we will have a copy of this webinar, not only a recording of it, but a summary recap that will come out from your U.S. Bank representative. So watch for that in a couple weeks. And I will, again, just conclude. Thanks, everyone, for your time today. We really appreciate you being here with us.

Thank you, everybody, for joining us today. This concludes our session. And we hope you all had a great day. You may now disconnect. 

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Webinar – Key issues impacting relo in 2021


The U.S. Bank Corporate Programs team continued its virtual advisory forums with a panelist session on January 21, 2021. The session covered the key issues that may impact your relocation strategy in 2021, including policies of the new Biden administration, the current and future immigration landscape, and a U.S. housing market outlook. We also offered recommendations for you can prepare your mobility program for the anticipated changes.

The session featured the following expert panel of presenters:
 

  • Rob Griner,
    Vice President, Federal Government Relations, U.S. Bancorp
  • Sameer Khedekar
    Founder and Managing Partner, Banyan
  • M. Ryan Gorman
    President and Chief Executive Officer, Coldwell Banker

Read a full summary of the session

 

 

U.S. Bank is not affiliated with the organizations mentioned in this publication unless otherwise noted.

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