2019-20 Top Ten Issues Affecting Real Estate™

The Counselors of Real Estate has identified the current and emerging issues expected to have the most significant impact on real estate in 2019 and 2020, with U.S. infrastructure being a primary concern of the 1,100-member organization.

  1. Infrastructure
  2. Housing In America
  3. Weather And Climate-Related Risks
  4. The Technology Effect
  5. End-Of-Cycle Economics
  6. Political Division
  7. Capital Market Risk
  8. Population Migration
  9. Volatility and Confidence
  10. Public & Private Indebtedness


ULI Philadelphia names Alan Razak as next District Council Chair

Alan Razak, Principal at AthenianRazak, has been selected to be the next District Council Chair. This position provides leadership strategic vision, oversight and guidance to the District Council, overseeing all leadership positions and representing the District Council in the community. Alan has more than 40 years of commercial real estate experience, encompassing development and project management, finance, architectural design, and consulting.


Camden is Still Strong

Read more about The Ruby Match Factory in this story from The Philadelphia Inquirer here.

Alan Razak at Ruby Match Factory

Achieving Pay Parity in Commercial Real Estate

CREW Network’s 2018 white paper, Achieving Pay Parity in Commercial Real Estate, presents expert insight, data, best practices and action items for company leadership, human resources, and women professionals to close the gender pay gap. The publication also explores why the pay gap exists and what’s on the horizon for equal-pay-for-equal-work legislation globally.


Top Ten Issues Affecting Real Estate™ 2018-19

CRE today shared the 2018-19 Top Ten Issues Affecting Real Estate™—the issues and trends most likely to impact commercial and residential real estate. Jacqueline Buhn is a long standing member of The Counselors of Real Estate®, the global professional association which annually creates this list. Members of The Counselors organization are recognized property experts who provide specialized, objective real estate advisory services to clients.


Current Issues Impacting Real Estate

Topping the Current Issues list is the cost of money—Interest Rates and the Economy. As interest rates rise, the commercial and residential real estate markets are experiencing decreasing demand for commercial property, and higher home mortgage rates. Rate increases also limit value appreciation for commercial real estate and make housing less affordable.


Politics and Political Uncertainty was a close second on The Counselors’ list.  Tax reform and policies enacted to change the balance of trade with other countries impacts jobs, incomes and property of all types, commercial and residential.


Other current issues include:

  • The lack of Housing Affordability across nearly every income bracket with the exception of the wealthiest households.


  • Effects of Generational Change and Demographics—for the first time in more than half a century, there are four distinct groups exerting influence on both commercial and residential real estate–aging Baby Boomers, a similar number of Millennials, and the smaller groups on either side of Millennials (Generation X, now mostly middle-aged), and Generation Y, including students and those in their early 20s.


  • E-commerce and Logistics—the growing practice of online shopping is affecting the retail sector with pressure on providing convenience, selection and fast delivery times, while impacting warehousing and infrastructure with increased demand.


Longer-Term Issues Affecting Real Estate


Infrastructure leads the list of longer-term issues—roads, bridges, airports, water and sewer lines, electricity, even public transit, all necessary to sustain and expand cities and communities—are rapidly deteriorating.  U.S. infrastructure was given a D+ rating in the American Society of Civil Engineers 2017 Infrastructure Report Card. As much as $4.5 trillion is estimated by that organization to improve critical infrastructure by 2025.


Disruptive Technology—ranked second of the longer-term issues. Examples include advanced robotic manufacturing and warehousing; driverless cars and trucks; the extensive availability and utilization of personal and transactional data (which enhances all kinds of business decisions), “smart” building technology that enables efficiency; global connectivity; automated business processes; and information protection through cybersecurity.


Other longer-term issues include:

  • Natural Disasters and Climate Change—projected to result in property and environmental damage from events such as severe storms, wildfires, floods, earthquakes, volcanic activity, and rising sea levels.


  • Immigration—if reduced by law, will have a negative impact on new housing starts and home purchases as well as worsen the current skilled labor shortage in the U.S.


  • Energy and Water—natural resources important to property and quality of life, yet threatened by not only environmental damage but also by entangling state and local regulations which complicate development; there are no national regulatory standards.


On the Watch List are four additional issues—Construction Costs, Urbanization/Suburbanization, Tax Cuts and Societal Leadership.

View the full list of issues and trends with explanations and interpretations on The Counselors of Real Estate’s website.


Alan Razak member of city Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing subcommittee, or NOAH

I’m honored to be a member of a newly formed City subcommittee to help deal with affordable housing in Philadelphia. The Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing subcommittee, or NOAH, will help inform the Affordable Rental Housing Preservation (ARHP) Working Committee’s recommendations for preserving Philadelphia’s supply of housing to be incorporated into the City’s Housing Action Plan.


A majority of America’s affordable housing operates without subsidy and is referred to as Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH). These rental properties provide housing at rates affordable to low- and moderate-income households.  Over the past decade, Philadelphia has lost 24,000 apartments with rents of $750 or less – the city needs more safe, quality and affordable housing.


In November, an inclusionary zoning bill was introduced that got the real estate industry’s attention. As Chair of Mission Advancement for the ULI Philadelphia District Council, I joined Chair Paul Commito and Executive Director Laura Slutsky in offering the city ULI’s considerable expertise on the subject of affordable housing, gathered from years of research in communities all over the country, analyzing what works and what doesn’t in various housing markets. ULI isn’t a political or advocacy organization, so we offered to provide impartial assistance by providing a forum to analyze, understand and discuss the options for achieving the important goal of maintaining affordability of housing in the Philadelphia market. One result of this invitation is ULI’s participation in NOAH, in collaboration with LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation), a national community development nonprofit.


The team will review needs for best practices research, review research findings and initial recommendations, and finally present top recommendations.


There is a subtle but profound difference between Development Management and Project Management services. A Project Manager delivers a defined project within a given budget and schedule, while a Development Manager defines the project itself, making sure it truly serves the needs of the Owner. The Development Manager defines and coordinates the efforts of the entire project team from concept through operations, keeping a continuous focus on achieving the Owner’s overall goals and adjusting sub-budgets and schedules to do this effectively. Project Management is essentially a sub-set of Development Management. There are four phases of Development Management:

Predevelopment Planning

While the Owner sets initial project goals and outlines the development strategy; a Development Manager can help ensure success for the project by surveying Owner and project stakeholders to refine goals and to better understand project issues. This process builds a working project description with clear internal alignment. Once goals are in place, the Development Manager assembles the project team, including the design and construction teams, a process in which timing and method are critical to the project’s success.

Preconstruction & Development

A Development Manager, working closely with the Owner, will help make sure that the project goals and needs as defined earlier are met when setting the overall project scope, budget and schedule. The Development Manager then coordinates team members to design the right project at the right price to be built in and at the right time. It’s at the end of this process that a Project Manager would typically come on board.


During the construction process, the Development Manager can perform the Owner’s Representative or Construction Project Manager’s role, overseeing the day-to-day work of the project team on the Owner’s behalf. They also provide oversight of the budget, schedule, quality and conformity of work, providing periodic reports to the Owner. Keeping the team engaged in the project and maintaining an atmosphere of collaboration and mutual respect is a key part; the job also includes making the hard choices.

Post-Construction Phase

Upon completion of construction, the project segues from contractor control to the Owner’s control. The Development Manager can make sure the project team is focused on the project through final completion, achieving effective turnovers and training, punch list completion, and a warranty library for the building management use. The key to success in this difficult phase is to focus attention on building operations early. A good Development Manager begins the data-gathering while the team is still intact, and implements a rigorously structured documentation submission checklist and monitoring system during the early phases of development. Having the Development Manager involved from the outset maximizes the value of the project for the Owner.

Five Myths about The Grow NJ Assistance Program




  • You cannot use the capital allocation method in a lease scenario.
  • The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA)’s Grow NJ tax credits provide incentives for businesses to bring jobs to Camden, or keep them there. If you’re leasing space, you can apply for credits either based on the number of jobs you will have in Camden for 15 years, or the total capital outlay made to provide and fit out your space.



The program ended this year with the change in administration.                                   
Grow NJ is a program of the State of New Jersey and so is not affected by federal elections. Although New Jersey will have a new governor in 2018, this is not currently expected to impact the GROW NJ credits. By current law applications for these credits may be submitted/approved up to June 2019, after which a company would have up to three years to occupy their property. It is always possible, however, that the NJ Legislature will amend this law to allow for less, or more, time for these credits.


  • The tax credits are in cash.
  • The awards aren’t cash; they’re credits against New Jersey state income taxes. 10% of the credits are awarded each year for the first 10 years of occupancy.


  • Grow NJ only works for large companies, not those who don’t have enough NJ State tax to use the credits.
  • Most companies with more than 35 employees are eligible for the tax credits. Targeted industries with as few as 10 employees are also eligible, as are nonprofits, and many companies currently located in Camden. If you don’t have sufficient New Jersey tax obligations, you can readily sell them for cash.


  • The tax credits aren’t subject to federal tax.
  • In general, the incentives are subject to federal tax. Some companies treat them as capital gains (20% tax) by delaying their sale, and some treat them as ordinary income at their company’s tax rate. Non-profits are not taxed.


For more information on Grow NJ, click here or call Cooper’s Ferry Partnership, Camden’s private non-profit economic development group, at (856) 757-9154



Regional Leadership and Catalytic Ideas from The Economy League

AthenianRazak strongly supports the regional leadership and catalytic ideas provided by Josh Sevin and the Economy League. Please read this op-ed in the Philadelphia Business Journal about Philadelphia’s civic infrastructure highlighting the Economy League’s role in driving regional collaboration. It’s co-bylined with ULI Philadelphia Executive Director Laura Slutsky and World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia President Linda Conlin.


Jackie Buhn is a member of the Economy League’s Board of Directors.


“Baa-ram-ewe!” How the movie Babe explains the value of Lean project management

In the classic 1995 film Babe, a young pig uses unusual methods of communication to herd sheep in—spoiler!—winning a sheep herding competition. This turns out to be an excellent metaphor for understanding the difference between regular project management and lean project management.


On Arthur Hoggett’s farm, Babe is a newly adopted pig seeking his purpose among the animals. The stakes are high—as the cat points out, animals on a farm without a purpose get eaten. Babe has been adopted by Fly and Rex, the farmer’s trusty border collies, and thinks he might try his luck at herding sheep. He has watched closely as Fly and Rex run through the flock of confused and panicked sheep, barking and snapping at their hooves to chase them home to the farmer’s field.


Babe tries this traditional “wolf” method of herding and fails miserably. He can’t run fast enough or bite hard enough to move the sheep. In despair, he confesses his challenge to prove useful on the farm to the sheep and ends up listening to the wisdom of the older ewes. And that’s the essence of lean project management. When the sheep connect their actions to a larger purpose—helping Babe avoid the slaughterhouse—they know exactly how to help and easily assemble themselves to return to the farm.


So many project managers think that if they run faster and bark louder their sheep will magically become organized. Instead, the opposite is true.


When Farmer Hoggett brings Babe to the county sheep trials, Babe encounters a new flock and discovers that he must connect with these sheep in order to communicate with them. In the movie, there’s a secret phrase that signals you’re an ally to all sheep:


Baa-ram-ewe! Baa-ram-ewe! To your breed, your fleece, your clan be true! Sheep be true! Baa-ram-ewe.


In reality, it’s never that easy. Lean project management requires actively earning your team members’ trust to pull wisdom from the flock. Sometimes that means building a bridge to recalcitrant subcontractors, sometimes that means giving up your own assumptions about how a project should get done. Either way, a lean approach to project management ensures the best results for the owner. It saves Babe’s bacon and ensures Farmer Hoggett always has the wool he needs to keep him warm.


Christopher Strom, Director of Project Development