Real Assets Adviser

October 1, 2021: Vol. 8, Number 9

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From the Current Issue

The metaphysics of office space: Is work-from-home an existential crisis for CBDs?

The press speaks almost daily about the empty office space in America’s central business districts and whether this is a temporary response to COVID-19 or the new normal of downtown offices. The current work-from-home (WFH) transition is suggesting the U.S. labor market might finally be experiencing a structural change.

Dispatch from Texas: Things are still getting bigger — and fast

The pandemic brought new opportunities to the Texas real estate market as businesses and individuals seeking a business-friendly environment and a relatively low cost of living relocated to the Lone Star state. North Texas, in particular, held the number one spot in population growth during the 2020 pandemic. A distinctive culture, booming economy and affordable real estate are a few of the state’s unique attributes, and cities like Dallas, Houston and Austin are feeling the impact of their allure, for better or worse.

Shopping mall performance in an era of retail evolution

With increasing competition from ecommerce, the ecology supporting the economic performance of regional malls has changed significantly. The existing infrastructure was built for a shopper and an era that no longer exists. Consequently, we expect distress to manifest in the near- to mid-term closure or repurposing of 15 percent to 25 percent of the existing 1,000 mall properties still operating within the United States.

Profile: Frank Holmes, CEO of U.S. Global Investors

Early in his professional life, Canadian-born Frank Holmes adopted two goals: One was to run his own company; the other was to move to a warmer climate. Holmes accomplished both in one fell swoop when he acquired a controlling interest in U.S. Global Investors and took command of its headquarters in San Antonio.

What is going on with the U.S. trucker shortage?

Challenges facing the logistics industry have been making headlines since the news of COVID-19 reaching the United States in early 2020. While many of these crises followed the statewide emergency lockdowns, the severity of existing challenges has also been magnified. The U.S. truck driver shortage is a prime example.

The 1% solution: Solving the global water crisis is cheaper than you think

Statistics on global water challenges are daunting: 3 billion people don’t have basic handwashing facilities. A quarter of the world’s population live in countries facing extreme water stress. There are more than 500 dead zones (areas of the ocean without enough oxygen for most marine life to survive) from untreated wastewater.

The prospects for post-COVID hotel conversions

The travel and tourism industry was all but devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially due to many local and international lockdown restrictions cropping up throughout 2020. Things were looking up for hotel operators for summer 2021, until, of course, a fourth wave of the viral infection took hold across the South and Midwest and began spreading rapidly. Hotels that were already on shaky ground are yet again facing an uncertain future, even with the American Rescue Plan poised to help.

Beware the madness of crowds: Real estate crowdfunding has offered great promise, but also cautionary tales

For better or worse, the age of the mass retail consumer and investor has burst into full blossom, under the fertile conditions of the internet and the on-lining of the multitudes. The masses can be seen on Wall Street, where “meme stocks” have a day in the sun, or in the rise of no-commission trading, or in the ubiquitous Amazon.com delivery vans careening at the beck-and-call of tablet-punching shoppers.

Agricultural prospects are looking up: The sky might be the limit for vertical farming

Whether it be in a reconfigured air-raid shelter 33 meters below the ground in south London, in a converted office building in Singapore, or in a building in Dubai — startups around the world are now growing closely-stacked racks of vegetables under LED lights, in a bid to bring consumers fresher produce with a lower carbon footprint than generally available at their supermarket.

U.S. workers have brush with mortality: A lethal virus can be bad for a nation’s mental and economic health

People have been wondering what’s going on with all the HELP WANTED signs. There are 10.9 million U.S. job openings, according to the Labor Department, the highest number since the government began tracking the data two decades ago. Some have blamed generous and extended federal unemployment benefits. But in states where those benefits have been discontinued, the employment needle has barely moved. Others blame low wages that discourage workers from returning. But even entry-level Goldman Sachs employees with starting salaries of $150,000 have rebelled against the boot-camp hours required to make the grade at the Wall Street investment bank. Still others say the rampant delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has convinced people that job-based exposure to others is still too big a risk.

An explanation of DeFi: A bitcoin and blockchain expert on the risks and rewards of decentralized finance

Fervent proponents of cryptocurrencies and the blockchain have promised a lot. To them, these technologies represent salvation from corporate power over the internet, government intrusions on liberty, poverty and virtually everything else that ails society. But, so far, the reality has mostly involved financial speculation with popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Dogecoin, which soar and plunge with alarming regularity.

U.S. apartment construction still booming

For the fifth consecutive year, apartment construction has exceeded 300,000 units. Housing developers are set to bring 334,000 new apartments to market this year, despite the economy being stymied by the COVID-19 pandemic, workforce shortages and increased costs for building materials.

5 Questions: Senior living and the need to invest in people

What’s ahead for senior housing and care? Randy Bufford has some thoughts on the topic, as he recently expressed to the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing & Care (NIC). As founder and chairman of Trilogy Health Services, Bufford is one of the thought leaders who will be attending the 2021 NIC Fall Conference in Houston, the NIC’s first in-person convening of leaders in senior housing and care since the pandemic began. Bufford identified five senior living trends to watch.

The 1031 exchange by the numbers: U.S. tax code provision having banner year

Certain assets, asset classes and investing instruments become the talk of the year. A few years ago, it was crowdfunding and cannabis. A year later people couldn’t stop talking about opportunity zones. Then interval funds were in the mouths of babes and sages. Student housing had its moment as well. When we harken back to 2021, we will likely recall the mantra “1031 exchange” — the provision of the U.S. tax code that allows people to swap of one investment property for another while deferring capital gains taxes. It one of the many tax breaks real estate investors benefit from, and perhaps even feel entitled to. That is until, of course, Section 1031 of the tax code is revised by a new presidential administration.

Why private alternatives are the future of asset allocation

Alternative investment allocations continue to rise in portfolios across the globe as both investment professionals and DIY retail investors seek to cash in on an alternatives market that has been doubled in size over the past 10 years. According to Preqin, a provider of data, analytics, and insights on alternatives, total alternative assets under management have risen from $4 trillion in 2010 to over $10 trillion in 2020 and it’s forecasted to grow to over $17 trillion by 2025.

Reimagining the office as a more adaptable and employee-friendly environment: Q&A with the co-founder and CEO of ROOM

With office space in so much pandemic-induced flux, little wonder that real estate operators and their clients are looking for new models for flexibility and adaptability. One of the players in the field is ROOM, manufacturer of a modular purpose-built spaces for the workplace. It counts among its clients the likes of Google, Hulu, J.P. Morgan, NASA, Nike, Reddit, Salesforce and Uber.

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