This blog focuses on real estate, land use and construction-related topics affecting Virginia and the Washington, D.C. metro area. With topics ranging from contract drafting and negotiation to local and regional land use project updates, the attorneys at Bean, Kinney & Korman provide timely insight and commentary on the issues affecting owners, builders, developers, contractors, subcontractors and other players in the industry. If you are interested in having us cover a specific topic, please let us know.

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GSA and WMATA Working On New Rent Cap Policy Flexibility

According to a good source, GSA and WMATA are working on a new policy to allow GSA to modify its rent caps for sites that meet certain transit oriented development criteria (i.e. sites within a certain proximity to Metro stations, etc.).  As many of our readers know, GSA caps its rents as a result of negotiations with OMB per rules created to implement the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990. OMB (through Circular A-11) created a set of rules which are used to determine whether a federal lease is an "Operating" or "Capital" Lease. To make a long story short, GSA and OMB have agreed to rent caps to make it easy to stay within "Operating Lease" guidelines. The current Operating Lease rent caps are $34/SF in Maryland, $38/SF in Virginia, and $49/SF in the District of Columbia.  With vacancies finally falling and rental rates starting to rise, the natural effect of these caps will be to push federal office space development away from mass transit locations, which yield the highest rental rates.  Currently, big chunks of space for federal agencies just aren't normally available below these price caps where there are mass transit services available.

This clearly goes against the current policies for transit oriented development being advocated by the current administration, the EPA, HUD, pretty much all of our regional localities, and our state level transportation agencies.  So enter the solution: GSA and WMATA are working together to achieve modify current guidelines to be in line with modern transit oriented development goals to allow GSA the flexibility to adjust rent caps upwards to allow large government employers to locate in areas where there is mas transit systems available to handle the commuter volumes they will create.  Apparently, GSA and WMATA are about five months away from realizing this new policy.  This has the possibility of having sweeping impacts to how and which localities and private interests can capture federal tenants/departments/agencies and the resultant collateral economic development benefits these opportunities provide.  How these new transit oriented development guidelines/policies will define which sites are eligible for upward flexibility for rent caps remains to be seen, but we'll keep on top of it and keep you posted.