NEW YORK, March 14 (Reuters) – A group advising U.S. President Donald Trump on infrastructure has proposed an arbitration-style pilot program to slash the current 10 years it often takes to break ground on projects, without short-changing environmental standards.
The group, led by billionaire New York real estate developers Richard LeFrak and Steve Roth, made the suggestion to Trump and others in the White House last week, LeFrak told Reuters on Monday.
Builders, unions and others often rue a permitting process that can last a decade or more – a potential snag in Trump’s plan to launch a 10-year, $1 trillion infrastructure building program to create jobs and bolster the world’s biggest economy.
LeFrak said the advisory council is looking at a pilot program comparable to the arbitration process used in bankruptcy court to speed up proposals, reduce red tape and halt litigation that can tie up infrastructure projects in court for years.
“Somebody in authority would make the decisions, all the mitigation that should be coming out of it, whether its environmental mitigation, other mitigation, gets decided at that moment and that’s it,” he said. “It’s just a proposal. We’re asking them to try it.”
The council is not empowered to pick projects or make decisions about how to streamline the project permitting process for projects, he said. Any pilot program would be up to state and federal officials and Congress, he said.
LeFrak added that the proposal would not allow projects for bridges, roads or airports to side-step regulations, such as environmental rules. The idea would be to hammer out differences and objections faster in an arbitration-like setting so that projects could get underway in less time.
Australia, Canada and Germany typically take two years to approve infrastructure projects compared with 10 years in the United States, he said.
A shortened review process could leave projects open to worries from environmentalists and others that an expedited permitting system could short-change environmental protections.
Environmental groups are skeptical of Trump’s promise to overhaul government regulations without jeopardizing America’s water and air quality. When Trump unveils his budget on Thursday, he is expected to slash the budget of the Environmental Protection Agency by 25 percent.
The Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy and other environmental groups as well as the office of House of Representatives Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi were not available for comment.
GAS TAX HIKE
Permitting and other regulatory hurdles can delay projects for years, a potential liability for a program that seeks to put money – and people – to work immediately.
“There’s got to be some way without abrogating anybody’s rights to get all this on the table much more quickly,” said LeFrak, who is chairman and chief executive of the LeFrak Organization, a leading developer and property owner in the New York metro area and South Florida.
LeFrak pointed to the replacement within 14 months of a bridge that collapsed in Minneapolis in 2007 killing 13 people as an example of how projects can get done without compromising standards.
LeFrak also said the committee wants to use private funds to soak up cost overruns and keep projects maintained after completion.
He suggested, as well, one possible solution to the key question of how to pay for Trump’s infrastructure program: a higher federal gas tax.
If not, funding will have to come from general tax revenue, he said. Local and state government pay for about 70 percent of infrastructure projects in the United States, with the remainder funded by the federal government.
The American Society of Civil Engineers last week recommended an 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gasoline be raised at least to 25 cents per gallon to fill a funding deficit for infrastructure it said was $2 trillion.
“I’m saying somebody’s going to have pay for it. It doesn’t come for free,” LeFrak said. “I wish I was powerful enough to impose a gas tax, but I’m not.”
Source: Times Of India
Under Construction Flat Booking Finds Tax Deduction Under Time Constraints
If a buyer makes a transaction to book an under-construction flat and if he acquires it within the three-year period of the sale of his old house, then he is entitled to a tax deduction, says a ruling from the Mumbai bench of the Income-tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT). If an apartment is booked in an under construction project than it must be viewed as a method of constructing residential tenements, says the December 18 judgment.
That means if the buyer uses the entire gain from the transaction to buy another house within two years or construct another house within three years. The two- and three-year period applies even if the buyer bought another house a year before selling the first one. But the property should have been bought in the name of the seller.
It is mandatory that within a period of two years after or one year before the date of transfer of old house, the taxpayer should construct a residential house or acquire another residential house within a period of three years from the date of transfer of the old house. The date of receipt of compensation will determine the period of acquisition or construction in a case of compulsory acquisition.
This exemption is effective and can only be claimed in respect of one residential house property purchased/constructed in India. In the case of multiple house purchases or constructions, the exemption under section 54 will be available in respect of one house only. Any purchases made outside the country does not fall under any kind of exemption. Section 54 gives relaxation in such cases by providing relief to the taxpayer who sells his residential house and acquires another residential house from the gained capital.
After the sale of an asset, the difference between the buying price and the selling price is a capital gain or a capital loss. These are further classified as long-term or short-term. If a property is held for 24 months or less, with effective from 2017-18, then that asset is treated as Short Term Capital Asset. Then an investor can make
treated as Long Term Capital Asset. Then only a Long Term Capital Gain (LTCG) or Long Term Capital Loss (LTCL) can be made on that investment.
ITAT agreed that booking of a new flat in an under-construction apartment should be considered as a case of “construction” and not “purchase”, hence following the earlier decisions of the Bombay high court and the tribunal itself. Further ITAT allowed the fact that the construction can began prior to the date of sale of the old asset. Same was stated in the earlier judicial decisions of the Karnataka high court and Ahmedabad ITAT, that the date of commencement is not relevant but it is the completion of construction that comes in relevance to section 54.
HDFC and Quikr Make A Deal
According to a deal between HDFC and Quikr, a stake of more than 3 percent will be given to the mortgage giant in return to its transfer of offline and online real estate brokerage business to the classified ads platform.
After acquiring Commonfloor in 2016 Quikr already has a major presence in online real estate broking.
“Most of the searches for real estate are moving online. Quikr has a much bigger presence online. Through this deal, we are partnering Quikr in the broking business,” said HDFC MD Renu Sud Karnad. According to her, this deal will strengthen Quirks position with offline support.
The deal suggests that HDFC will transfer to Quikr its entire shareholding in HDFC Realty, a real estate brokerage platform, and HDFC Developers, which runs the HDFC RED online platform.
Karnad added that the deal expects Quikr to generate home loan leads for HDFC. The transaction consists of a co-branded alliance between both parties and the HDFC brand will continue to be used online for a year.
The e-real estate classifieds platform HDFC RED has around 7,000 project listings and generates traffic of over 80,000 unique visitors per month. HDFC Realty has a 300-member, in-house sales team, and 7,000-strong nationwide broker network. Avendus Capital was the exclusive financial adviser to Quikr while Kotak Investment Banking acted as the exclusive financial adviser to HDFC on this.
30 million monthly users make Quikr India’s largest classifieds platform. It runs multiple vertical businesses across real estate, automobiles, jobs, services, and goods. The Quikr Home, its real estate vertical generates 3.5 million monthly unique visitors.
Both companies intend to work closely and conduct analytics and identify potential homebuyers, and therefore home loan customers, early in their home-buying journey. Quikr founder and CEO Pranay Chulet said, “We see great synergies between Quikr and HDFC as we start working together to bring a seamless online-to-offline platform to developers and consumers.”
Retaining The Sustainability: GRIHA Launches Star Rating For Urban Homes
Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA), is the National Rating System of India, a Sanskrit word meaning – ‘Abode’. Human architecture has always consumed resources in the form of energy, water and material from the environment. From their construction to operation, these habitats absorb the resources throughout their life cycles, emitting wastes in the end. This emission could be direct in the form of municipal wastes or indirect emission into the atmosphere, such as from electricity generation. Hence GRIHA was formed to reduce an architecture’s resource consumption, waste production and overall environment impact up to certain national acceptable limits.
In attempt to quantify all these aspects, like energy consumption, waste generation etc. GRIHA tries to manage, control and bring down the respective to the best possible limit. Being a rating tool, it helps people to assess the performance of their respective projects against the national benchmarks.
Hence it becomes an evaluation of the environmental performance of an architecture on a holistic level. Covering its entire life cycle, this evaluation provides a specific standard for a ‘green building’. This rating system aims to strike a balance between established institutions and emerging concepts, on a national as well as the international level.
The process starts with an online submission of documents according to the criteria. Then a team of professionals and experts from GRIHA Secretariat takes a site visit for the evaluation of the building. There are four different sections categorized by 34 criteria in GRIHA rating system. Some of them are site selection and site planning, conservation and efficient utilization of resources, building operation and maintenance, and innovation.
Sanjay Seth, CEO, Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) Council says, “A rating between one and five stars is being provided, helping the costumers to know about the sustainability of the houses”.
According to the Union Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, the climate resilient and sustainable buildings are the need of the hour. As the government is aiming to construct around 1.2 crore houses for the urban poor under the affordable housing scheme.
In one of his keynote addresses, Andreas Baum, Ambassador of Switzerland to India and Bhutan said that the Indo Swiss collaboration is operating with the Indian Bureau of Energy Efficiency in the development of guidelines for energy efficient housing.
“At present India is witnessing a rapid urbanisation, if each building becomes greener than the last one, then we have a huge opportunity and hope for our country. We need to look beyond the conventional methods of building, in order to provide our citizens with a good quality of life. Hence, GRIHA gains important in meeting our national goals with respect to a sustainable society”, says Dr Ajay Mathur, director general, TERI & president, GRIHA Council.
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