Unanswered questions about many of President-elect Donald J. Trump's policy proposals will make the coming months a pivotal time for the commercial real estate industry—and will require vigilance by industry advocacy groups as proposals move through the legislative and political process.

That was the sentiment of a panel of industry leaders who discussed "The Impact of the Trump Administration and New Congress on Commercial Real Estate" on January 17 at Ballard Spahr's Washington, D.C., office.

When Mr. Trump takes the oath of office on January 20 as the 45th President of the United States, the White House will be occupied by a man who made his fortune in commercial real estate. With his administration still taking shape, the panelists provided their perspective on how the Trump presidency—and a new Congress with both the House and Senate controlled by his fellow Republicans—may impact the fiscal, legislative, and regulatory framework for commercial real estate. Together, the panelists' organizations represent thousands of businesses and tens of thousands of individual members:

  •  Douglas M. Bibby, President of the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC);
  • John Bryant, Vice President for Advocacy, Codes and Standards for the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) International;
  • Jeffrey D. DeBoer, President and CEO of The Real Estate Roundtable; and
  • Lisa A. Pendergast, Executive Director of the Commercial Real Estate Finance Council (CREFC).

"The real estate industry is clearly engaged on what legislative and regulatory options might arise and how best to deal with them," noted David L. Winstead of Ballard Spahr's Real Estate Department, who moderated the candid, wide-ranging discussion. Click here for an audio recording.

The session focused on areas in which the Republican President-elect has promised sweeping changes that would have a profound effect on commercial real estate—from tax reform and regulatory rollback to new energy policy and greater investment in the nation's infrastructure. The discussion also covered related topics including EB-5, public-private partnerships, and how Mr. Trump, as a longtime real estate developer, may differ from predecessors in his approach to management of federal buildings and properties.

Mr. Bibby said taxes are the primary issue of concern for NMHC and its members.

"The people…in this business are laser-focused on the tax reform issues," he said.

Mr. Bibby and other panelists said they'll be watching what happens in light of Mr. Trump's promises to decrease what the President-elect has characterized as overly burdensome federal regulations implemented in recent years in areas such as the environment, energy, and housing.

"We're interested to see what will happen in this new environment on the regulatory front," Mr. Bibby said.

Mr. Bryant said BOMA International's main concerns are with the impact the Trump administration and new Congress may have on energy policy, reform of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and environmental regulation. He noted that, "Even now, just a couple days away from him taking office, there's a lot of uncertainty that still surrounds this man and who he's going to be as a leader."

Mr. DeBoer said members of The Real Estate Roundtable "are extremely excited and enthusiastic about the next few years, because we want to advance policy that will spur job growth and create demand across real estate sectors."

He noted that having the White House and both houses of Congress under the control of one party could lead to action on policies that have languished during the past few years of political division in Washington, which many believe has created a drag on some sectors of the economy.

Ms. Pendergast said CREFC members are particularly interested in what the new order in Washington will mean for financial regulations under Dodd-Frank and other federal legislation implemented after the financial crisis of 2008.

She said unanswered questions abound about how the new administration and Congress will impact real estate and other areas of the economy, and have created an "uncertainty component."

"The reality is, be it tax reform, or any kind of repeal of Dodd-Frank, all of these issues lend the market a certain amount of uncertainty," she said, adding that she is "bracing for volatility in financial markets."