Real Estate Expert Leonard Grunstein Proposes Using CMBS Financing For Inter-Religious Transactions

Leonard Grunstein, a prominent real estate expert, recently released an analysis suggesting commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS) financing may be compliant with the Halacha and Shariah. Grunstein’s analysis, published in the Fall/Winter 2014 edition of the Real Estate Finance Journal, proposes the use of CMBS non-recourse financing to ensure the free flow of capital in deals among parties of different religions; but with shared values that otherwise prohibit the making of interest bearing loans.

“Religious prohibitions against interest can make transactions between parties of different faiths difficult,” said Grunstein. “However, my analysis finds that, conceptually, the CMBS financing format, is similar to financing forms that were permitted in medieval times. Shared Values and similar financing concepts were once employed to break down barriers and foster trade. The CMBS financing structure could enable this to occur again.”

In his analysis, Grunstein explores several forms of financing common in Medieval and more ancient times. He finds many models of non-recourse and limited recourse financing structures, such as the Iska and Qirad, which were approved by leading Jewish and Muslim religious authorities at the time. Grunstein describes how these structures are similar in design and result to the CMBS model in use today. This includes an analysis of the carve-outs to exculpation in the CMBS format, as well as, similar provisions in the Iska (under the Halacha), the Qirad (under the Sha’ariah) and the Commenda (under Canon Law). He recommends the use of CMBS financing to allow deals between parties of different religions. The analysis suggests that, by using properly drafted CMBS forms, parties can follow their religious laws, while protecting their investment and completing a real estate deal.

Grunstein is currently a managing member at Hanlen Real Estate Development & Funding of Teaneck, NJ. He has played a key role in a number of historic New York City real estate deals, including the Marriott Marquis, the Hotel Pennsylvania, and the Battery Park City. The latter deal, for which Grunstein created the legal framework, helped jumpstart the stalled redevelopment of Lower Manhattan. In 2006, Grunstein worked with the tenants association of Stuyvesant Town to develop a financing model to enable them to purchase the complex and keep apartments affordable. He previously helped structure, finance and accomplish the West Village Article XI cooperative conversion that preserved the complex as affordable.

Small Businesses Should Take Advantage Of Federal Loan Program

In an article recently published in the Small Business Journal, Leonard Grunstein, a well-known New York City real estate expert, detailed how recent changes to a federal program can give small businesses a leg up. The Small Business Administration’s 504 Loan Program can help small businesses access loans for real estate mortgages.

The SBA 504 Loan Program addresses an important need in the market place and helps provide commercial real estate mortgage financing to small businesses at competitive rates.

In the paper, he argues that ownership of the real estate where the small business is located could help save a small business from being forced to close because of rising rents or unavailability of the space for re-lease. It can also be a wonderful outlet for diversification of investment by a successful entrepreneur. A retail business owner knows his neighborhood well and understands emerging trends in the local real estate market; this knowledge can be translated into a successful investment.

However, small businesses have a harder time getting approved for loans than larger, more established companies. The difficulties of getting a loan may discourage business owners from investing in real estate, limiting prospects for growth.

The 504 Program helps bridge this gap by letting small business owners take out loans for fixed assets such as real estate and machinery. The program provides for a government guaranty of the bonds of a Certified Development Corporation (a nonprofit entity dedicated to economic development), the proceeds of which are to be used to provide a second mortgage. A first mortgage loan is to be sourced from a bank. The balance is equity, to be provided by the borrower. To qualify for the loan, the business must show that it cannot obtain the financing without the aid of the SBA and demonstrate that it can pay back the loan.

In making the case for the program, Grunstein draws on his own experience helping his father renegotiate the lease of his grocery store, which he calls “no mean achievement.” He also describes a successful loan he made to a retail business early in his career, a loan that allowed the business to benefit from a boom in the local real estate market.

Leonard Grunstein Gives Lecture at Yeshivat Sha’alvim

Leonard Grunstein recently gave a lecture at Yeshivat Sha’alvim on religious law and interest. Opening remarks were given by Rav Yechezkel Yakovson and Rabbi Asher Weiss, respected teachers and thinkers within the community. Grunstein’s lecture revolved around his article titled, “Interest, Ribit and Riba,” which was published in The Banking Law Journal in 2013. The article analyzes Sharia finance, and proposes a way to reconcile capitalist and Islamic financial markets. The full text of his article can be found here, and the lecture can be viewed in its entirety by following the link below:

The conference program can be found, here.

Leonard Grunstein Published in Republic 3.0

Leonard Grunstein was recently published in Republic 3.0, writing a piece titled, “Affordable housing must move beyond rent control.” In the new piece, Grunstein discusses a recent court decision that stated that the rent-stabilized apartments are public assistance benefits akin to disability benefits or welfare. Grunstein notes that while this decision is considered a victory by many affordable housing advocates, it may end up doing more harm than good.

Grunstein argues that the decision signifies the steady acceptance of rent regulation rather than a stopgap. “Originally, New York’s rent stabilization law was passed as an emergency measure meant to shore up affordable housing for the short-term until a more sustainable solution could be passed,” he says.

Within the op-ed, he suggests lifting rent regulations to incentivize developers to replace existing ones that contain more housing of both market value and affordable rates.

To read the full article, visit Republic 3.0.

Leonard Grunstein Published In New York Daily News and Brooklyn Downtown Star

Leonard Grunstein was published in several New York City publications over the past few weeks. In response to news that NYCHA would be selling off over $200 million in stakes in its housing properties, Grunstein wrote a letter to the editor to the New York Daily News, arguing that the agency was “robbing Peter to pay Paul: transferring the burden of repairing NYCHA’s decaying properties from the city to the federal government, which will pay the difference between the subsidized rent and the rent that renovated units will eventually fetch on the market.” Rather than relying on a “one-off infusion of public money,” Grunstein said the agency should look at “truly sustainable solutions that can fund themselves, such as a combination of market rate and subsidized housing together with robust retail on the ground floor.”

The Brooklyn Downtown Star also published an op-ed from Grunstein. The op-ed explored a dangerous trend in healthcare: the increasing use of private facilities to perform procedures that had traditionally been done in a hospital. Grunstein warned that such facilities carry significant risks in case of complications mid-procedure, saying” A 911 call and ambulance ride cannot compete with a short trip down a hospital hallway.” Grunstein’s solution was to create incentives to house outpatient surgery as a stand-alone unit on hospital grounds, allowing customers to “gain access to a wider range of services at a cheaper price than they would at a typical hospital, but with the safety provided by the full range of specialists on call for this purpose.”


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