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Get ready: Making your apartment building resilient to COVID

I’m gearing up for a very difficult and abnormal time in the US.  I’ve been thinking about how to make our apartment building, our houses of worship, and more generally our communities more resilient to COVID-19.  We all rely on a range of companies and people around us: doorman, deliverypeople, working hospitals, etc. We can’t […]

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I’m gearing up for a very difficult and abnormal time in the US.  I’ve been thinking about how to make our apartment building, our houses of worship, and more generally our communities more resilient to COVID-19.  We all rely on a range of companies and people around us: doorman, deliverypeople, working hospitals, etc. We can’t rely on them now to have 99.999% uptime.  

In times of stress your neighbors suddenly become a lot more important.  You may be using Nextdoor.com and other community websites a lot more than you did in the past. Our apartment building uses BuildingLink, but many residents are not signed up; I expect that many residents will start using it more aggressively. 

Here’s a sanitized version of the letter and survey we just sent to fellow residents of our apartment building, where my wife is on the board:

During this challenging time, we have been thinking about how to make our building more resilient and help lower the risk of any of us getting COVID.  We are grateful that our staff are diligently cleaning the doorknobs and other frequently touched surfaces and mopping the floors at least 3 times daily.  They have put Purell at all entrances.  We have also told staff that effectively no one gets onto the building except tenants and staff: no dog walkers, trainers, delivery men (deliveries are given to the staff outside), no renovation projects unless previously scheduled. Exceptions for household help and emergencies like broken toilets/household appliances. If any of the mailboxes get overstuffed, we have instructed the doorman to handle extra mail like a package and alert the tenant.  They also are to make sure that someone checks on any resident who is not picking up their mail at least once a week.  

We understand that this will likely not be enough.  As we practice “social distancing” for an uncertain and potentially extended period of time, it may feel frightening and lonely.  While each of us may be a source of the virus, we may also be each other’s best source of support.     

We are reaching out to you to strengthen our community so that we can all support each other through these difficult times.  We would appreciate it if you could fill out the following survey in BuildingLink; you should have received an email requesting you to do so.  Alternatively, please fill out in paper form. The information we’re requesting is entirely optional, and will only be shared with other tenants and with our management company. 

  • Name
  • Apartment
  • Children’s names and ages
  • Profession (optionally title and employer)
  • Areas of expertise
  • Email
  • Home phone
  • Cell phone
  • Skype
  • Facetime
  • Whatsapp
  • Certifications (EMT/CPR/MD/etc.)
  • Medical needs including prescriptions and equipment?
  • Disabilities or access and functional needs including devices and equipment?
  • Are there any issues you anticipate confronting over the next month, particularly if you are quarantined, e.g., running out of food; getting a prescription filled that will run out in 3 weeks; getting to a future doctor’s appointment; getting your dog walked?
  • Are you currently COVID-positive or on precautionary quarantine?

We wanted to know your interest and ability to help your neighbors.  Please note we are not asking you to make any permanent commitments, but just to indicate if you’re willing to be asked to help, should your expertise be needed.  If you have any particular needs, please contact [our community moderator], who will forward your request to one of our volunteers, who (if they wish) can choose to accept your request.

  • We are designating Floor Captains, who are responsible for checking in with their neighbors at least weekly.  They can also help coordinate any assistance needed for their neighbors related to potential quarantine or self-quarantine.  Would you be interested in volunteering to be a Floor Captain?
  • Would you be interested in helping others who are on quarantine?   (Please note we are not asking you to make any permanent commitments, but just to indicate if you’re willing to be asked to help, should your expertise be needed.)
  • Yes, I can pick up groceries
  • Yes, I can pick up prescriptions
  • Yes, I can deliver mail
  • Yes, I can walk their dog
  • Yes, I can help arrange for laundry service
  • Yes, I can drive someone (who is not in quarantine)
  • Yes, I can provide IT support for people who are not tech-savvy, e.g., setting up Zoom or Venmo.
  • Are there any other ways you think you can help?
  • Would you like to organize a virtual book club or movie club, where everyone reads the same book or watches the same movie, and then holds a videoconference to discuss?
  • Is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself and your network?

We anticipate it may be harder to get basic errands done: shopping, fixing things around the house, etc.  We urge you to get as many errands as possible done now, before it becomes difficult or impossible.  

We strongly encourage you to register to vote by mail.  COVID is going to cause unpredictable stress on our voting systems, and we want to make sure all of our neighbors can exercise their right to vote. COVID underlines the universal need for a competent, well-managed, fact-based government, both locally and nationally.  

If you are interested in volunteering to help others outside our building, we suggest register at InvisibleHandsDeliver.com and/or ImmuneCorps.com.  These new services help deliver food and other critically needed items to people in quarantine. 

We recruited volunteer Floor Captains throughout the building, and a few days later, each floor captain slipped this message under the doors of their neighbors (sanitized):

Dear Neighbor,

The Board of Directors has instituted a system of floor captains to assist residents during this challenging time.

Should you experience any COVID symptoms, or if you are aware of being exposed to COVID-19, we encourage you to follow medical advice and that of the CDC regarding self-quarantine and isolation; see CDC.gov. NY State has one site for all COVID-19 information: https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/home .

If it becomes necessary for you to remain inside your apartment for two weeks quarantine, your floor captain can arrange help with food shopping, picking up mail, picking up prescriptions, garbage disposal, pet care, laundry, and other necessary tasks.

We have four requests/suggestions, if you have not done these already:

  • Sign up at BuildingLink.com.  Make sure to review all of your settings, including the “emergency contact”. If you’re comfortable, please configure your profile to be viewable to other tenants.
  • Please fill out the COVID survey shared via email and paper.  It is available on BuildingLink.
  • Sign up for Paypal, Venmo, and/or Zelle. These are three services which allow you to pay people digitally, to minimize your exposure to paper cash.   
  • Let me know if you require assistance now with getting more digitally savvy and we will look to connect you to someone in the building who can help

If you need assistance, please contact me in any of the following ways:

Phone number:                                         Text:_______________________

Email: ____________________________________

Let’s help each other stay well!

Your floor captain,

____________________________________________

Responsible for wing: ________ 

I have been brainstorming some other initiatives which I hope to implement, which I hope you can implement in your community:

A weekly videoconference for all of the tenants, so that people can share what’s going on and any needs they have.

Reach out to our local community organizations, and ask them to hold a videoconference to give us advice, e.g.: Citizen Corps Councils, USAonWatch (Neighborhood Watch), Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), Fire Corps, Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) units, Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) units, American Red Cross.

Encourage people to work out from home. See Lose weight and get strong without leaving your house.

Organize a group exercise class from our apartments.  No one is allowed to go outside in Spain due to the COVID crisis, so one sports instructor in Seville is teaching classes from a roof. (Video)

For general emergency preparedness, not specifically for COVID, some other ideas we should ideally also explore:

  • Add solar panels to our roof, so we have a permanent source of energy.
  • Organize a communal garden so we have some backup source of food, although realistically it will only be enough to feed a few people at best.  

For further reading:
How Multi-Family Building Owners, Coop And Condo Boards, And Managing Agents Should Deal With COVID-19

Slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus in an apartment community

How New York City residential buildings are tackling coronavirus

How to keep the people attending your event alive (updated for COVID)

Reinventing the office: How to lose fat and increase productivity at work

Community Resilience

Pandemic Supply List

Building Community Resilience

Community Resilience

Red Cross: How to prepare for emergencies

Emergency Planning: Improve Community Preparedness with these Basic Steps

Ready.gov Emergency Planning

Natural Hazard Science

Ready.gov Community Preparedness Toolkit

The 13 Commandments of Communities that Abide

Disclosure: I have no medical or real estate expertise; just trying to figure this out as we go along.  

Source: https://teten.com/blog/2020/03/18/how-to-save-lives-in-your-apartment-building-or-neighborhood/

Private Equity

Demand for central London office space sinks as thousands of staff work from home

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Demand for office space in central London sank in the third quarter as staff at major occupiers such as banks, insurers and asset managers continued to work from home as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

A survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors showed that 77% of surveyors reported a drop in demand for London office space.

The survey comes as banks such as HSBC confirm they are looking at a hybrid model of remote working and office working that could lead to a steep drop in the amount of prime office space needed by financial-services firms.

Availability for London’s office space grew for the eighteenth successive quarter, the survey showed, with availability growing at the strongest pace since 2009.

Over the next year, prime office rents in the capital are expected to fall by 6.8% as demand shrinks.

Tarrant Parsons, RICS economist, said: “Occupier demand across the office sector remains in decline and may continue to come under pressure going forward as businesses reassess their office-space requirements following the increased prevalence of remote working.”

Deutsche Bank and HSBC are among lenders that have announced that they will embrace the model of workers who opt to spend some days in the office and some days out.

The announcements come as a Morgan Stanley survey found that some 63% of office workers said they believe their employers will allow one or two days working from home in the future.

About one in five, or 18%, in the bank’s survey said they think their bosses will allow even more days than that. More than 90% of London office workers have been working from home during the pandemic — the most of any major European city.

Surveyors who commented on the RICS survey predicted that the coronavirus pandemic could lead to long-lasting changes in the way that companies use offices.

David Apperly of Apperly Estates said: “The biggest impact of coronavirus will probably be long term for office demand; rental growth is likely to be subdued for 10+ years.”

Gregory McGonigal of Ashdown Phillips said: “We are highly unlikely to return to anything like we were all experiencing in 2019 for at least five years and certain sectors will be changed permanently. The pandemic has caused, and will continue to create, a seismic shift in the UK property sector.”

Simon Wood of Downing Intervention simply said: “Winter is coming.”

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email James Booth

Source: https://www.penews.com/articles/demand-for-central-london-office-space-sinks-as-thousands-of-staff-work-from-home-20201029

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Private Equity

BlackRock wants global standards for sustainability reporting

Previous demand for firms to follow with existing standards led to a 400% increase in compliance

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BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, has called for the creation of a single global sustainability standard, claiming existing frameworks are making it difficult to compare companies and leading to confusion for investors.

“BlackRock is calling for convergence of the different private-sector reporting frameworks and standards to establish a globally recognised and adopted approach to sustainability reporting,” the $7.8tn New York-headquartered group said on 29 October.

BlackRock claimed the proliferation of existing disclosure initiatives, many of which are overlapping, has meant companies are reporting the same information more than once and that there is a lack of consistent and comparable data.

“We believe that this could be resolved by aligning and converging to establish a globally recognised sustainability reporting framework and set of standards,” BlackRock said.

“Ideally, these would be developed by those with domain expertise in the private sector and supported by public policymakers as they move to require more comprehensive corporate reporting.”

The call from BlackRock comes after it asked companies in January to publish their climate-related disclosures in line with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board standards and the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures framework — two of the world’s major reporting standards.

BlackRock said it would consider voting against company management where sufficient progress had not been made.

Companies appear to have heeded BlackRock’s warning. According to a report by the fund manager’s investment stewardship team, by the end of September, there had been a 400% increase in companies reporting under the SASB standards.

“The uptick is encouraging,” BlackRock said. “However, one of the top challenges to greater adoption we hear from the directors and leadership teams is the confusion caused by the various frameworks or standards.”

Efforts are already under way to develop a common approach for sustainability disclosure.

The IFRS Foundation published a consultation in September to assess demand for global sustainability standards. The IFRS said it would assess to what extent it could help develop such standards if demand proved strong.

Also in September, a group of five sustainability-reporting organisations — the SASB, the Global Reporting Initiative, the International Integrated Reporting Council, the CDP and the Carbon Disclosure Standards Board — said they planned to work together to develop “a comprehensive global corporate reporting system”.

BlackRock has singled out an approach proposed by the IFRS Foundation as the “most practicable and likely to succeed”.

“Progress may take some time,” it said. “BlackRock will continue to advocate for TCFD and SASB-aligned reporting until a global standard is established.”

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email David Ricketts

Source: https://www.penews.com/articles/blackrock-wants-global-standards-for-sustainability-reporting-20201029

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Private Equity

Comment: Don’t overestimate the coronavirus recovery

At this point in the Covid-19 crisis, governments have only one good option: further aggressive fiscal stimulus complemented by coherent virus-containment strategies

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The world economy has risen from the depths of the initial Covid-19 plunge. But the recovery has been tepid, uneven and fragile – and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

Start with the good news. World merchandise trade has rebounded strongly, consistent with indications of a revival in household demand for goods in many economies, even as public-health restrictions and consumer concerns continue to hobble demand for services.

Moreover, financial markets have held up surprisingly well, with stock markets in many countries regaining or even exceeding pre-pandemic levels. Despite near-zero interest rates, banking and financial systems seem largely stable. And consumer and industrial demand has buoyed commodity prices, with even oil prices having recovered somewhat.

But as the latest Brookings-Financial Times Tracking Indexes for the Global Economic Recovery update shows, many economies are experiencing essentially no growth, or are even contracting. With private sector confidence depleted, and the struggle to contain the virus far from over, the risks of substantial and long-lasting economic scarring are on the rise.

This is true even in the economies that have returned to growth, such as the United States. In some ways, the US seems to have turned the corner. Industrial activity and the labour market have regained some lost ground. The unemployment rate is falling, and employment levels are up.

But unemployment remains significantly higher, and employment significantly lower, than before the pandemic. The increase in long-term unemployment, together with ongoing service sector disruptions, portends a difficult path to a more robust and sustained recovery.

It doesn’t help that fiscal stimulus measures have largely lapsed, and negotiations on a new relief package have repeatedly broken down. As household disposable income has declined, private consumption growth has weakened. Similarly, business investment continues to contract – a trend that does not augur well for sustained growth.

Even stock markets, which experienced a sharp rebound earlier in the year, seem to be taking a breather. This may reflect concerns about the virus-containment strategy (or lack of) being pursued by US president Donald Trump’s administration. In any case, as next month’s presidential election approaches, heightened political and policy uncertainty is likely to keep consumer and business confidence muted.

The eurozone is in even worse shape. Not only has the pandemic decimated short-term growth; deflation is now setting in, raising the risk of a deep and prolonged contraction. While manufacturing in Germany and elsewhere has rebounded, the positive effects are more than offset by the enduring services slump, reinforced by ongoing public health restrictions.

The United Kingdom’s services sector, by contrast, has experienced a revival. Yet the combination of erratic lockdown policies and far-reaching uncertainties surrounding Brexit are contributing to a continued economic contraction. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Japan is also in serious economic peril, though it has so far avoided sliding back into deflation.

Most emerging market economies have not fared well, either. India is experiencing a sharp slowdown in economic activity, which could be exacerbated by a devastating acceleration in Covid-19 cases, fuelled by the easing of lockdown measures. The government has pushed through some agricultural and labour market reforms, but a banking system hobbled by bad loans remains a powerful constraint on growth.

Brazil and Russia have fared little better. Both have experienced substantial economic contractions, and have few policy levers available to revive growth.

The one country experiencing a strong recovery is China, where, thanks largely to the country’s apparent success in bringing the virus under control, both industrial production and services have rebounded. Retail sales and manufacturing sector investment have also bounced back. By many indicators, the country’s economic performance is now even stronger than it was before the pandemic.

Yet, unlike in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, China’s strong performance is not likely to do much to buttress the rest of the world economy, not least because of the growing push towards deglobalisation. China’s recently unveiled “dual-circulation strategy” – whereby the country will increasingly depend on the domestic cycle of production, distribution, and consumption for its long-term development – will reinforce this trend.

Making matters worse, central banks now have far less firepower than they did after the 2008 crisis. To be sure, the major central banks have pulled out all the policy stops since the Covid-19 crisis began, pursuing unprecedented monetary expansion in order to support economic activity and, in some cases, to fend off deflation. Some – most notably, the US Federal Reserve – have even adjusted their policy frameworks to signal tolerance of higher inflation. The central banks of some smaller advanced economies, such as Australia and New Zealand, and emerging economies, such as India, have also resorted to unconventional measures.

But the limits of monetary policy for boosting growth are becoming increasingly apparent. Meanwhile, large-scale purchases of corporate and government bonds, together with the direct financing of firms, are generating serious risks – not least to central-bank independence.

Against this background, governments have only one good option: further aggressive fiscal stimulus, ideally in the form of well-targeted government expenditure that could spur private investment. Whatever risks the increase in public debt may generate, they do not compare – especially in today’s low-interest-rate environment – to the long-term economic pain that countries will face without such stimulus.

To be effective, however, fiscal measures must be complemented by coherent virus containment strategies, which credibly enable safe economic reopening. Without such strategies, demand and confidence will remain subdued, and global growth will continue to falter well into the future.

Eswar Prasad is a professor of trade policy at Cornell University’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Darren Chang and Ethan Wu, undergraduate students at Cornell, assisted in the writing of this commentary.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

Source: https://www.penews.com/articles/comment-dont-overestimate-the-coronavirus-recovery-20201029

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