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The Legal Issues of Green Real Estate Finance

The real estate finance industry has experienced extreme changes in the past eighteen months. The credit crisis and subsequent economic recession have resulted in a severe tightening in the real estate finance market. As a result, the few banks that are still providing financing secured primarily by real estate are able to be far more selective in project selection. Some of these lenders have greatly increased their commitment to providing financing to developers of green buildings. One prominent source of funds has been from Wells Fargo & Company, which has provided more than $2 billion in financing secured by green real estate. As the world financial headquarters has shifted from Wall Street to Washington, D.C., many commentators are expecting that green building will be a common condition of allocation of federally funded real estate projects whether in the form of direct subsidies or grants or public/private partnerships. This article will briefly examine a small portion of the unique legal risks that should be considered by lenders and property owners and developers in regard to obtaining financing for green buildings. It will specifically focus on ways lenders should attempt to mitigate risk through a basic understanding of green building, the careful examination of leases, construction documents and loan document covenants.

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