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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

One undisputed victim of the pandemic is the commercial real-estate market — both offices and retail — as people work from home and go out less.

Why it matters: The problem is that commercial real estate prices are sticky. They go up a lot more easily than they come down. If they would come down to a market-clearing level, that would vastly increase economic activity and help cities — New York foremost among them — get back on their feet.

How it works: Columbia University law professor Tim Wu explains in the New York Times just why prices are sticky.

  • Landlords have multiple incentives to keep real estate empty, rather than renting it out at a decreased rent. They range from the tax regime to clauses in mortgage contracts to accounting practices to simple hope that an empty space, kept empty long enough, will eventually find a top-dollar tenant.
  • Those incentives collectively impose a huge negative externality on cities. Empty storefronts help no one.

The solution: Wu suggests that cities should raise property taxes when commercial real estate is empty for more than 90 days, giving landlords a countervailing incentive to rent their property out at lower-than-desired prices.

The bottom line: There's no shortage of potential tenants willing to fill empty spaces — at the right price.

Go deeper

The rental housing market's "Black tax"

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Underwood Archives/Getty Images

Renters of color, especially Black Americans, often pay a "Black tax" — a premium for renting similar housing in the same neighborhoods as whites.

Why it matters: A recent study found that Black tenants paid as much as 2% more in rent — a gap that widened if the area had a bigger population of white people. Higher rent is just one hurdle to accessibility and affordability in the rental market that people of color uniquely deal with despite federal fair housing laws enacted more than 50 years ago.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.