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Apartment REIT CEOs worried Trump might ban high-earning H1-B residents

One apartment landlord worries that Trump's immigration policies might stymie income growth at properties in the Bay Area by keeping high-earning tech workers out of the country.


"We have a substantial number of H1-B residents in our portfolio. We anxiously await news on immigration policy especially with respect to the H1-B visas," said Michael Schall, CEO of San Mateo, Calif.-based Essex Properties Trust, which owns 16 multifamily communities along the West Coast. 


"We still see tech as the world’s leading economic engine and believe that leading tech hubs in the U.S., including the Bay Area and Seattle, will be the primary beneficiaries," he said on his firm's fourth-quarter earnings call with investors. 


The H1-B program in general allows 85,000 H1-B visas to be granted annually, with current estimates pegging the number of H1-B holders in the U.S. at 600,000. Many of these workers end up in high-tech jobs in Silicon Valley and Seattle, he added.


"At least part of the slow down in job growth appears to be finding workers that have the skills and backgrounds that needed by the top tech companies," Schall said.


Essex tracks the number of job opening at the top 10 tech companies in its target markets, and found some 21,000 open positions compared to the 17,000 last summer, he said.


Terry Considine, CEO of multifamily REIT Aimco, echoed Schall's sentiments on his own firm's fourth-earnings call. "Immigration is a very important contributor to the rental apartment business. And we have a number of properties where we have -- and welcome high quality customers who are immigrants," he said. "The potential impacts of the Trump administration, those are not yet known, but it will be a fact that we'll deal with."


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