Opportunity and Revitalization Council

Treasury Department Should Establish “Regulatory Guardrails” to Guarantee That Low-Income People Will Benefit from Opportunity Zones

On December 12, President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, to be chaired by HUD Secretary Ben Carson. The primary purpose of the Council will be to target existing federal programs to Opportunity Zones, distressed communities where capital gains tax relief will be provided to individuals and corporations that invest in them. Opportunity Zones were created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Representatives from 13 federal agencies will comprise the Council, which will be convened by the vice chair, Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Andrew Bremberg.

Secretary Carson will designate a HUD officer or employee to serve as executive director. The Council’s expenses will be met from HUD’s existing appropriation.

  • The Council will assess actions each federal agency can take under existing authorities to focus federal programs in Opportunity Zones.
  • It will also assess actions agencies can take to minimize regulatory and administrative costs.
  • The Council will regularly consult state, local, and tribal officials, as well as individuals in the private sector.

Opportunity Zones are designed to spur investments in distressed communities through tax benefits to investors. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy nominated 75 areas to be considered Opportunity Zones which are among the 8,761 zones designated by the Department of Treasury. Opportunity Zones retain their designation for 10 years.

  • An Opportunity Zone is composed of “low-income” census tracts that have a poverty rate of at least 20% and median family income no greater than 80% of the area median income.
  • A census tract that is not “low-income” may be designated as part of a qualified Opportunity Zone if it is contiguous with low-income tracts that make up a qualified Opportunity Zone and it has a median household income that does not exceed 125% of the median income of the contiguous qualified Opportunity Zone.
  • Up to 5% of the census tracts may qualify under this exemption.

Advocates, including Monarch Housing, are concerned that Opportunity Zones could incentivize even greater private investments in already-gentrifying areas and could result in the greater displacement of low-income families. They call for rules to ensure Opportunity Zone investments benefit low-income households.

Unless the Treasury Department quickly establishes regulatory guardrails there is no guarantee that low-income people will benefit in any significant way — if at all — from Opportunity Zones

NLIHC President and CEO Diane YenteL

Opportunity Zones in New Jersey

HUD Press Release

Executive Order

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