Your local association can lead the charge for improved quality of life in your area through the Qualified Opportunity Zone program, a federal government tax incentive that aims to revitalize economically depressed communities nationwide through residential and commercial real estate investment.
“Through Opportunity Zones we can bring local, state, and national stakeholders here to show them why they should invest in our area,” says Bruce King, government affairs director at the REALTORS® Association of Northwestern Wisconsin. “We intend to engage the Native American community—since the largest Opportunity Zones in our area are located on their land—with development experts plus our own members to generate ideas for what development projects are wanted and needed.”
Dozens of REALTOR® associations nationwide have already begun engaging local experts, including members, economic development organizations, community foundations, legislators, and others in dialogue about how to revitalize the designated Opportunity Zones in their areas.
From new mass transit and affordable housing to new office spaces and redesigned community spaces, there’s a lot of potential in your opportunity zones and a lot of reasons to get involved in the process.
There are more than 8,700 designated Opportunity Zones nationwide ranging from large parts of rural Arizona to neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago. The U.S. Treasury Department expects $100 billion in private capital will be invested through the program.
Bring the Zone Message to Members
For state and local associations eager to get involved, NAR created the “Qualified Opportunity Zones Toolkit” on nar.realtor that includes the fundamentals on the program, a one-hour long “Planning for Opportunity Zone Investments” video, recently issued regulatory guidance, and links to maps of all local Opportunity Zones.
NAR launched a grant program earlier this year to provide funding for REALTOR® associations that wanted to hold Opportunity Zone events. More than 40 associations received grants totaling $175,000 for events like the one scheduled for Nov. 18 hosted by the Central Panhandle Association of REALTORS®.
“Our event will bring together a wide range of community leaders, chambers of commerce, mayors, and commissioners to hear guest speaker Christopher A. Coes, vice president of land use and development at Smart Growth America, and others, discuss local growth through Opportunity Zones,” says Debbie Ashbrook, association CEO.
Ashbrook says she hopes the Opportunity Zone investment incentive brings long overdue redevelopment to local areas affected by Hurricane Michael in 2018, as well as commercial growth, new jobs, and increased property values.
Ensure Opportunity Zone Investments Strengthen Local Communities
Critics of the Opportunity Zone program point to the possibilities of development projects displacing local residents through gentrification or ignoring a community’s highest priority needs for developments that are the most profitable projects for investors.
“This is exactly the reason that REALTORS® need to be involved in the conversations,” says Dawn Kennedy, RCE, GREEN, CEO of the Birmingham Association of REALTORS®. Kennedy’s association held an event in early August for members, community leaders, and legislative representatives aimed to position REALTORS® as the go-to resource for property expertise. The event, held in an Opportunity Zone, was such a success that it attracted the attention of Scott Turner, executive director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council—the office tasked with helping to implement and optimize federal resources connected to the Opportunity Zone incentive.
“Turner then came to speak with our members and local legislators about how important Opportunity Zones are in terms of social impact, and he praised our association for jumping in feet first to promote this program to members and the communities they serve,” says Kennedy.
Opportunity Zone Experts, Resources, and Tools
Another NAR tool to help members be the voice for real estate in the Opportunity Zone discussion is available from the Realtors Property Resource®. The new data layer on both the residential and commercial sides of RPR enables members to analyze all properties that fall within Opportunity Zones, including their economic and demographic statistics, and create reports for investors about the buying potential and marketability.
Upon request, NAR staff can also provide webinars for associations and recommendations for local speakers or officials for association events. For Opportunity Zone updates, materials, and news, visit nar.realtor and search: “Qualified Opportunity Zones.”