On Wednesday December 12, at an event at the White House the President signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, chaired by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson and comprised of 13 Federal agencies. The Council’s purpose is to improve efforts to revitalize economically distressed communities through coordination of government programs, including the federal Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZ) Program. The QOZ Program was created by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, and provides tax incentives for investing in under-served areas designated as “Opportunity Zones.” In October 2018 the IRS and Treasury released the first round of proposed rules for the program; on January 10, the IRS is scheduled to hold a public hearing on it. Though the regulations are not final, the agencies have stated that the proposed rules are effective in order to facilitate participation in the program immediately. A second round of proposed rules are expected in January 2019.
The LOCUS National Opportunity Zone Ranking Report was also released this week. This report ranks each of the designated Opportunity Zones based on its Smart Growth Potential (SGP) and its Social Equity + Vulnerability Index score (SEVI). In addition to providing data for investors to determine how to prioritize Opportunity Zone investments, this report provides policymakers and local groups with a framework to manage and ensure equitable, inclusive development in Opportunity Zones.