Dr. Ben Carson
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Opportunity Zone Event Presented by Bisnow

 

Thank you, Scott, for that warm introduction, and thank you for all you've done as the Executive Director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council. You have been such an important part of the effort to bring about positive change in America's forgotten communities, and we are all inspired by the energy you bring to that job each and every day.

I'd also like to thank Bisnow for hosting this discussion and Doug (Bibby, President of NMHC) and the National Multifamiliy Housing Council for joining us for an update on this important initiative. We're also pleased that later in the program, you'll hear from Congressman Mike Kelly, who will share his perspective on the impact of the Opportunity Zones initiative. He's been a great partner in effort, and I know he'll have some important things to share.

Today, I am pleased to discuss our newest report outlining Opportunity Zone best practices, which highlights a few examples of revitalization occurring across the Nation.

On December 12, 2018, President Trump established the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council to support the Administration's pledge to encourage public and private investment in urban and economically distressed areas, including Opportunity Zones.

Since that time, the Council has traveled to urban, rural, and tribal areas throughout the country in designated Opportunity Zones. We have listened to community leaders and stakeholders, and co-developed plans to enhance economic opportunity. Based on this feedback, the Trump Administration has taken more than 300 actions to promote the mission of Opportunity Zones.

These actions feature changes to regulations, new grant applications with preference point programs, and more items identified by the Trump Administration that bolster the lives of the Americans residing within these forgotten communities.

This Council, which I have the honor to chair, is comprised of 17 Federal agencies and Federal/State partnerships, all focused on complementing the private sector investment that continues to flow into these underserved areas. For example:

  • Secretary Ross and the Economic Development Administration, within the Department of Commerce, poured nearly $347 million dollars into projects in or near Opportunity Zones, through January 2020 alone;
  • Secretary Chao and the Department of Transportation, just in the 2019 Fiscal Year, awarded more than $330 million to projects located in or near Opportunity Zones; and
  • And HUD, which leads the Council, has taken numerous actions to align our policies and programs with the mission of Opportunity Zones. We've added preference points to our competitive grants for projects located in Opportunity Zones; we're running a procurement pilot that will help benefit small businesses in Opportunity Zones; and we've reduced our mortgage insurance application fees, both for multifamily properties and healthcare facilities. As of this summer, we've seen 50 applications that received these reduced fees, all of which will create thousands of affordable multifamily housing units.

However, it is important to note that action on Opportunity Zones has not been limited to the Federal level. Across the country, State and local governments, and community leaders are developing Opportunity Zone strategies that best suit the needs of their unique communities. For example:

  • In Alabama, the legislature approved, and Governor Kay Ivey signed, the Alabama Incentives Modernization Act into law. This legislation provides state-level capital gains tax breaks, potential state investment dollars, and impact investment tax credits that have the effect of de-risking the most effective Opportunity Zone investments in Alabama. It's no surprise that one of the earliest and most significant Opportunity Zone investments was the revitalization of the American Life Building in Birmingham, a building which sat vacant for more than three decades but thanks to Opportunity Zone investment, it is now being transformed into 140 units of workforce housing.
  • In Erie, Pennsylvania ā€“ which has historically been one of the poorest zip codes in the country ā€“ the North Park Row, a long neglected and underinvested part of town will become a culinary arts district with 87 apartments, more than 20 businesses, and 240 jobs, all thanks to Opportunity Zone investment. You'll hear more about the transformation happening in Erie from Congressman Kelly.

Our new Opportunity Zone Best Practices report is a toolkit for communities across the Nation. It features five sections: Best Practices of Local Governments, Best Practices of State Governments, Best Practices of Foundations and Non-Profits, Best Practices of Qualified Opportunity Funds, and Best Practices on Pairing Opportunity Zone Capital with Federal Resources. Each section shares inspiring stories happening in real time to spur revitalizing investments in areas of need. This report will prove to be especially helpful and encouraging to communities as they continue fighting the invisible enemy known as COVID-19.

Since the beginning of his Administration, President Trump has continued to shine a bright light on the forgotten men and women whose job prospects and health disparities were all too often hidden in the shadows. Our work on Opportunity Zones and our constant interaction with these underserved communities continues to validate the President's work.

At HUD, we have a mission that has never wavered: To make safe, quality, affordable housing available to everyone in this country. But everything we do takes a team effort. We are all in the same boat. If there's a hole in one part of the boat, no matter how big that boat is, it's only a matter of time until the whole thing goes down. We will never let that happen.

Each of us has a common commitment to this great nation, to our shared principles, and to our fellow American. So, in that spirit and on behalf of HUD, I thank you for your interest in the Opportunity Zone initiate an its potential to uplift the most vulnerable among us. Thank you.

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