The 2017 Republican tax bill was designed as a gift to corporations and the rich. However, it also contained a nod to the poor: a tax incentive to spur development in low-income “opportunity zones.” If this seems out of character for the modern GOP, don’t worry. The New York Times explains that there was, naturally, a gigantic loophole:
Some opportunity zones that were classified as low income based on census data from several years ago have since gentrified. Others that remain poor over all have large numbers of wealthy households. And nearly 200 of the 8,800 federally designated opportunity zones are adjacent to poor areas but are not themselves considered low income.
Under the law, up to 5 percent of the zones did not need to be poor. The idea was to enable governors to draw opportunity zones in ways that would include projects or businesses just outside poor census tracts, potentially creating jobs for low-income people. In addition, states could designate whole sections of cities or rural areas that would be targeted for investment, including some higher-income census tracts.
The result is predictable:
Billions of untaxed investment profits are beginning to pour into high-end apartment buildings and hotels, storage facilities that employ only a handful of workers, and student housing in bustling college towns, among other projects. Many of the projects that will enjoy special tax status were underway long before the opportunity-zone provision was enacted. Financial institutions are boasting about the tax savings that await those who invest in real estate in affluent neighborhoods.
….Even supporters of the initiative agree that the bulk of the opportunity-zone money is going to places that do not need the help, while many poorer communities are so far empty-handed.
But don’t worry:
“The early wave, that’s not what you judge,” said John Lettieri, president of the Economic Innovation Group, an organization that lobbied for the establishment of opportunity zones.
It will all trickle down eventually.