December 13, 2018

Presidential Executive Order Established Interagency Council On Opportunity Zones

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  • On Wednesday, President Trump signed an Executive Order establishing the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council with the goal of aligning federal agency priorities and funding with the new Opportunity Zones tax incentive. This council will be chaired by HUD Secretary Ben Carson and comprised of 13 federal agencies. Our blog post points out that the Council is tasked with developing strategies to help communities address entrenched issues of economic inequality, facilitate economic growth, and identify areas in which federal agencies can prioritize investment in Opportunity Zones. Importantly, the Executive Order instructs the council to evaluate the effectiveness of investments in Opportunity Zones by establishing best practices for reporting requirements. Enterprise Community Partners President Laurel Blatchford noted that “Enterprise is encouraged by the Administration’s commitment to measuring the effectiveness of the new Opportunity Zones tax incentive…We look forward to continuing to work with the Administration and Congress to create the kind of accountability and transparency that will enable stakeholders – including government officials, investors, community-based organizations, and neighborhood residents – to evaluate if this program is benefitting the residents and businesses in these lower-income areas.” At the same time, Enterprise has concerns that the Interagency Council may unintentionally divert resources away from the tens of thousands of census tracts that have a great need for capital and economic revitalization but were not designated as a Qualified Opportunity Zone. 
  • Earlier this week President Trump announced that he intends to nominate Mark Calabria, who currently serves as chief economist for Vice President Mike Pence, to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) once current Director Mel Watt’s term ends in January 2019. Calabria served as deputy assistant secretary for regulatory affairs at HUD during former President George W. Bush’s administration, as well as a senior aide on the Senate Banking Committee, where he was one of the lead drafters of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 that created the FHFA. (HousingWire, December 12) PoliticoPro notes that in 2015, Calabria opined that one way to pursue housing finance reform is to end Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s (the Government Sponsored Enterprises, or GSEs) housing goals, a reference to the GSEs’ mandate to serve low-income communities. He also suggested tightening homebuying standards by requiring minimum down payments of 5 percent and minimum FICO scores of 700. (PoliticoPro, December 11)
  • Representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA), along Representatives Gwen Moore (D-WI), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD), has introduced the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act to the House – a companion to legislation Senator Warren introduced earlier this year. This bill would: provide a $450 billion investment into the Housing Trust Fund over the next decade to build or preserve rental units; strengthen the Fair Housing Act to ban discrimination on sexual orientation, marital status, gender identity, and income source; incentivize rezoning; and offer down payments to first-time homebuyers in formerly redlined neighborhoods or segregated areas. (Curbed, December 11)
  • Novogradac & Co. notes that the Montana State Senate intends to consider legislation that would create a state workforce housing tax credit, which would largely mirror the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (Housing Credit), starting in 2022. State Senator Maggie MacDonald has introduced a bill, SB 18, which would establish an annual allocation of up to $8.5 million in state workforce housing tax credits that would be matched by 4 percent Housing Credit allocations. (Novogradac, December 12)  

In Case You Missed It 

  • Enterprise has submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on proposed amendments to its regulations on “public charge,” the term U.S. immigration officials use to refer to a person who DHS considers primarily dependent on the government for subsistence. These changes would significantly expand the definition of a public benefit to include Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as any federal housing assistance such as the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, the Section 8 Project Based Rental Assistance Program, or residency in any HUD-funded public housing development. Our comments point out that as a partner in the community development process, we oppose the amendments to the current public charge, since they could lead to higher application denial rates for noncitizens seeking admission to the U.S., noncitizens applying for lawful permanent resident status and those seeking an extension of or changes to their non-immigrant status. This comment letter notes that “the unintended consequences of this rule change will be deeply destabilizing to these communities, prompting some to forgo their legal right to benefits out of fear of hindering the entry and change of status applications of their family members.” 

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