NNIP Partners Inform Local Opportunity Zone Conversations

Urban Institute   (NNIP Coordinator)
Institute for Housing Studies   (Chicago)
Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance   (Baltimore)
Kinder Institute for Urban Research   (Houston)

December 2019

Local businesses, investors, public agencies, and community and economic development groups are all thinking about ways to harness the federal Opportunity Zones designations to benefit their communities. Opportunity Zones incentivize capital spending in designated census tracts to revitalize neighborhoods by providing tax benefits to investors. NNIP Partners are well-positioned to analyze locations for potential investments, make connections to community groups affected by the investment, and monitor change in Opportunity Zone neighborhoods to help inform community groups, local government, and philanthropy.

Since the tax benefits of investing in Opportunity Zones accrue when investments are appreciating, investors will likely target neighborhoods that are already showing signs of an accelerating real estate market and avoid those whose revitalization needs are greatest or are less likely to see significant appreciation.

To educate partners about this complicated topic, NNIP organized a panel at its last Partners’ meeting to explore how Partners can support more equitable and inclusive development and investments in neighborhoods. Brett Theodos, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, explained the basics about how Opportunity Zone investments work and potential implications for communities.  (Check out additional research and resources on Opportunity Zones from Urban Institute.)

Geoff Smith, director of the Institute for Housing Studies (IHS) at DePaul University and the NNIP Partner in Chicago, shared how his team has been thinking about the data, analysis, and engagement that’s needed around Opportunity Zones, particularly its role in increasing displacement pressures.

The session closed with a discussion about using the attention that Opportunity Zones have generated to start or engage new stakeholders in a conversation about the investments and capital needed to revitalize communities and build more inclusive neighborhoods.

Other Partners across the network are engaging in their local conversations about Opportunity Zones.  Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research published an interactive feature explaining opportunity zones and mapping characteristics of the designated areas in Metropolitan Houston. The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance at the University of Baltimore wrote a short blog and created a map overlaying local investment programs, community development corporations, and community conditions and presented on a local panel hosted by the Community Development Network of Maryland. In addition, the Drexel University’s Urban Health Collaborative is researching health conditions and resources in Opportunity Zones nationally in a forthcoming article in the American Journal of Public Health.