I had an interesting discussion this week about Opportunity Zones and the challenges many communities have simply due to the compressed timing the legislation imposes. There are so many places where a given community hasn’t really thought about what they want and are just getting started, where the local skill and capacity is limited, technical assistance is needed, investors are reluctant to take a risk and there are few shovel ready projects that have already made it through community engagement. I fear without some changes (extension) to the legislation, many communities are going to miss out on the opportunity.
I got pulled in early into the O-Zone conversation in January last year when EIG reached out to get a perspective on the legislation might play in real estate. At the time I was the Chair of the Responsible Property Investment Council. Since then I’ve been working with investors/developers and cities in developing their O-Zone strategies and O-Funds. I’m presently working on 4 funds - 2 project specific (mixed-use - community library, housing, maker space; the other a multi-family project), one a local/regional fund for the Rocky Mountain West and the final one for our work with the Lotus Campaign - investing in workforce housing and making units available for people experiencing homelessness.
I’m working to integrate a series of metrics for investors that include a variety of social equity, community outcomes and environmental touch points so that when they make investment decisions, they have a sense of how the investment aligns with their values. However, that doesn't necessarily address how a community can ensure the incoming capital meets those same needs. Looking forward to having some further conversations with communities on how they can optimize their O-zones.