Enterprise: 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 opinedthat 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)

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Courtesy of Enterprise Community Partners

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