Opportunity Zones offer incentives for property owners and investors who develop areas within economically distressed census tracts. Benefits include tax incentives and increased property values.
Opportunity Zone Program Statistics
The Opportunity Zone (OZ) Program is part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 with the goal to increase commerce and decrease vacancy in low-income areas. Businesses and investors in these areas may be eligible for incentives.
- 8,829 Qualified Opportunity Zones exist in the U.S. and its territories.
- Current OZs represent 12% of the nation’s census tracts.
- OZ designation alone increases housing values in the area by 1.1%.
- Approximately 25% of each state’s and territory’s low-income census tracts are to be certified as an OZ.
- To be designated an OZ, a census tract must:
- Have a poverty rate of at least 20% -OR-
- Have a median income below 80% of the state or metropolitan area -OR-
- Be contiguous with a qualifying census tract -AND- have a median income less than 125% of the qualifying tract’s median income.
|What is an Opportunity Zone?|
|An OZ is legally defined as “an economically distressed community where new investments… may be eligible for preferential tax treatment.”
The U.S. Department of the Treasury certifies and designates Opportunity Zones based on census tracts.
Opportunity Zone Real Estate
Homes and commercial properties in Opportunity Zones share certain statistical characteristics, such as increased vacancy.
- The average OZ housing vacancy rate is 13%.
- 45% of OZ residents are homeowners; the national homeownership rate is 64.1%.
- The median home value in an OZ is $160,000 or 78% of the national median home value.
- 46% of areas later designated OZs saw median home values decline between 2006-10 and 2014-18.
- 43% of OZs have a median home value below $100,000.
- 23% of OZs are rural.
- 294 or 3.4% of OZs include Native American lands.
- 3.7% of OZs showed signs of gentrification at the time of designation, including:
- Population growth at least 7.8% or higher.
- Median family incomes growing 11.1% or higher.
- Initial poverty rates at least 1.5 times national level.
Opportunity Zone Investment Benefits
The benefits of investing in an Opportunity Zone include tax incentives, increasing property values, and large long-term returns.
- Homeowners in OZs stand to gain a cumulative $11 billion in wealth.
- $75 billion in private capital entered OZs in 2019.
- Private business investments grew equity at a 29% higher rate than those in comparable communities that were not designated OZs.
- 17 government agencies supply federal resources to OZs.
- The U.S. Executive Office Council of Economic Advisers (EOCEA) reported their initial assessment of the impact of the Opportunity Zone program in August of 2020; their conclusions indicate continued public and private investment in Opportunity Zones.
- EOCEA’s report predicts the OZ program “could lift 1 million people out of poverty and into self-sufficiency, decreasing poverty in OZs by 11 percent.”
Multiple federal administrations have invested millions of dollars in Opportunity Zones.
- OZs are eligible for Economic Development Administration (EDA) funding via grants.
- Since January 2018, the EDA has invested $347 million in 239 projects in Opportunity Zones.
- Awards are minimum $100,000 and maximum $3 million.
- Other administrative assistance includes funding from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
In 2019, the EPA announced a $65 million grant project to rehabilitate environmental disaster areas within OZs. Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOF) and OZ businesses invest in these brownfield sites to ensure safety and compliance with environmental standards.
- 32% of the nation’s contaminated sites (brownfields) are located within Opportunity Zones.
- 108 communities within Opportunity Zones have been selected as recipients of EPA grants.
- 40% of communities receiving funding are first-time assistance recipients.
- The EPA has invested $12.4 million in 48 brownfields sites.
- In the year following clean-up, an estimated $29 million in tax revenue alone was generated in these spaces.
- Property values of homes near brownfield sites increase between 5% and 15% after brownfield clean-up.
The IRS can utilize the “general anti-abuse rule” to determine if an investment has not been in line with the purpose of the Opportunity Zone program.
- A Qualified Opportunity Zone Business Property must have at least 50% of its total gross income derived from actively conducting trade and business.
- Employees or independent contractors and their employees must reside within the OZ.
- Certain businesses are barred from Opportunity Zones.
- Racetracks or other gambling facilities.
- Liquor stores or businesses selling alcohol for consumption off-premises.
- Suntan, massage, and hot tub facilities.
- Country clubs and private/commercial golf courses.
|How private investors benefit from Opportunity Zones via Qualified Opportunity Funds|
Opportunity Zone Grant Eligibility
The EDA is not authorized to provide grants or cooperative agreements to individuals or to for-profit entities.
- Public and private institutions of higher education may be eligible for grants.
- State, county, city, and township governments.
- Special district governments and Native American tribal governments.
- Nonprofits – with or without 501(c)(3) status – other than institutions of higher education.
Opportunity Zone Communities
By definition, OZs have fewer community resources available. This gives residents fewer opportunities to aid themselves and care for their families.
- Nearly 380 or 8.8% of universities and colleges are located within OZs.
- Nearly 480 or 9.4% of public airports are near or adjacent to OZs.
- 745 or 8.5% of OZs have a transit station.
- 28% of Opportunity Zones qualify as food deserts (without a full-service grocery store within a 1-mile radius in urban areas and 10 miles in rural areas).
Opportunity Zone Demographics
Demographics in Opportunity Zones may reflect resource availability within that area.
- 31.5 million people live in Opportunity Zones.
- The median family income is $49,900.
- 23.6% of residents are under the age of 18.
- 13.61% are 65 years and older.
- 83% have a life expectancy below the national average.
- 35% of residents in Opportunity Zones are obese.
- 79.5% of adults graduate high school; the national average high school graduation rate is 94%.
- 18.1% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher; nationally, 39% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
- 39.5% of OZ residents are Caucasian.
- 29.9% of residents are Hispanic.
- 24.0% are Black.
- 2.9% are Asian or Pacific Islander.
- 3.7% of residents identify as another race or as multiracial.
Poverty in Opportunity Zones
Opportunity Zones are characterized by a lack of upward mobility among residents. Some OZs have an extensive history of poverty.
- OZs have a 26.4% average poverty rate compared to 13.4% nationwide.
- 7.9 million or 25% of Opportunity Zone residents live in poverty.
- The median family income is 35.4% below the national median.
- 24 million jobs are located within OZs.
- The unemployment rate among adults aged 25-54 averages 30.0%; the national average unemployment rate for that age group is 21.5%.
- More than 1 in 5 Opportunity Zones have a poverty rate over 40%.
- 71% of Opportunity Zones meet the U.S. Treasury Department’s definition of “severely distressed” with a poverty rate of 30% or median family income no greater than 60% of the area benchmark.
- 55% of renters in Opportunity Zones are rent-burdened (spend more than 30% of household income on rent).
- OZ residents spend an average of 53% of income on housing and transportation.
- 38% of census tracts that have been consistently poor since 1980 have been designated OZs.
- 49% of concentrated persistent poverty census tracts (where 40% of the population has lived in poverty since 1980) have been designated OZs.
- Poverty rates rose in over half of OZs from 2006 to 2018, the program’s first year.
- The average family living in an Opportunity Zone saw half of the buying power of their income decrease between 2006-10 and 2014-2018.
- Nearly 2.4 million people (27% of HUD residents and 7.6% of people in OZs) live in HUD-assisted housing within OZs, occupying 898,000 units.
- 738,000 people in OZs live in 371,000 public housing units (38% of HUD’s total inventory).
- 465,000 units (22% of HUD total) are Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) tenants.
- 62,000 units are Section 8 Project Housing.
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Opportunity Now
- Executive Office of the President of the United States Council of Economic Advisers, The Impact of Opportunity Zones: An Initial Assessment
- U.S. Economic Development Administration, The Opportunity Zones Initiative
- EducationData.org, Education Attainment Statistics
- United States Department of Transportation, Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Number of U.S. Airports
- Environmental Protection Agency, Types of EPA Brownfield Grant Funding
- Economic Innovation Group, Opportunity Zones
- U.S. Census Bureau, QuickFacts: United States