There has been a lot of interest in the issue of Opportunity Zones in Boulder.
Read Councilmember Jill Grano’s Hotline post here:
Dear Council and Hotline Followers,
I am writing from Sacramento from the Meeting of the Minds Summit (meetingoftheminds.org). I am sorry that my attendance here caused me to miss last night’s Study Session.
I have been following the recent spike in activity and concern around Opportunity Zones in Boulder with great interest. I find it curious that all of this activity is happening now, given that staff told us about this back in March and the zone was created in April. Information about this has also been posted online for quite sometime now…
While I understand questioning the motivations of the Trump Administration and the effectiveness of the broader policy decision (which is what many of the articles that have been shared with Council focus on), the reality is: Opportunity Zones exist and they have potential to serve our community goal of building more affordable housing.
The area selected as Boulder’s Opportunity Zone is filled with underutilized parcels and is ripe for redevelopment. Thanks to the hard work of City Staff and our City Manager, we have the incredible opportunity to leverage the advantages of Opportunity Zones here in Boulder. I spoke with one Housing Director here at the conference that said that Opportunity Zones translate to a 3-6 cent bump in LIHTC pricing! This could mean more affordable housing in this zone (YAY!). According to report from Affordable Housing Finance:
“The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has already had a giant effect on the affordable housing business. Developers are still getting used to a substantial drop in the prices investors are willing to pay for low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) because of the new law. However, tax reform also created the new Opportunity Zones tax benefit. The zones should bring a substantial amount of new capital to a variety of equity investments in new “Opportunity Funds,” including real estate projects in the zones that build or preserve affordable housing, according to experts.” (www.housingfinance.com/news/opportunity-zones-help-affordable-housing)
Let’s remember: We still control the zoning here! All the OZ designation does is provide incentive for re-development.
I found it fascinating and ironic that as select (and highly influential) community members were emailing council about their displeasure re: Opportunity Zones in Boulder – and as fanaticism and conspiracy theories abounded on Twitter re: the topic – I was sitting among hundreds of progressive community leaders (over 180 cities are represented here) who were simultaneously sharing how excited they are to have Opportunity Zones in their cities. Every community leader I spoke with believes Opportunity Zones can be utilized to encourage and enhance affordable housing.
The Mayor of Sacramento gave the keynote speech at the MOM Summit. Mayor Darrell Steinberg is a longtime Democrat and a member of Gavin Newson’s transition team. As a State Senator, Mayor Steinberg authored bills to protect the environment, serve underprivileged communities, and much more. In his Keynote speech at the Summit I am attending, Mayor Steinberg spoke about how excited he is to utilize the Opportunity Zones in the City of Sacramento to create affordable housing and inclusive economic development! (watch the tape once it is released!) Immediately after Mayor Steinberg spoke, a FUSE Fellow (fusecorps.org/about) further spoke about the benefits of Opportunity Zones in creating affordable housing.
Jane and our City Staff: THANK YOU for securing an Opportunity Zone in Boulder. Thank you for letting us know about this back in March and having it posted on the City website for months! Many cities across the country would LOVE to trade places with us. Progressive, Democratic cities across the country are excited to use these zones their advantage. Do I wish that I – as a Council member – had a heavier hand in securing this zone? No! I believe we have the best City Staff in the country and I have no need to micro-manage staff’s every move.
Some have claimed that the presence of an OZ will increase property prices throughout the City. That’s not how the market works. A tax incentive in one select zone will not raise prices throughout the City. Furthermore, I find the claims that the creation of this OZ is some kind of evil arrangement between staff and wealthy property owners preposterous. As an elected community leader, I have no patience for this kind of divisive rhetoric, which only serves to tear our community apart. We have enough division at coming from the White House. PLEASE, let’s not use the same scare tactics and falsehoods here in Boulder!
We have an incredible OPPORTUNITY on our hands. I share the enthusiasm of HUNDREDS of community leaders across party lines that this opportunity can be used for the good.
Again, THANK YOU Jane and Staff!
Jill Adler Grano
Boulder City Council
“The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.”