The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, enacted by the Trump administration, created the largest government-sponsored subsidy for urban renewal through the Opportunity Zones program. This tax expenditure is designed to delay and even avoid capital gains taxes to incentivize development in areas deemed to be in economic distress. While the program’s stated intent is to revitalize neighborhoods, build affordable housing, or promote small businesses, the selection of qualified areas is based on the income rate of residents. That is to say, a subsidy program focused on the physical place improvements has based its designation criteria on local resident’s income. While little academic scholarship has focused on this revolutionary program yet, this note finds that the Opportunity Zone approach to urban renewal likely furthers gentrification, is ripe for abuse, and lacks specificity to help the communities it is intended to serve. These statutory effects are seen clearly in a case study of the Opportunity Zones in Charlottesville, Virginia. In particular, the selection of Zones shows ability to manipulate the program to inappropriately subsidize already-occurring development. In response to the structural issues and the results from the Charlottesville case study, this note further provides a framework of policy solutions for state and local governments, as well as stakeholders, to utilize the opportunity for investment dollars while mitigating the negative externalities.
Massey, Kelsey, "Using Tax Law to Perpetuate Gentrification: Vinegar Hill Lives Again in Charlottesville" (2021). GGU Tax & Estate Planning Review. 13.