U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Friday met with Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson, U.S. Rep. Lacy Clay, D-University City, and other state and city leaders in St. Louis to tour new real estate developments in low-income communities.
Carson came to St. Louis to highlight Opportunity Zones, a federal program that encourages investment in neglected communities by offering incentives to developers, including tax breaks. The program was established as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
“The Opportunity Zones present an incredible opportunity for people to take unrealized capital gains that would normally be invested into more traditional vehicles and focus them on areas that are traditionally neglected,” Carson said.
Carson and Missouri officials visited the City Foundry construction site in Midtown and the North Sarah Apartments in the Vandeventer neighborhood. Both are located within Opportunity Zones.
The program aims to create $100 billion in private capital investment nationwide by having companies reinvest their capital gains for a decade in return for incentives.
Clay said that while a timeframe to reach that estimated goal hasn’t been specified yet, he expects the program to spur more cooperation among developers.
“Investors will look at the investment opportunities. That was the enticement, that was the intent of the legislation when we passed it,” Clay said.
HUD officials estimate there are about 380,000 public-housing units within Opportunity Zones across the country. Missouri currently has 161 Opportunity Zones. Carson said this program aims to strengthen low-income communities amidst growing international competition.
“We’re not going to be able to compete in a world where China and India have four times more people than we do unless we really get serious about developing our people,” Carson said.
The event comes days after HUD issued a lawsuit against Facebook. The charges claim the Facebook is limiting who can view housing advertisements by excluding ethnic and minority groups. Carson said the alleged discrimination is a consequence of new technologies.
“We have to grow with the technological times,” Carson said. “The anti-discrimination rules in housing are still effective, but we have to change our methodology in terms of determining what is actually creating problems.”
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