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Opportunity Zone Communities Need a Watchdog

Chances are you’re hearing more and more about Opportunity Zones, a tax break for the wealthy that is supposed to drive investment in areas defined as “economically distressed.” It’s a new chapter for cities, and we’re inviting you to join Next City in making sure everyone, from Opportunity Zone residents to investors, gets the truthful and accurate storytelling we all need to ensure this tax break does more good than bad.

Our role at Next City is to bring deep analysis of efforts to redress generations of disinvestment and neglect. To the extent that Opportunity Zones can do that, we want to report on it. To the extent that Opportunity Zones risk undermining those efforts, we want to report as well on how cities and neighbors are coming together to mitigate negative impact. We believe that amplifying what’s going right will help spread that solution and help safeguard the future of these neighborhoods. But we need your support to do so.

Opportunity Zone deals are already starting to come together around the country. Investors are lining up with billions more dollars to utilize the tax break. Cities and states are responding in a variety of ways to the opportunities and threats this new policy creates. We’ve started reporting on all the above with the level of analysis and nuance you’ve come to expect from correspondents who are committed to covering these issues in depth. With your support, we can do even more.

There are 35 million residents living in the 8,762 Opportunity Zones around the U.S., and 60% are people of color. When I was talking to Keith Beverley, managing partner and chief investment officer of Grid 202 Partners, for this story, he told me this: “My fear with Opportunity Zones is that effectively you have this large pool of capital that … doesn’t constitute the wealth of people of color, and that wealth is going to flow predominantly into black and brown communities.”

You know that organizing and engaging people to hold the powerful and the wealthy accountable is often tireless, thankless work, but it’s essential to keep cities from becoming exclusive playgrounds for those with the most power and wealth. To do this work, we need your support. With $10,000, we can publish five originally reported, in-depth articles. With $24,000, it’s enough to fund one story sent every month to our newsletter subscribers.

As you may know, this is not the first time that the federal government has offered some kind of subsidy or incentive for investment in distressed areas. But on this particular incarnation, we believe it is important that as many people as possible know what is different and what might be a repeat of past mistakes. Next City is a nonprofit news organization, and with you behind us, we can reach further and report more deeply on this story and hopefully inform and inspire the kind of community organizing and engagement necessary to keep cities moving toward a more equitable future. Please make a donation today to support this reporting.

Sincerely,
Oscar Perry Abello
Senior Economics Correspondent

P.S. If you haven’t read it already, we published an excerpt from “Resilience for All” a few weeks ago.

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