84 OPPORTUNITY ZONE MAGAZINE | ISSUE 2 • VOLUME 2
Today , many governments are struggling with the rise in poverty , homelessness , addiction , crime , and violence . To combat these growing problems , governments have deployed billions of dollars into commissioning studies , starting new programs and initiatives , and investing more in institutions like local schools and police departments to name a few ; progress is being made . However , consistently solving the myriad of social , economic , and housing issues in areas of extreme poverty have eluded many local governments and municipalities across the country . Many governments try to go it alone and many even invite their loyal corporate citizens to donate and fund their administrations initiatives . Unfortunately , most well intended efforts have fallen short of their ability to improve the outcomes thus far . Worse , even if some new initiatives , existing and scalable programs show promise and a track record for success , too many prior administration initiatives are arbitrarily scrapped and replaced with politically motivated new programs and initiatives that are more favored by the new administration . While administrations come and go , all citizens share in the cost and results – good or bad . Historically , too often , even good new initiatives are often not given time to develop or continue due to the short and changing political terms and cycles .
In other industries , public-private partnerships are frequently touted to serve as a great way to reduce the government financial burden on many public projects — as an example , tollways and parking meters . These are often long-term contracts that allow for the economic goals of both the private and public sector to be achieved . It should be no different in developing our communities .
Cities across America are littered with communities that look like warzones that were abandoned decades ago . Left behind are individuals and families trapped in survival mode and settling for jobs in an underground economy -- courtesy of the gangs and drug dealers -- and with little or no access to good food , jobs or housing . The financial and human toll and despair we are seeing , as a result , is incalculable loss and unrealized potential . These communities crave for investment in their economic development and opportunity . For without opportunity , the most negative aspects of our society will prevail .
WHY TIMING IS IMPORTANT IN OPPORTUNITY ZONES
Time is of the essence , and it is in all of our best interests to encourage properly vetted QOZ investors who are willing to invest alongside government to inject much needed resources and expertise into these depressed communities . QOZ investors are , for the most part , socially responsible , long-term investors who are willing to commit to up to a 10-year goal of investing in some of the most distressed communities . In a world where things have become consumed with every decision leading to a ‘ zero sum ’ game , the Qualified Opportunity Zone designation may be one of the best means to accelerate and accomplish the goals that these communities need to rebuild , reimagine , and reinvigorate themselves for the future and future generations .
Local governments can be an effective partner by streamlining the process to allow QOZ investors willing to take the risk and invest significant resources in these areas . Next ,
The financial and human toll and despair we are seeing , as a result , is incalculable loss and unrealized potential . These communities crave for investment in their economic development and opportunity .
government can assist by prioritizing plans that are focused on stabilizing and spurring on economic development in these distressed communities . Finally , municipalities should consider supporting the investment of QOZ projects by allocating available land , tax increment financing and other incentives . Properly structured , the mutual and collective efforts of the public-private partnership offer a valuable way to create the economic opportunity for distressed communities that can lead to a future that works for all stakeholders and creates a path for everyone to succeed and thrive .
The window is closing as deadlines for maximizing the returns for QOZ investors are upon us ; when we look in the rearview mirror of the pandemic , I hope that we find that collectively we have acted with the same sense of urgency we are giving the pandemic . We must fast-track the use of every tool we have in the toolbox to support PPP investments and carefully choose to support those that are the most committed , able and likely to especially improve the lives of those most impacted by COVID-19 and provide for the greater long-term good of our communities . Our vision and mission should be to leave a better heath , economic and housing infrastructure that is safer , fairer , and available to all now and for the generations to come .
Neli Vazquez Rowland is co-founder of A Safe Haven , which is an organization designed to address homelessness . Rowland ’ s public private partnership model has helped over 130,000 homeless people become independent , and self-sufficient in a sustainable manner , since 1994 . She is a nonprofit leader , philanthropist , serial social entrepreneur , and affordable housing real estate developer . She is also a co-author of state legislation to help elevate homelessness as a public health issue . She has been invited to the White House as a White House Champion of Change and was the recipient of the Chicago Innovation Award for the Best Response to Covid-19 .
OPPORTUNITYZONE . COM