The White House on Wednesday announced the creation of a council to oversee government efforts on behalf of opportunity zones, the program that aims to leverage tax breaks for investors on behalf of distressed communities.
The council, to be named the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council, will be chaired by Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and will include representatives from 13 agencies.
There are already multiple areas of the federal government that touch economic development issues, and this council is charged with coordinating and streamlining existing efforts, White House officials said.
Opportunity zones were established as part of the tax overhaul passed late in 2017. They offer tax shelters to investors who put their dollars to work in approximately 8,000 areas around the country that local officials have designated as most in need.
Multiple sources told MarketWatch that one concern about the program is that it will simply attract money to real estate, leaving more complicated social issues like education and labor unfunded. On Wednesday, a senior White House official said the program “has never been just about real estate,” and reiterated the government’s interest in supporting small manufacturers and service businesses.
And an early analysis of funds flowing to opportunity zone funds found commercial real estate was the early favorite of investment managers.
The Associated Press published an investigation showing that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, the president’s daughter and son-in-law, could profit from the wave of opportunity zone money that’s seeking projects to fund. The couple owns what the AP called “a big stake” in a real estate investment firm that’s established a series of opportunity zone funds. And they own interests in at least 13 properties held by the Kushner family.
On Wednesday, as the White House was unveiling the council to reporters, Ivanka was tweeting about the promise represented by the program.
Opportunity Zones will incentivize much needed private sector investment in America’s most distressed urban + rural communities.
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) December 12, 2018
“From the South Side of Chicago to the Mississippi Delta, Governors across the country designate underserved communities based on their unique needs,” she continued. “All Americans, regardless of zip code, should have the opportunity to experience the American dream. Opportunity Zones will catalyze private sector investment that will create jobs + economic growth in overlooked communities nationwide.”
Still, critics have pointed out that not all areas enjoying the gold rush are “underserved” or “overlooked.” One such area is Long Island City, New York, one of the picks for a headquarters for Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, +2.16%