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Some Opportunity Zone Benefits Are Set To Expire, And Investors May Start Flooding In

Pullman Crossings

A deadline is approaching for investors that want to pour capital gains into federal opportunity zones, and a rush could be on.

As of Jan, 1, investments into qualified opportunity zone funds won’t receive the 10% reduction on deferred capital gains taxes that has been part of the program since it was created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  

Those who act after Dec. 31 can still secure two other benefits from the program, which, according to its congressional sponsors, was meant to drive investment into neighborhoods historically starved for capital. Future investors can still defer their capital gains tax liability until Dec. 31, 2026, as well as eliminate taxes on any capital gains realized from an opportunity zone investment after 10 years.

Those two benefits are each more valuable to investors than the 10% reduction on deferred capital gains taxes that will sunset in less than four weeks, according to Origin Investments Co-CEO David Scherer. But the loss of that reduction is still causing a new rush of investors seeking to take advantage of opportunity zones.  

“It’s a better idea to do this in December rather than in January because why not get the 10%?” Scherer said.

Origin closed its first qualified opportunity zone fund in July after raising $265M from more than 800 investors, he said. These dollars can flow into most kinds of developments, properties and businesses within the nation’s 8,700 opportunity zones, but Origin concentrates on multifamily developments. Its first fund has about 3,700 units under construction in 11 multifamily properties, with a total value of more than $846M.

The firm launched its second qualified opportunity zone fund in October. It has six multifamily assets in its pipeline, including projects in the Atlanta, Phoenix, Charlotte and Colorado Springs markets.

It is typical that Q4 is the busiest for firms running qualified opportunity zone funds, Scherer said, but based on activity over the past few weeks, this year could be the busiest.

“I can’t give you an exact number, but we’re already seeing it, and we’re pretty confident we’ll have a record December,” he added.

Opportunity zone funds have become more popular with investors. In the first half of 2021, qualified funds raised more than $17.5B, a 15.5% boost over the total reported for all of 2020, according to a study by Novogradac, a public accounting firm.

The program has its critics, who say opportunity zones provide tax breaks for wealthy investors and promote development in areas that aren’t really struggling.

That isn't true, at least in Illinois, according to Jennifer Bransfield, chief operating officer of Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives, a nonprofit developer that does a lot of work in the Far South Side neighborhood of Pullman. She credits state and city officials for making sure opportunity zones in Illinois covered the neighborhoods, including Pullman, that needed the most help.

“It’s an important tool that helps finance projects that traditional developers will overlook because they don’t pencil out with traditional forms of capital,” she said.

Opportunity zone investors provided all the funding for the $35M, 400K SF industrial building that CNI developed in Pullman Crossings, a 62-acre industrial park. The project was finished two years ago and is now fully occupied by manufacturer SC Johnson.

“Having the OZ financing meant we were able to develop the project very swiftly, just nine months, and deliver 200 new jobs to the neighborhood,” Bransfield said.