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GSA To Prioritize Opportunity Zones For Federal Agency Moves

President Donald Trump in a Jan. 24, 2018, meeting with GSA Administrator Emily Murphy and other administration officials.

The federal government is looking to use its real estate arm to help spur investment in opportunity zones

The General Services Administration announced Tuesday it will increase its investment in opportunity zones with owned and leased federal buildings, following an executive order that President Donald Trump signed Monday. 

The order directed the General Services Administration to prioritize opportunity zones and other distressed communities in federal agency moves to help bring new economic activity to the neighborhoods and to save taxpayer money by occupying more affordable real estate.

"We are excited to now officially include qualified Opportunity Zones in the list of priorities we formally assess when selecting sites," GSA Administrator Emily Murphy said in a release. "Yesterday’s Executive Order is consistent with GSA’s long term role in spurring economic development within the communities where our buildings are located.”

The opportunity zone program was passed into law in late 2017 as a way to incentivize investors to put money into underserved communities. A host of projects have broken ground with opportunity zone financing, but reports have found that the program has not delivered on its social mission.

The program appears to have the political support to survive past the November election, but market stakeholders have pushed for changes, such as more requirements around reporting the impact of the program's investments.  

Beyond using the government's real estate footprint, the Trump administration has sought to support the opportunity zone program through other methods. The Department of Education last week launched a grant program to help institutions of higher education recover from the coronavirus crisis, and it gives priority to applicants who expand educational access to students in opportunity zones.