The Opportunity Zone program started as a bipartisan bill championed by Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC). It became the law as a part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act signed by President Trump in December 2017.
The law spurred the creation of Opportunity Zones (OZ) - 8,764 tracts of land in low- and moderate-income areas designated as distressed communities. Close to 10% of all US residents call them home. Around 30% of Houses of Worship are located in the OZ.
Investing in OZ brings capital into distressed communities and offers tax benefits to investors. OZ investors are rewarded with deferral of capital gains, step up in basis, and even total elimination of the capital gains tax on the sale of their OZ investment.
The OZ program rewards patient capital which insures the capital stays in distressed communities long enough to revitalize them.
Senators Cory Booker and Tim Scott championed the OZ bill.
Traditionally, Houses of Worship (HoW) have been beacons in their communities. In recent years, the attendance of HoW has been declining. In 1999, 70% of Americans were members of a HoW whereas the current number is 50%. On top of that, Covid-19 brought already declining attendance to zero and critically sharpened the needs of many HoW that rely on donations of their members.
Often, HoW are buildings with a large footprint. Although they are a blessing for flourishing congregations, they often become a liability for the declining ones. HoW are left with a hard decision whether to close their doors and end their mission in the community.
Pre-Covid-19 the average Banks’ underperforming loans percentage was approximately 1%; during the Great Recession the number was 5%. At that time, close to 5000 HoW had been closing each year. Hundreds of HoW were sold after defaulting on their loans where 90% of the sales were foreclosures.
Banks that hold loans with HoW that are declining have one of two choices: they either continue holding the risky loans on their balance sheets or foreclose on the HoW. The impact of foreclosure on communities is devastating, and banks are often criticized for making strictly business decisions.
The instability of HoW has a spillover effect on the communities that host them. A HoW is usually an active participant in its community offering family-friendly services such as childcare, pre-school, ESL classes for immigrants, or community kitchens. Once a HoW is unable to address these needs, there is an immediate void which is difficult to fill.
Foreclosures on these large buildings put a stain on the community. The neighborhoods become less attractive to families and more attractive to crime.
HoWs are overlooked by impact Investors although approximately a 1/3 of HoW are located in OZs.
Timothy relieves banks of risky debt incurred by struggling Houses of Worship.
Banks avoid foreclosing on Houses of Worship which often leads to community resentment.
HoW are repositioned and modernized creating debt free multi-use properties for worship and community-friendly revenue-generating businesses.
Communities are revitalized as their social cornerstones are revived.
Responsible Investors channel their capital into distressed communities to make a positive social impact.
They are rewarded with the benefits of the OZ program on top of having a sustainable investment that outperforms during crisis.
The presentation examines the state of OZ technology.