In a wide-ranging State of the Union address last night, his final of his first term, President Donald Trump boasted of a strong economy and ripped Democrats over healthcare, among other things. But it was Trump’s mention of opportunity zones — a program aimed at reviving 8,700 low-income neighborhoods by offering developers tax breaks when they invest their capital gains — which drew big praise from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and other trade organizations.
Trump’s speech praised the program — which was created as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 — and in the process thanked Republican Senator Tim Scott, an architect of the plan. He also shared an anecdote about an army veteran in Ohio that found a job — and his way out of drug addiction — thanks to a construction company that utilizes that program.
“In other words, wealthy people and companies are pouring money into poor neighborhoods or areas that haven’t seen investment in many decades, creating jobs, energy and excitement,” Trump said, according to a transcript of his speech. “This is the first time that these deserving communities have seen anything like this. It’s all working.”
Vince Malta, the president of the NAR, applauded the mention and support of opportunity zones.
“NAR has worked closely with the administration and Congress to ensure successful implementation of Qualified Opportunity Zones — and today that program is spurring valuable real estate development in countless underserved communities,” Malta said in a statement.
Opportunity zones have been criticized by some as a vehicle for already affluent Americans to invest in their own personal wealth — like investment art — rather than a tool to invest in low-income communities.
Malta also praised the president’s call for bipartisan infrastructure reform — though Trump just pressed Congress to pass Republican Senator John Barrasso’s bill, ignoring similar infrastructure reform attempts by Democrats — and his administration’s defense of association health plans.
“Ultimately, there is no factor more important to American prosperity, health and stability than its housing market,” Malta added. “While we push for numerous policy solutions in 2020, fostering a climate in which the U.S. housing market can continue to strengthen and thereby help further expand the economy will remain NAR’s top priority.”
The National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and the National Apartment Association (NAA) also released a joint statement praising Trump’s housing policies, including the implementation of opportunity zones, the easing of building regulations and the creation of the Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing.
“A signature achievement of the President’s housing policy this year was the establishment of the White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing, an effort of which NMHC and NAA are a part,” the associations said in a joint statement. “This Council, chaired by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, has done important work highlighting how overly burdensome regulations drive up the costs of development and worsen housing affordability challenges.”