Tag Archives: ESG

Top 10 LEED States in the US – Colorado on Top – Brad A. Molotsky, Esq.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced its list of Top 10 States for LEED green building. Congrats to Colorado who took the top spot on the list, which ranks states based on the number of LEED certified square feet per person. Yes slightly odd way to measure things but they are the ones counting so onward we roll.

LEED, as you likely know, stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and is the most widely used green building rating system in the world with more than 100,000 projects engaged.

This year’s top states are home to more than 105 million people, including more than 80,000 LEED green building professionals with the credentials and skills needed to support the sustainable transformation of buildings.
LEED-certified projects support personal health and well-being, as well as use less energy and water, reduce carbon emissions and have been proven to save money for families, businesses and taxpayers.

Per USGBC, the Top 10 list is based on 2010 U.S. Census data and includes commercial and institutional green building projects certified throughout 2019.

Colorado certified 102 green building projects representing 4.76 square feet of LEED-certified space per resident. The state has made the Top 10 list each year but jumped to the top spot after ranking sixth in 2018.

Minnesota and Oregon reemerged as Top 10 states after missing the list last year, coming in at number eight and nine respectively. The full rankings are as follows:

2019 Top 10 States for LEED
Rank State, Certified Gross Square Footage (GSF), GSF Per Capita, Number of Projects Certified, and LEED Professionals

1 CO     23,962,344      4.76      102          6,339
2 IL       49,363,822       3.85     121          8,662
3 NY     72,778,916       3.76     193       12,576
4 MA    24,505,512       3.74     101          6,827
5 HI        4,083,713       3.00      121         1,145
6 MD    15,234,554       2.64        96         4,998
7 VA     19,981,112        2.50       98         6,526
8 MN    12,708,706       2.40        25         3,346
9 OR       8,825,432       2.30        33         2,908
10 CA   80,669,066       2.17      400      26,794
** DC   31,810,018     52.86      143        2,597

**Washington, D.C. is not ranked as it is a federal district, not a state

USGBC calculates the list using per capita figures to allow for a fair comparison of the level of green building taking place among states with significant differences in population and number of overall buildings.

Despite Washington, D.C. not appearing in the official Top 10 list because of its status as a federal territory, it consistently leads the nation and in 2019 certified 52.86 square feet of space per resident across 143 green building projects. The nation’s capital has a strong legacy of sustainability leadership and has expanded its use of LEED from buildings to cities and communities to support its goals.

In 2017, it became the first LEED-certified city and in 2019 certified the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District LEED Platinum, the first business improvement district in the world to certify.

Across the U.S. there are more than 165,000 LEED green building professionals.

As USGBC continues to advance green buildings, cities and communities through the adoption of LEED and the latest version of the rating system, LEED v4.1, the organization is also considering a future that is focused on a more regenerative approach.

In November 2019 at the annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, USGBC introduced “LEED Positive” – a roadmap that will lay the foundation for a future of LEED that transitions away from strategies that only reduce harm and instead focus on those that help repair and restore. With a continued focus on performance, USGBC is attempting to lay the groundwork to ensure sustainable design, construction and operations of buildings, cities and communities remains focused on better buildings that contribute to better lives.

For more on LEED and sustainability, do not hesitate to email or call and we would be happy to discuss this and other ESG, CSR and sustainability topics. Best regards. -Brad

Housing Inventories at their Lowest Point in 3 years; OZ Implications

According to Realtor.com’s just released study, housing inventories dropped 12% nationally from 2018 to 2019, the largest year-over-year decline in nearly three years.

The Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington metro area had one of the highest rates of inventory decline in the U.S. , with active listings in the region falling 26.3% over the last year.

The median listing price for a home in the Philadelphia area was $288,250 as of December, much lower than many other surveyed metropolitan areas. That said, the Philadelphia MSA had one of the highest increases in home prices of all the MSA’s measured, up 13.1% from 2018.

According to the study the market has a large housing inventory undersupply just as 4.8 Million millennials are reaching 30 years of age, a prime time for many to purchase a home.

Also, not a shocker that with less inventory for sale pricing tends to go up which can result in more homelessness in a region as there is less housing that people can afford.

According to the study, the biggest declines in active listings occurred in these 10 markets nationally:

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif.: -33.1% (Median listing price: $1,074,750)
2. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Wash.: -31.8% (Median listing price: $582,000)
3. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif.: -30.4% (Median listing price: $897,000)
4. Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, Calif.: -29.5% (Median listing price: $495,000)
5. Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ: -29% (Median listing price: $374,495)
6. San Diego-Carlsbad, Calif.: 28.3% (Median listing price: $719,444)
7. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, Pa.-N.J.-Del: -26.3% (Median listing price: $288,250)
8. Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Va.-N.C.: -24.7% (Median listing price: $304,000)
9. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W. Va.: -24.3% (Median listing price: $470,000)
10. Providence-Warwick, R.I.-Mass: -23.8% (Median listing price: $369,900)

Of note is that many of these MSA’s have large Opportunity Zone tracts which could be prime sites for rental properties or for sale housing where a buyer could take advantage of capital gains to invest in such a property and obtain the benefits of the OZ if it held such property for 10 years or more and sold thereafter before 12-31-2047.

If you have questions or thoughts regarding OZs, please drop us a note and we would be happy to discuss your concerns. -Brad A. Molotsky

My Top Ten Favorites from the Final Regs

Now that we have all had a chance to celebrate a Merry Christmas, a Happy Kwanzaa or a Happy Hanukah, and have had the chance to digest 544 pages of final OZ regs – what, you say you have not really studied the new final regs yet – can’t be the case :) !

As we are working feverishly (with beer as our our co companion along with my trusty dog Marty) I wanted to list out what I see as some really nice clarifications and additional flexibility that the final regulations provided – ok to disagree or chime in with your favorites if you want.

1. Working Capital Plan Timing – increase of up to 62 Months not just 31 month safe harbor for QOZBs with a working capital plan;

2. Ability to sell assets from a QOZB after ten years and still have elimination benefit clarification. Like this a lot. Logical but appreciated on the clarification.

3. Real Property Straddling a site – 2 enumerated tests for real property that straddles a zone and a non-zone – square footage and value;

4. “Original Use” for Brownfields investments so long as they are made safe;

5. “Original Use” for vacant property which was 1 year vacant when designated as an OZ in 2018 and which remains vacant until purchase or real property that was vacant for 3 years prior to purchase – both count as Original Use property and represents a reduction from 5 years;

6. Aggregation – the ability to aggregate assets within a site and within adjacent sites for purposes of qualifying for the 90% test;

7. Timing – clarity and additional flexibility for partners of a partnership and shareholders of an S corp. to invest amount of capital gains in a QOF 180 days from the due date (without extension) of the entity they are involved in;

8. Business Property Gains – the ability to not have to net capital losses with capital gains on 1231 property enables more gains to be eligible for investment within OZs;

9. Personal property used in an opportunity zone business can be counted for purposes of meeting the “substantial improvement” test. This includes section 1245 property that is not included in the basis of a building; and

10. Leases –
• Leases from state and local governments and tribes are not required to be at market rate. This policy is intended to facilitate arrangements where governments hope to encourage development by offering favorable leasing terms.
• Leases that are not between related parties are presumed to be at market rate.
• The working capital safe harbor is extended 24 months, for a total of 55 months, when a project is delayed due to a disaster and the opportunity zone is located in a federally declared disaster area.

11. Sin Businesses – Some would say that the allowance of less than 5% sin business as part of a property should be a top ten, but we will leave that at 11 and a topic for a different day, as I am not sure why having a tenancy of a sin business would be relevant to the real estate investment in a building and/or adaptively reusing of a property. It impacts NOI yes, but would not impact the real property investment and substantial improvement thereof or the original use thereof so not sure what the hubbub is here but happy to ruminate.

Take a look and DM me (get it) with your thoughts or views or other key provisions you like or dislike. Busy working on a few more closings before the 12/31/19 witching hour where we will lose the 15% reduction, but around and happy to chat at your convenience. Fun and interesting deals. Come join the party. -Brad

Final OZ Regulations Issued by the IRS/Treasury

On December 19, 2019, the U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS issued final regulations implementing the Opportunity Zones tax incentive. According to the IRS press release, the final rules seek to provide clarity for Opportunity Funds and their eligible subsidiaries in determining qualification and levels of new investment in Opportunity Zones. They also provide guidance regarding the types of gains that qualify for Opportunity Zone investments, as well as gains that may be excluded from tax after a 10-year holding period.

Per the IRS’s FAQs on the final regulations:

What types of gains may be invested and when?
• General rule — The final regulations amend the proposed regulations’ general rule that only capital gain may be invested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) during the 180-day investment period by clarifying that only eligible gain taxable in the United States may be invested in a QOF.

• Sales of business property — The proposed regulations only permitted the amount of an investor’s gains from the sale of business property that were greater than the investor’s losses from such sales to be invested in QOFs, and required the 180-day investment period to begin on the last day of the investor’s tax year. The final regulations allow a taxpayer to invest the entire amount of gains from such sales without regard to losses and change the beginning of the investment period from the end of the year to the date of the sale of each asset.

• Partnership gain — Partners in a partnership, shareholders of an S corporation, and beneficiaries of estates and non-grantor trusts have the option to start the 180-day investment period on the due date of the entity’s tax return, not including any extensions. This change addresses taxpayer concerns about potentially missing investment opportunities due to an owner of a business entity receiving a late Schedule K-1 (or other form) from the entity.

• Investment of Regulated Investment Company (RIC) and Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) gains — The rules clarify that the 180-day investment period generally starts at the close of the shareholder’s tax year and provides that gains can, at the shareholder’s option, also be invested based on the 180-day investment period starting when the shareholder receives capital gains dividends from a RIC or REIT.

• Installment sales — The rules clarify that gains from installment sales are able to be invested when received, even if the initial installment payment was made before 2018.
• Nonresident investment — The final regulations provide that nonresident alien individuals and foreign corporations may make Opportunity Zone investments with capital gains that are effectively connected to a U.S. trade or business. This includes capital gains on real estate assets taxed to nonresident alien individuals and foreign corporations under the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act rules.

When may gains be excluded from tax after an investment is held for a 10-year period?

• Sales of property by a Qualified Opportunity Zone Business (QOZB) — In the proposed regulations, an investor could only elect to exclude gains from the sale of qualifying investments or property sold by a QOF operating in partnership or S Corporation form, but not property sold by a subsidiary entity. The final regulations provide that capital gains from the sale of property by a QOZB that is held by such a QOF may also be excluded from income as long as the investor’s qualifying investment in the QOF has been held for 10 years. However, the amount of gain from such a QOF’s or its QOZBs’ asset sales that an investor in the QOF may elect to exclude each year will reduce the amount of the investor’s interest in the QOF that remains a qualifying investment.

• Applicability to other gains — The final rules clarify that the exclusion is available to other gains, such as distributions by a corporation to shareholders or a partnership to a partner, that are treated as gains from the sale or exchange of property (other than inventory) for Federal income tax purposes.

How does a Fund determine levels of new investment in a Qualified Opportunity Zone?

• Aggregation of property for purposes of the substantial improvement test — QOFs and QOZBs can take into account purchased original use assets that otherwise would qualify as qualified opportunity zone business property if the purchased assets:

o Are used in the same trade or business in the Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ) or a contiguous QOZ for which a non-original use asset is used, and

o Improve the functionality of the non-original use assets in the same QOZ or a contiguous QOZ.

• Aggregation of property for purposes of the substantial improvement test (continued) — In certain cases, the final regulations permit a group of two or more buildings located on the same parcel(s) of land to be treated as a single property. In these cases, any additions to the basis of the buildings in the group are aggregated to determine satisfaction of the substantial improvement requirement. Thus, a taxpayer need not increase the basis of each building by 100% as long as the total additions to basis for the group of buildings equals 100% of the initial basis for the group.

• Vacancy period to allow a building to qualify as original use — The final regulations reduce the five-year vacancy requirement in the proposed regulations to a one-year vacancy requirement, if the property was vacant for at least one-year prior to the QOZ being designated and remains vacant through the date of purchase. For other vacant property, the proposed five-year vacancy requirement is reduced to three years. In addition, property involuntarily transferred to local government control is included in the definition of the term vacant, allowing it to be treated as original use property when purchased by a QOF or QOZB from the local government.

• Leasing — The final regulations provide several changes to leasing provisions in the proposed regulations:

o State and local governments, as well as Indian tribal governments, will be exempt from the market-rate requirements for leased tangible property,

o Leases between unrelated parties are generally presumed to be at market rate terms, and

o Short-term leases of personal property to lessors using the property outside a QOZ may be counted as Qualified Opportunity Zone Business Property (QOZBP).

• Working capital safe harbor — The final regulations provide several refinements to the working capital safe harbor:

o They create an additional 62-month safe harbor for start-up businesses to ensure that they can comply with the 70-percent tangible property standard, the 50-percent gross income requirement, and other requirements to qualify as a QOZB;

o They provide that a QOZB can receive an extra 24 months to use working capital if the QOZ is in a Federally-declared disaster area;

o They clarify that the safe harbor can only be used for a 62-month period and that amounts remaining at the conclusion of the period cannot be counted as tangible property for purposes of the 70-percent tangible property standard; and

o They allow a QOZB to treat equipment, buildings, and other tangible property that is being improved with the working capital as QOZBP that is “used in a trade or business” for purposes of the requirement that a QOZB must be engaged in a trade or business.

o In addition, the final regulations provide that a QOZB not utilizing the working capital safe harbor may treat tangible property undergoing the substantial improvement process as being used in a trade or business.

• Measurement of “use” for the 70-percent use test— The final regulations provide that, if tangible property is used in one or more QOZs, satisfaction of the 70-percent use test is determined by aggregating the number of days the tangible property in each QOZ is utilized. Accordingly, the final regulations set forth a clearer way for determining satisfaction of the 70-percent use test, including a safe harbor for certain tangible property used both inside and outside the geographic borders of a QOZ.

• Determinations of location and “use” of intangible property — The final regulations provide that intangible property qualifies as used in the QOZ if:

o The use of the intangible property is normal, usual, or customary in the conduct of the trade or business, and

o The use contributes to the generation of gross income for the trade or business.

• Other clarifications regarding business property of QOFs or QOZBs —

o Real property straddling census tracts — The final regulations include both a square footage test and an unadjusted cost test to determine if a project is primarily in a QOZ, and provide that parcels or tracts of land will be considered contiguous if they possess common boundaries, and would be contiguous but for the interposition of a road, street, railroad, stream or similar property. Importantly, the final regulations also extend the straddle rules to QOF’s and QOZB’s with respect to the 70-percent use test.

o Brownfield sites — The final regulations provide that both the land and structures in a Brownfield site redevelopment are considered to be original use property as long as the QOF or QOZB make investments into the Brownfield site to improve its safety and compliance with environmental standards.

o Self-constructed property — The final rules provide that self-constructed property can count for purposes of the QOF’s 90-percent asset test and the QOZB’s 70-percent asset test, and is valued at the purchase price as of the date when physical work of a significant nature begins.

o De minimis exception for “sin businesses” — The final regulations provide that a QOZB may have less than 5 percent of its property leased to a so-called “sin business” described in 26 U.S.C. §144(c)(6)(B). For example, a hotel business of a QOZB could potentially lease space to a spa that provides tanning services.

Our team looks forward to diving into the minutae and will be issuing further white papers over the coming days. In the meanwhile, please do not hesitate to email or call with any questions or comments.
-Brad A. Molotsky

New CRA Regulations proposed – including credit for providing “financing for or supports for a QOF”

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) along with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) released proposed regulations on December 13, 2019 which would institute significant changes to the implementation of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) if implemented.

https://www.occ.treas.gov/news-issuances/federal-register/2019/nr-ia-2019-147-federal-register.pdf

The new regulations include guidance on many topics, including how CRA performance is measured, transparency of CRA reporting, the definition of assessment areas, and what activities qualify for CRA credit.

Interestingly, the draft guidance includes community development activity that “provides financing for or supports” Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOFs) that benefit Opportunity Zones communities as a qualifying activity for CRA credit.

There is a 60-day comment period from the date the proposed regulations post on the Federal Register.

If passed, this may spur additional lender interest in lending into Opportunity Zones and into OZ deals given the expansion of where these lenders will get CRA credit. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

-Brad A. Molotsky, Esq., Duane Morris, LLP

Rapid increase in funds invested in Opportunity Zone Funds

Despite the laments that I have heard of late at various conferences and read in various articles, Opportunity Zones are, in our little slice of the world, very busy, very active and, per both Novogradac and Bisnow, OZ Funds who are focused on raising third party equity have seen a marked increase in funds under management in the last few months and have raised approximately $4.5B to date. While this is indeed less than the $6T of unrealized capital gains estimated to be available to invest, it is still a very sizable sum of money.

Per Novogradac, of the 366 funds that they track which represent a targeted funding level of $65.7B if fully funded, 184 Qualified Opportunity Funds have reported back and have raised $4.46B with a funding target for those 184 QOFs of $25.17B. This level of $4.5B is up significantly from September when these same funds had raised $2.5B.

Many folks we work with are focused on the 12/31/19 deadline to invest capital gains into a QOF in order to obtain the 15% reduction in amount subject to capital gains benefit; BUT, as indicated previously, the sky does NOT fall if you miss this date, Armageddon does NOT happen – rather, the investor is eligible for a 10% reduction in 2020 and 2021 if they invest capital gains in those calendar years. So, the program is far from over, far from reaching its potential but is alive and doing well and making progress and moving in the right direction, if right is to attract equity capital in low and moderate income areas that were designated as Opportunity Zones.

My team and I are in the office and working on closing the 39 OZ deals we are currently working on for clients who have pushed forward and are moving deals towards the goal line. Kudos and thank you to those 29 clients for whom we have already closed deals for. We appreciate your business and count our blessings to have worked with you on these fun and exciting projects.

If you have questions or comments, please let us know as we are happy to chat OZs and investments and deployment or anything else you would like to discuss.

Have a wonderful holiday season!

House Legislation Would Establish OZ Reporting Framework and Penalties; Senate Bill Would Limit Application of OZs

While impeachment discussions continue to garnering most of the headlines, Representatives Ron Kind, D-Wis., Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and Terri Sewell, D-Ala., introduced legislation in the House to establish a reporting framework, disclosure requirements and a penalty structure for qualified opportunity funds (QOFs).

Their Bill, the “Opportunity Zone Accountability and Transparency Act”, would mandate that QOFs annually report assets; their aggregate amount of qualified OZ stock, OZ partnership interests and OZ business property; and provide details about the types of OZ businesses for which the QOF holds business property. According to Novogradac, the legislation would also institute a $500 daily fine for failure to file correct information and would require the Treasury Department to collect and compile statistical information on each OZ, including the number of QOFs that have invested in each OZ.

Across the way in the Senate, Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., introduced the “Opportunity Zone Reporting and Reform Act”. Senator Wyden’s bill would require information reporting from qualified opportunity funds (QOFs), end the designation of some 200 different opportunity zones (OZs), clarify some terms used in the OZ incentive and require a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the effectiveness of the incentive.

The Senate Bill would require QOFs to report in 9 areas, including:
– providing information on the amount and composition of assets, the names and taxpayer identification numbers (TINs) of investors along with the amount and dates of their investments;
– which opportunity zones the funds have invested in;
– the value of qualified OZ stock, partnership interests and business property;
– the value of any tangible or intangible property held by the QOF;
– the NAICS code of any Qualified Opportunity Zones Businesses (QOZBs) conducted by the fund or any corporation or partnership in which the fund holds an interest; and
– for QOZBs conducted by the fund or by a controlled corporation or partnership, the value of tangible and intangible property (including cash) and the average monthly full-time employees of the QOZB.

The Senate legislation, if enacted, would also end the OZ designation for all “contiguous zones” (a change that was added in the April 2018 regulations) that were named OZs, but which are not low-income and would define the term “substantially all” to mean “not less than 90 percent.” (i.e., effectively changing the QOZB asset test from 70% to 90%). The legislation would also require QOFs to make their reports public on the Internet and would require that the IRS maintain a public list of all QOFs.

The Senate legislation would also expand the application of “sin businesses” to disallow investments in private planes, along with skyboxes and luxury boxes. Prohibited investments would also be expanded to include sports stadiums, self-storage facilities, and housing developments that are un-affordable to existing zone residents.

While the proposed legislation would remove certain zones (approximately 200) as not being within what the Bill’s author believed to be in the spirit of the OZ legislation given the incomes and demographics that now are located within these “wealthy” zones, the legislation then allows states to designate an equal number of new zones which could be added to offset the lost zones. These new zones would remain on the same timeline as the zones originally designated in 2018, with their designations expiring at the end of 2028.

The legislation would also modify the Treasury letter ruling that did not require a QOF to include the value of land for purposes of calculating “substantial improvement” and would also impose a penalty of $10,000 on funds or investors failing to comply with their respective reporting requirements, with exceptions for reasonable cause. Penalties would be doubled for taxpayers found to be intentionally disregarding their reporting requirements.

While it is clearly too early to call whether these two Bills will move forward to a debate and/or passage, at the moment Republicans in the Senate are believed to be firmly against the proposed Senate Bill.

We will keep an eye on these proposed Bills and keep you apprised as things move, if they move on this front. In the meanwhile, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at bamolotsky@duanemorris.com.

–Brad A. Molotsky, Esq.

Climate Change viewed as a Major Problem in NJ according to a recent Stockton University poll

According to a Stockton University poll released earlier this week, 2/3 of New Jersey residents believe climate change is a crisis and almost 75% believe it is affecting New Jersey.

Per Stockton’s press release, “the results show climate change is a concern to people all over New Jersey and not just those who live along the Jersey shore,” said John Froonjian, interim director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton, who presented an overview of the results at Coast Day at Stockton Atlantic City on Oct. 13.

As reported in Bisnow, among those who believe climate change is currently affecting NJ, more than 75% cited rising sea level, earth warming, harming or changing the ocean, extreme weather, and worsening pollution as major problems they are concerned about.

Beach erosion was cited by 70% as a major problem, while harm to farming was mentioned by 68%, flooding by 66%, and health effects by 57%.

More than half of respondents (56%) believe government could or should do more, and 31% say the government response is totally inadequate.

Per the poll, views did vary along party lines. Democrats (92%) and independents (64%) were more likely to see climate change as a crisis or major problem than Republicans (35%). Women (72%) were also more likely to view it as a crisis or major problem than men (62%).

The results also showed while young people are the most concerned about the issue, concern cuts across age, racial, ethnic, economic, gender and geographic lines. Almost 80% of respondents ages 18-29 see climate changes as a crisis or a major problem. That percentage drops to under 70% for those over 65.

We will continue to monitor trends and thinking in ESG and climate change and report back. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at bamolotsky@duanemorris.com and I will direct your question accordingly.

-Brad A. Molotsky, Esq., LEED AP – O+M

New Markets Tax Credits – Application process and key dates announced by the CDFI

Earlier today, September 4, 2019, the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund announced the opening of the calendar year 2019 allocation round of the new markets tax credit (NMTC).

For those who participate in the New Markets arena, applications are due Oct. 28, 2019.

The CDFI Fund anticipates announcing 2019 NMTC awards in summer 2020.

If of interest to you, the NMTC program application, a notice of allocation availability, an introduction to the NMTC program, an Awards Management Information navigation guide, a frequently asked questions guide, and an application road map presentation are all available on line.

Copies of these materials can be found at www.newmarketscredits.com. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call or contact us – bamolotsky@duanemorris.com

NJEDA launches Opportunity Zone Challenge Program

On July 16th, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) launched its previously announced Opportunity Zone Challenge Program. The Challenge Program is a competitive $500,000 grant program aimed at supporting community efforts to attract investments in NJ Opportunity Zones. Grants awarded through the program will fund municipal and county-level financial and technical planning around Opportunity Zone (OZ) economic development.

The OZ program is a federal incentive program which was part of the 2018 Tax Act that enables investors to re-deploy capital gains into low-income areas (which are the areas targeted by the designated Opportunity Zones) via the use of a Qualified Opportunity Zone fund (QOF). These Qualified Opportunity Zone funds or QOFs may be self-directed and self-certified. Capital gains placed into these QOFs must then be invested into real estate or a qualified business within applicable opportunity zones that exist within all 50 states in the US.

New Jersey has 169 separate Opportunity Zones which span 75 municipalities across all 21 NJ counties.

According to NJEDA, the Challenge Program is intended to encourage and assist communities in developing specific action plans to guide their pursuit of Opportunity Zone–based investments. The Challenge Program will award 5 grants of up to $100,000 each to select municipal or county governments or municipal partnerships of 2 to 5 municipalities whose applications demonstrate a clear strategic plan to build investment capacity in their applicable Opportunity Zones. The Challenge Program grants are open to all 75 NJ municipalities and 21 counties.

As part of the application process, the applicants are required to designate at least one strategic partner whose external expertise will be used to achieve the Challenge Program’s goals.

Our team is available to answer applicable questions about the Opportunity Zone program and the Challenge Program. Brad A. Molotsky, Esq. (bamolotsky@duanemorris.com)