By Jeremy Feakins
Having a safe place to shelter is one of the most basic human needs. It's something many of us take for granted, and yet millions of America's working families are struggling to put a roof over their heads. The United States is facing a critical housing shortage, but the 500,000 people experiencing homelessness on any given night are only the tip of the iceberg.
For many Americans, housing costs are a budget-straining burden at best, an unsustainable albatross at worst. If you've ever bought or rented a home, you'll be familiar with the rule that you should keep housing costs within 30% of your income. That's a battle around half of all renters in the United States are losing. In fact, data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has shown millions of working Americans, including 75% of extremely low income families, see more than 50% of their income swallowed up by rent payments.
The NLIHC says that the U.S. needs to create 6.8 million housing units to combat this critical housing shortage, which extends across every state in the nation. In order to boost the supply of rental housing, the Biden Administration requested $500 million in additional spending on the HOME Investment Partnerships Program for fiscal year 2022. However, much more action is needed to address the critical housing shortage and the compounding effects it has on American working families and their communities.
Working families are the backbone of communities, the beating heart and the soul of the country. America's working families come from diverse backgrounds and reflect a spectrum of professions and occupations. They are recent graduates, nurses, hospitality workers, police officers, firefighters, teachers, construction workers, and people from many other trades. According to 2020 data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 65 million (78.2%) of the country's 83.1 million families include at least one employed person. Thirty-three million of those families include at least one child under the age of 18.
Of the 44 million renter households in the United States, working families account for around 36%. These families are hurting deeply from the critical housing shortage, and they deserve better. These Americans work hard to support their families, take care of their aging parents and grandparents, and raise the next generation. Working families shouldn't be facing a monthly battle just to ensure they can put a roof over their heads, but the problem is more corrosive than the struggles of any individual family. The critical housing shortage doesn't just do a disservice to working families, it damages our communities and prevents America from realizing its full potential.
What are opportunity zones?
Opportunity zones were created as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 to encourage long-term private investments in federally designated low-income urban and rural communities nationwide. The opportunity zone program is intended to stimulate economic growth in distressed areas by providing tax benefits to investors.
How they can help address the critical housing shortage
Opportunity zones are designed to spur economic development and job creation in distressed communities. A key plank of the opportunity zone program involves drawing private investment into neighborhoods that have experienced chronic disinvestment and under-investment. Investors place their capital gains from the sale of assets into Qualified Opportunity Funds which, in turn, direct those monies into Qualified Opportunity Zones (QOZs). By allowing investors to defer taxes on eligible gains, QOFs offer a compelling investment opportunity and simultaneously a means of raising capital that can be reinvested in opportunity zones.
QOFs can also play a role in addressing the critical housing shortage via targeted, strategic investment in the rental housing market. By identifying and acquiring properties in low-income areas that can be redeveloped as rental properties, QOFs can create additional quality housing stock suited to the needs and budget of working families living in opportunity zones. Easing the supply bottleneck is a critical step in tackling the critical housing shortage, not only in terms of simply meeting demand, but also ensuring that America's working families have access to housing that doesn't strain their budgets.
How does OZFund help?
OZFund is a community-focused QOF dedicated to addressing the critical housing shortage by revitalizing working family neighborhoods in Central Pennsylvania and Mid-Atlantic QOZs. OZFund addresses the housing shortage in low-income areas by acquiring below-market properties and redeveloping them as rental housing for working families. At the same time, OZFund offers taxpayers an investment opportunity with attractive tax advantages.
Work has already started on OZFund's first project, involving conversion of an under-utilized property in Lancaster, PA into a mixed-use asset, with 72 rental units and commercial real estate space. Additionally, OZFund has identified three additional Central Pennsylvania opportunity zone properties for potential redevelopment. These will be acquired as soon as fundraising goals are achieved.
Investing with OZFund
OZFund is targeting an Internal Rate of Return (IRR) of 16% for investors, as well as attractive tax benefits. We anticipate that as properties are redeveloped and rented to working families, they will appreciate in value, with potential for eventual building sales to boost investor income.
OZFund is currently raising funds with a view to acquiring the properties that will form the basis of the next three projects. Contact us to learn more about investing in OZFund's opportunity zone projects and to play your part in ending the critical housing shortage facing America's working families.