In the final debate last week between Donald Trump and Joe Biden, opportunity zones and the retrofitting of green technology for buildings snuck their way into the conversation. Opportunity Zones, which were instituted with the tax amendment act by the current administration back in 2018, were conceived of as a way of incentivizing development in low-income communities. There has been heaps of criticism surrounding the program, including one on this blog a few months ago, with many experts pointing to the fact that most of the incentives go towards big businesses, real estate developers, and families with annual incomes above $100,000/year, excluding the small businesses and low-income families that should be the focus of the program.
In the debate, Trump pointed to the opportunity zone program as one of the main reasons “no one has done more for the black community than Donald Trump”. (therealdeal.com, 2020) Increasing scrutiny of the program is showing that there is little to back this claim up. One need only look to last year, where a Manhattan landlord company managed to finagle their way into turning a tract of land they owned in Hell’s Kitchen, where the average household income is $112,000/year, into an opportunity zone. (therealdeal.com, 2019)
The retrofitting of buildings across the country with green technologies like solar, energy efficient windows, and better insulated materials also came up during the debate. This initiative is closely tied to the Green New Deal, however initiatives like New York City’s Green Text Amendment, which was approved in 2012, clearly predates it.