Governor Kate Brown 900 Court Street NE, Suite 254 Salem, OR 97301-4047
March 29, 2018 RE: Opportunity Zones
Dear Governor Brown:
As community-based organizations rooted in the Cully neighborhood in Northeast Portland, we strongly urge you not to designate our neighborhood’s census tracts (74, 75 and 76) as Opportunity Zones.
Opportunity Zones are designed to attract outside investment to low-income neighborhoods by eliminating capital gains taxes on real estate and commercial investments. However, Cully is already threatened by outside investment
that works against the interests of lower-income residents and people of color. Such investment is being used to buy property, raise rents, evict tenants, target mobile home parks for closure and redevelopment, and build new homes and businesses that primarily serve higher-income households. In other words, outside investment is driving gentrification. By limiting investors’ tax liability, an Opportunity Zone would only make these kinds of investments even more lucrative, exacerbating the daunting challenge that we already confront.
In the face of intensifying gentrification, our organizations have worked together for many years to bring investments to Cully that preferentially benefit people of color and lower-income families. We built a 25-acre public park that created first-time park access for 130 households; we purchased and shut down a notorious strip club and plan to redevelop that property with over 130 affordable apartments; we purchased a mobile home park to prevent its closure and the displacement of its residents; we create homeownership opportunities for first-time buyers; we provide affordable retail space for women- and minority-owned businesses; we channel employment and contracting opportunities to people of color and minority-owned firms; and we proactively acquire properties for future affordable housing development.
Our organizations need resources for these kinds of projects, and we welcome investments that are managed by Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and other socially-motivated entities. However, such investments must be restricted to projects that reduce disparities and expand opportunities for people of color and lower-income families — not projects that lead to their displacement from our neighborhood. An Opportunity Zone in Cully would do the latter, by making gentrification even more profitable for private investors.
With many important details of the Opportunity Zones still undefined, we have little faith that the Trump administration will implement this program in a way that benefits our community. Rather, an Opportunity Zone in Cully would do irreversible harm. We call on you, Governor Brown, not to designate an Opportunity Zone in Cully. And we encourage community leaders in other areas experiencing — or at risk of — gentrification to consider the likely negative ramifications of Opportunity Zones in their neighborhoods.
Alan Hipolito Steve Messinetti Executive Director, Verde Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity Portland/Metro East 6899 NE Columbia Blvd, Suite A Portland, OR 97218 email@example.com / 503.980.5260
Laura Young Michael DeMarco Chair, Cully Association of Neighbors Executive Director, Our 42nd Avenue District Manager, Cully Boulevard Alliance
Fr. Elwin Schwab St. Charles Catholic Church, Parish priest
CC: Speaker of the House Tina Kotek; Senator Lew Frederick; Senator Michael Dembrow; Representative Tawna Sanchez; Representative Barbara Smith Warner; Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith; Mayor Ted Wheeler and Portland City Council