NLIHC, National Housing Law Project, and Poverty & Race Research Action Council Oppose Rural Opportunity Zones in House Tax Bill

NLIHC joined the National Housing Law Project and Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) in submitting a letter to U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and leaders on the House Committee on Ways & Means. The letter opposes the expansion of Trump-era “Opportunity Zones” in rural communities. House Ways & Means Committee Chair Jason Smith (R-MO) has introduced a bill, the “Small Business Jobs Act” (H.R. 3937), which would establish Opportunity Zones in rural areas and has stated his intention of bringing the bill to the full House floor for a vote. NLIHC has consistently opposed Opportunity Zones, as the tax incentive does not require low-income residents of a zone to realize any benefits, and the incentivize lacks accountability to the communities impacted.

Opportunity Zones (OZs) were created in the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017,” the massive, nearly $2 trillion tax cut legislation signed into law by President Donald Trump. “Since its inception, the OZ program has been detrimental to low-income communities and communities of color,” the letter states. “The program, originally touted as an unregulated economic growth and business development incentive, bore out as a real estate finance giveaway from the federal government.” Neither the original legislation nor its final regulations require investments to benefit low-income residents in the form of creating or preserving affordable housing or providing jobs, and the OZ regulations lack protections to prevent displacement of low-income residents and long-time neighborhood small businesses.

Expanding Opportunity Zones to rural areas would do little if anything to address the housing supply and affordability crisis in rural America. The letter concludes: “Just as the OZ program has failed to produce meaningful change in America’s divested urban communities, the Rural Opportunity Zone program is sure to bring little to no relief to struggling rural communities. Instead, the Rural Opportunity Zone program promises to continue enriching real estate corporations and investors at the expense of low-income rural families.”

As tax committees in Congress craft legislation to help families struggling with rising housing costs, NLIHC urges Congress to include the “Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act” (AHCIA) (S.1557/H.R.3238) in an end-of-year tax bill. Among other improvements, the AHCIA would designate rural areas as “Difficult to Develop” (DDA), providing rural communities with an added financial boost in building affordable housing through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC).

Read the letter from NLIHC, NHLP, and PRRAC at:

Read more about Opportunity Zones on page 9-7 of NLIHC’s 2023 Advocate’s Guide.

Read more about NLIHC’s proposed reforms to the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit at:

Urge your members of Congress to pass LIHTC reforms through the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act at: