RELEASE: New CAP Issue Brief Examines the Failures of the Opportunity Zones Tax Incentive and Explores How To Achieve Equitable Development

Washington, D.C. — A new brief from the Center for American Progress looks at the design flaws of the federal Opportunity Zones (OZ) tax incentive and the United States’ long-standing failure to achieve equitable, community-responsive, and climate-ready economic development. The brief calls for a sea change in the U.S. approach to place-based development and analyzes why intersectional justice, self-determination, and self-actualization are integral to community revitalization. The brief also makes the case that while these reforms are long overdue, they are taking on a new urgency in the face of climate impacts which will disproportionately harm low-income communities and communities of color.

“The existence of distressed communities is no accident but rather a result of centuries of deliberate policy choices,” said Rejane Frederick, associate director of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at CAP and co-author of the brief. “Throughout our nation’s history, placemakers have far too often prioritized profits over people in their development strategies. The OZ tax incentive is just the latest example of this. The OZ incentive largely ignores the needs of low-income communities in favor of bolstering tax giveaways to already-wealthy investors. It’s clear that capital is not enough to redress systematic socioeconomic inequities; we must embrace a people- and place-conscious development paradigm.”

The brief makes several policy recommendations, including:

  • Advance a holistic and integrated people, place, and economy framework that centers equity and focuses on the needs of the most disadvantaged
  • Develop policies and strategies in partnership with current residents that account for and rectify the inequities that led to these communities becoming and remaining distressed
  • Prioritize and bolster existing local resources and assets, such as community development nonprofits and finance systems, that have long been in place

Click here to read the issue brief: “Promise and Opportunity Deferred: Why the United States Has Failed to Achieve Equitable and Inclusive Communities” by Rejane Frederick and Guillermo Ortiz

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Julia Cusick at or 202.495.3682.