With IRS Guidance and the Clock Ticking, Opportunity Zones Poised for Enormous Investment and Development

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LAS VEGAS, NV UT July 10, 2019 – Recent IRS guidance regarding Opportunity Zones may unleash hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of unrealized gains into qualified, new real estate investment and Opportunity Zone Businesses, but the clock is ticking to maximize the program’s advantages, according to Opportunity Zones: Location, Timing, Capital, a new report released by Cushman & Wakefield.

Opportunity Zones are designed to spur economic development by providing tax benefits to investors in economically distressed communities. Eligible real estate investments comprise new (re)developments, capital-intensive renovations and, under the new guidelines, a wide range of operating businesses including those involved in managing and developing real estate.

Investors can defer tax on any prior gains invested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) or business until the investment is sold or exchanged or December 31, 2026. If the QOF investment is held for longer than five years, there is a 10% exclusion of the deferred gain, and a 15% exclusion if held for seven years. If held for at least 10 years, the investor is eligible for an increase in basis of the QOF investment equal to its fair market value on the date that the QOF investment is sold or exchanged.

There are over $6 trillion in unrealized gains that could potentially be invested through the program, although Cushman & Wakefield research suggests the scale to be closer to $100 billion deployed over the next several years. Cushman & Wakefield currently is tracking 138 large CRE funds targeting more than $44 billion in equity. Most funds have national mandates and intend to invest in multiple product types:  82% of capital for multifamily investments (including senior, student and workforce housing), 60% for office and 49% for retail.

Locally, for Opportunity Zones located in Southern Nevada, the implications for substantial redevelopment of office, retail and multifamily – and especially affordable and workforce housing – are significant.

 “We’ve experienced a wave of prospective investors interested in taking advantage of the benefits provided through the Opportunity Zone program. Zoned regions with decent public transportation are especially attractive,” says Jason Griffis, Director at Cushman & Wakefield. “Here in Las Vegas, many interesting options exist – most notably, zones around the soon-to-be-constructed Raiders stadium, says Jason Griffis, Director at Cushman &  Wakefield. C&W evaluated 45 office and multifamily markets containing 2,700 of the approximately 8,700 opportunity zones across a range of factors indicative of economic momentum. These factors were divided into three categories: tax and regulatory, including State Tax Confirmation Status (Wharton Land-Use Regulation Index); economic drivers (five-year forecasts for population growth, employment growth and household income); and CRE fundamentals (2019 office and multifamily inventory, vacancy and growth).

Sunbelt markets lead the group, as growing populations support economic and CRE fundamentals, and the tax regulatory environments are generally favorable for development. Fast-growing markets in California and the Mountain West also appear, including the San Francisco Bay Area; Los Angeles; Portland, Oregon; Seattle; and Manhattan.

Timing is key, though. The clock starts ticking once capital gains are realized, and funds should be invested 180 days afterward. The December 31, 2019, deadline for investors to maximize tax benefits is fast approaching and the value of the tax break declines after that. Investors can still contribute new capital to the program until the end of 2026 and avoid capital gains on the Opportunity Zone Fund investment itself, which can grow tax-free until 2047.

Working capital can be held in cash and short-term debt securities for up to 31 months. Funds also have six months to identify projects for newly raised capital and 12 months to reinvest proceeds from asset sales. In addition, the 31-month and 12-month windows can be extended when a project is delayed while awaiting a government action.

“Projects in highly regulated markets or ones that are not shovel-ready will be easier to do than previously thought,” said, Revathi Greenwood, Head of Americas Research. “Overall, it’s rare that a policy program aimed at low-income areas across the country garners a high level of attention and capital, but Opportunity Zones do just that. The program potentially makes it significantly less expensive for taxable investors to back real estate projects as it can boost after-tax IRRs by up to 150-300 basis points in the first 10 years.

 by up to 150-300 basis points in the first 10 years.”

About Cushman & Wakefield

Cushman & Wakefield (NYSE: CWK) is a leading global real estate services firm that delivers exceptional value for real estate occupiers and owners. Cushman & Wakefield is among the largest real estate services firms with approximately 51,000 employees in 400 offices and 70 countries. In 2018, the firm had revenue of $8.2 billion across core services of property, facilities and project management, leasing, capital markets, valuation and other services. To learn more, visit www.cushmanwakefield.com or follow @CushWake on Twitter.

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