The Impact of the Opportunity Zone Program on the Residential Real Estate Market
50 Pages Posted: 9 Mar 2021 Last revised: 4 Aug 2021
Date Written: February 5, 2021
The U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 introduced opportunity zones (OZs). This program provides tax benefits for real estate investments in designated census tracts, with the goal of fostering economic development in distressed neighborhoods. We examine the impact of OZs on residential real estate by exploiting two datasets: a proprietary real estate dataset and census-tract demographics data between 2010 and 2019. Our real estate dataset comprises 36.1 million residential transactions spanning all 50 U.S. states. We first investigate the OZ selection process by examining which census-tract characteristics were taken into account. As expected, we find that tracts with higher poverty and unemployment rates and lower income levels were more likely to be selected. However, we find evidence that tracts with a higher average real estate price were also more likely to be selected. We then analyze the impact of the OZ program by comparing key real estate metrics (price and transaction volume) before and after the program launch. We find that the OZ program increased real estate prices by 4.03-6.13%, but we do not observe a significant effect on the transaction volume. Finally, we examine the moderating effects of census tract characteristics on the impact of the OZ program. Interestingly, we show that the price increase is driven by the higher end of the OZ market. Our findings thus question the overall societal and economic benefits of the program.
Keywords: Opportunity zones, real estate, public policy, natural experiment
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