BIG STORY: Can the state make opportunity zones work better?

Statehouse Report


By Lindsay Street

September 6, 2019

A state Democratic lawmaker wants to “supercharge” a new federal tax break aimed at fueling private investment — and subsequently, jobs, housing and business — in blighted areas. 

The federal Opportunity Zones tax break has received criticism from national publications and tax policy experts who say it benefits the wealthy and promotes gentrification. 

But S.C. Rep. Marvin Pendarvis of North Charleston sees a bright side.  That’s because the federal tax break needs a state component to make it successful, he said.

“If what I propose gets introduced and passed, it changes lives tremendously,” said Pendarvis, a Democrat. Half of his district is in an opportunity zone that he said is plagued with drugs, crime, homelessness and hopelessness. “We’re facing some real-life challenges in these zones … We need to make sure the investment has a return for the people as well.”

Pendarvis wants to add a state-level tax break for developers, but with a caveat: There needs to be tangible community benefit — such as jobs, affordable housing or green space — from qualifying projects. He said his bill, which will be prefiled prior to the 2020 session, will also track investments and promote community input to help create transparency and accountability. 

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