By Nick Castele, ideastream
This year, when the U.S. Treasury Department selected “opportunity zones”—those higher-poverty census tracts in which financiers will be able to claim tax breaks in exchange for investment—an unlikely Cleveland Heights neighborhood made the cut.
Other zones in Northeast Ohio are home to major employers, commercial districts, industrial land or hot real estate markets adjacent to lower-income neighborhoods.
But Cleveland Heights’ Caledonia neighborhood, which borders East Cleveland, is made up largely of single-family homes. The county land bank and the city own dozens of properties. Vacant lots dot the crosshatch of gently curving streets.
“The situation here is really a product of the financial crisis and then all the unwinding that took place from there,” Cleveland Heights business development manager Brian Anderson said on a recent tour of the neighborhood.
Now, with the lure of the new federal tax breaks, Anderson and others in the city hope an investor will put down money to build new homes in the empty lots where old ones once stood.
Leaders across Northeast Ohio are now facing a similar challenge as they market their opportunity zones.
There aren’t many reporting requirements for projects right now, and no rules that say investors need permission from local communities. Those watching the new program say local governments will have to take it upon themselves to find and support projects that benefit their neighborhoods.
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