Three Washington counties rank among the Top 20 counties in the nation for opportunity-zone investment potential, according to a just-published study by Commercial Café, a national real estate listings platform that is part of Yardi Systems.
Washington state is home to 139 opportunity zones, which are economically distressed census tracts that are within the scope of new federal economic-development program designed to entice investment in low-income areas by offering tax incentives to investors. The three counties making the Top 20 list in the Commercial Café study are King, 11th; Skagit, 15th; and Snohomish, 19th.
The rankings are based on an assessment of multiple variables within each county, including employment, gross domestic product, population growth, poverty rates, educational attainment, labor force and the number of opportunity-zone census tracts within each county.
The greater Seattle area is blessed with a stellar economy that continues to generate jobs and business growth. In the fourth-quarter of 2018 in King County, for example, employment grew by 3.4 percent, home prices shot up by 6.8 percent and taxable sales in the county jumped by 13.1 percent, according to the King County Office of Economic and Financial Analysis. Another indicator of the economic vitality of the Seattle area is the low unemployment rate, which stood at 3.7 percent in King County as of January 2019.
There remains, however, a number of economically distressed neighborhoods within King and surrounding counties as well ― highlighted by the number of census tracts deemed opportunity zones within those counties. In the case of King County, there are a total of 23 low-income census tracts designated as opportunity zones, while Snohomish has seven such census tracts, and Skagit has five, according to Washington’s Department of Commerce.
The fact that three of Washington’s counties rank among the Top 20 nationally with respect to the attractiveness of investing in their opportunity zones is a positive sign that the fortunes of the less-fortunate in these counties might be lifted by the new federal program. That isn’t likely to happen absent continued investment in public infrastructure in these counties, however, according to the Commercial Café report.
“Urban areas that have taken steps to increase walkability and expand their public transit lines provide an attractive investment target,” the Commercial Café study concludes. “Risk-averse investors will be eyeing counties that are already considering large-scale spending packages for their energy, transportation and communications infrastructure.”