The establishment of U.S. Treasury-certified opportunity zones in Forsyth County in May 2018 continues to provide mixed results to residential markets in six census tracts reviewed in a report released this week by Attom Data Solutions.
Opportunity zones are economically distressed census tracts qualified to receive private investments through a new vehicle known as opportunity funds.
The goal is connecting those tracts with investors, offering tax credits and other tax incentives to get investors involved.
All but one of the 11 Forsyth tracts are in the central part of Winston-Salem. They account for more than 25,000 residents. They are among 47 in the Triad and Northwest North Carolina, and 252 statewide.
The six Forsyth tracts reviewed by Attom for the fourth quarter are:
• Tract 1, which contains the central business district. Since the tract was identified as an opportunity zone, the average home price started at $158,000, climbed to a high of $239,000 in the third quarter and was $200,000 in the fourth quarter of 2020.
• Tract 3.02 covers the Kimberly Park neighborhood. The average home sales price began at $27,500 and was at a high of $114,000 in the fourth quarter of 2020.
• Tract 7 contains the recent renamed Innovation Quarter in downtown Winston-Salem. The average sales price began at $33,000, reached a high of $38,000 in the fourth quarter of 2019 and was at $29,500 in the fourth quarter of 2020.
• Tract 8.02 covers the Atkins Community Development Corp. The average sales price began at $47,500 and was at a high of $63,000 in the fourth quarter of 2020.
• Tract 14, which contains Whitaker Park, a 1.7-million-square-foot former R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. plant. The campus is part of a high-profile renovation project being undertaken by Whitaker Park Development Authority Inc. and mixed-use developer Chris Harrison. The average home sale price began at $55,250, reached as high as $84,000 in the first quarter of 2020, and was at $74,500 in the fourth quarter of 2020.
• Tract 17, which contains Lakeside Villas multifamily housing development. The average home sale price when the opportunity zone program began was $145,000. It has since fluctuated from a low of $80,000 in the first quarter of 2020 and was at $96,325 in the fourth quarter of 2020.
Not reviewed for the fourth quarter were: Tract 2, in the central business district; Tract 3.01, the Boston-Thurmond neighborhood; Tract 8.01, Winston-Salem State University, the UNC School of the Arts and Happy Hill neighborhood; Tract 16.02, Smith Reynolds Airport and neighborhoods south of the airport; and Tract 33.13, which contains Horneytown Road.
Winston-Salem city officials consider opportunity zones as another “tool in the economic and community development toolbox that can be used to help spur private development and redevelopment in some of the areas in our community that have not seen the growth.”
“We truly hope that it will help prime the pump to create new investment and jobs for our residents.”
There are 12 tracts in Guilford County, along with four in Alamance, three each in Randolph, Rockingham, Surry and Wilkes, two in Davidson and one each in Alleghany, Ashe, Davie, Stokes, Watauga and Yadkin.
The certified opportunity zones list for North Carolina has at least one low-income census tract in each of the state’s 100 counties. Tracts that touch the state’s major industrial-site development areas and hurricane-impact areas are included.
“The country’s long run of home-price increases continues to leave no part of the housing market untouched, boosting fortunes from the wealthiest to the poorest parts of the United States," said Todd Teta, chief product officer with Attom.
"The latest evidence is data showing prices going up in opportunity zone neighborhoods at around the same rate, and sometimes more, than in more well-off communities.
“No doubt, prices remain substantially lower in opportunity zones, but the fact that they often rose by double-digit percentages in the fourth quarter is significant," Teta said.