The Community and Economic Development program at the School of Government provides public officials with training, research, and assistance that support local efforts to create jobs and wealth, expand the tax base, and maintain vibrant communities. We deploy the resources of the University to support the development goals of communities in North Carolina.

Act Locally, Save Federally: The National Flood Insurance CRS Program

The UNC Environmental Finance Center (EFC) typically focuses on the role of local governments in directly providing and funding basic community environmental services such as water, wastewater, stormwater, and solid waste management. For example, the EFC recently released a set of resources related to local government stormwater fees that local programs use to fund their stormwater services. These types of resources help local governments raise funds for critical environmental protection activities but there are other ways that local governments can play a role in supporting environmental finance. Recent news out of Brunswick County, North Carolina highlights the Read More…

2017 New Market Tax Credit Allocations in North Carolina

The U.S. Treasury Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Fund was created to help CDFIs promote economic revitalization throughout the United States. CDFIs are designed to expand access to capital in underserved communities and the CDFI Fund provides financial assistance and support to these organizations. A part of the CDFI Fund’s supportive programming mechanism is the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) Program.

The NMTC Program was established as part of the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000. The goal of the program is to assist disinvested communities in reinvigorating their local economies by providing tax incentives to investors in these areas. Credits are allocated to designated Community Development Entities (CDEs) to invest in projects. The private capital attracted through the NMTC Program is used primarily to finance businesses in these communities that include manufacturing facilities, food, retail, housing, health, technology, and education. Communities benefit from the jobs associated with these businesses and the provision of access to better commercial and community services (for more information, a primer on NMTCs can be found here). Between 2003 and 2015, the NMTC has financed over 5,000 projects. Read More…

Trying to Capture a Community’s CED: New Dashboard of Growth, Prosperity and Inclusion Data

The new Metro Monitor 2018 reportby the Metropolitan Policy Programat the Brooking Institution includes an enticing tool for CED professionals: interactive graphs tracking the growth, prosperity, and inclusion of 100 different metro areas over the last 17 years.  For North Carolina, the areas include Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, Greensboro-High Point, Raleigh and Winston-Salem, which might seem of limited interest to CED professionals elsewhere in the state.  But don’t be fooled – the dashboards demonstrate a truly impressive way to spark conversations using data. The clear layout and intriguing results offers a rich opportunity for any CED professionals wanting to demonstrate the power of this kind of data, regardless of city or county.

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Utilizing Program Income and Revolving Funds to Stretch CDBGs

One of the tools that local governments utilize in community revitalization efforts are Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs). This U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program provides grants to local governments to fund projects such as affordable housing, infrastructure improvements, and natural disaster recovery. In the 2017 fiscal year, the state of North Carolina received approximately $44 million for the state’s CDBG program; most of the funding went towards economic development and infrastructure needs in the state. In addition, 30 North Carolina municipalities received CDBG funds that totaled to approximately $27 million. However, proposed legislative actions may result in severe reductions of CDBG funds for low and moderate income communities. While the future of the CDBG program is in question, state and municipal agencies have used program income and revolving funds to stretch out previously allocated CDBG funds to finance community projects.

Program income is defined as the ‘gross income received by grantee and sub-recipients directly generated from the use of CDBG funds’. This can come from a variety of sources, ranging from the proceeds of leased or sold property purchased from CDBG funds to principal and interest payments on loans from CDBG funds. Any program income that is accrued from CDBG activities can be placed in a separate revolving fund. These revolving funds are established to carry out specific activities which generate payments to the general fund to carry out a specific activity, such as affordable housing development or disaster recovery. The CED blog has covered the basics of revolving loan funds in the past; check out this post on loan funds for affordable housingand this post on loan funds for small businesses. Read More…

To Certify or Not To Certify, That is the Question: The Certified Local Government Program in North Carolina

Per the National Park Service (NPS), historic preservation has proven economic, environmental and social benefits, including higher property values, less population decline, more walkability, and greater sense of community. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) was signed into law by the U.S. Congress on October 15, 1966 to preserve historical and archaeological sites. It was, and still is, considered the most far-reaching preservation legislation ever ratified in the U.S. Since its ratification, the national historic preservation program has functioned as a decentralized partnership between the federal government and the states. Under its current iteration, the NHPA established a federal-level program to identify, evaluate, and protect historic properties, and delegated primary responsibility for implementation to state government. This working relationship was later expanded to include local government participation via a 1980 NHPA amendment. This amendment required each state to establish a process, known as the Certified Local Government (CLG) Program, by which local governments may be certified to participate in the national framework of the federal and state historic preservation programs. Read More…

What @sog_ced is reading online: March 2018

The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates.

Items of interest related to CED in North Carolina:

View story maps created by Esri to show how incomes are distributed within US cities – and zoom in to explore rural North Carolina, too. http://bit.ly/2oPaYM9

Fascinating UNC Charlotte Urban Institute report maps evictions in Mecklenburg County NC. http://bit.ly/2G7sK7S 

Very interesting data available for North Carolina metro areas via Brookings Institute. Economic inclusion may provide the key to true economic success. https://brook.gs/2E5VBDB

County-by-county data on job gains or losses from Jan 2017 to Jan 2018. Mixed bag for rural counties in North Carolina. http://bit.ly/2ur9rkC Read More…

Environmental Infrastructure Programs under the Omnibus Budget Bill

On Friday, March 23, President Trump signed a $1.3 trillion FY 2018 spending bill that will fund the federal government through September 30.   This budget funds several environmental infrastructure programs that help communities pay for crucial services such as water and wastewater.  How did those infrastructure programs fare in the budget?

In general, the budget funded most environmental infrastructure finance programs at the same level as in FY 2017 or higher.  In some cases, the programs had additional money added during the conference committee meetings between the House and Senate to finalize the bill. Read More…

The Benefits of Daylighting Streams

There may be good reasons to culvert or pipe a stream. Culverts allow water to flow to the other sides of roads, buildings, or other obstructions. However, developers and city planners in the past have often installed culverts where they were not necessary, resulting in sub-optimal environmental and economic outcomes. For this reason, modern city planners and local governments have become interested in strategically removing underground pipes and restoring streams to a more natural state – a process known as daylighting.

Before and after the daylighting of a 1,200 linear foot section of piped stream located on the property of the University of Virginia

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Maintenance of vacant or neglected commercial buildings: options for NC local governments

The downtown buildings in the Town of Old Well have “good bones.” The structures lining the four downtown blocks of Main Street are solid brick and reflect their historic character, harkening back to a time when downtown was thriving with retail on the ground floor and residential units on the second floor. The very center of downtown is in fairly good shape, and some committed merchants have established a pocket of commercial activity there. However, even that central area is pocked with a handful of underutilized and neglected retail buildings. The downtown blocks immediately outside of the center, where vacant buildings outnumber those with active uses, are not inviting to pedestrians.

Residents and downtown merchants have complained to Town officials about the privately-owned vacant buildings within and surrounding the center of downtown. Some of the vacant structures are in fair condition but are used for storage; peering through the wide display windows reveals piles of boxes, dusty floors, litter, or worse. Some display windows are papered over to conceal the interior. While a handful of vacant buildings appear to be in good condition, others look visibly worse than those with active uses. Can Town officials enact any regulations to govern the appearance and general maintenance of these commercial buildings? Yes, they can. Read More…

The Opportunity Zones Program

In December 2017, Congress established a new community development program called “Opportunity Zones”. This blog post will provide an overview of the program, subject to change as it evolves. The Opportunity Zones program is based on the bipartisan “Investing in Opportunity Act” but was enacted as a part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in the 2017 tax reform efforts. The concept was initially created in 2015 by the Economic Innovation Group, in order to address persistent poverty and unequal recovery.

The program offers an incentive to inspire long-term private investment in low-income urban and rural communities across the country by allowing investors to utilize their unrealized capital gains by reinvesting into Opportunity Funds. Opportunity Funds will be dedicated to investing in the identified Opportunity Zones; these zones will be designated by the Governors of every U.S state and territory. Governors have 120 days from December 22, 2017 (March 21, 2018) to identify up to 25% of the total number of low income census tracts in their respective state or territory as opportunity zones. (North Carolina has requested an extension.) For the most part, the Opportunity Zone census tracts align with the qualified census tracts defined in the New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) program. Nevertheless, the governors must still identify low-income communities to receive Opportunity Zone Investments since up to 25% of census tracts can be designated. Read More…