Ben Carson touts ‘opportunity zones’ and modular homes
VAIL — Ben Carson’s experience as a surgeon taught him that half measures usually aren’t effective. That’s why he’s seeking whole solutions.
Carson, the current secretary of the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development, spoke Wednesday to the Western Governors Association meeting at Vail’s Hotel Talisa. Carson’s talk covered a lot of areas, but he returned to an overriding theme of cooperation and collaboration between federal, state and local governments as well as the private sector.
Carson talked about the success of “opportunity zones” created in the federal tax-reform package of 2017. The town of Avon is currently the only federally approved zone in Eagle County.
The opportunity zone designation allows private investors to receive tax breaks for investing in those zones.
Carson said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has estimated that the tax incentives could allow as much as $100 billion in private capital to flow into all the nation’s opportunity zones.
That investment can include funding for new businesses, housing and other uses. Carson said that the Zillow.com website estimates that sales in opportunity zones have accelerated by 20% since the program was created.
Carson also touted the advantages of manufactured housing as a way to build a lot of homes quickly and at less expense than site-built homes. That sector is the country’s largest source of unsubsidized housing, Carson said.
Carson told the group that manufactured housing doesn’t necessarily mean single- or double-wide mobile homes. Eagle County is home to several different levels of manufactured homes, from mobile homes to starter homes to the Chamonix townhome neighborhood in Vail.
Manufactured homes can provide an effective way to provide home ownership, he added, with a couple of caveats.
Carson stressed the need for “responsible” home ownership, citing the cost to families from the collapse of the housing bubble in the previous decade.
At the lower end of the market, Carson said it’s essential to provide both help with purchasing and support for buyers.
“We need to think holistically,” he said.
But that’s possible, with a combination of technology, cooperation and understanding of the need to revise local building codes that might currently forbid building homes for lower income families.
That’s all possible, he said, but it takes vision.
“If you can see the invisible, you can achieve the impossible,” he said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com or 970-748-2930.
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