Brownfield Foreign Investment In Peril

Growing foreign investment in U.S. brownfields redevelopment projects may drop dramatically with the end of a decades-old green card program.

Ending the program would be “devastating,” to foreign investment, Toby Rittner, president and CEO of the Council of Development Finance Agencies, told Bloomberg BNA.

“(EB-5) has infused billions into economic development at no financial cost to the federal government. Should the program expire, foreign investors will simply go elsewhere,” he said in an email. “In terms of brownfields, it simply removes another financial resource available to our industry, sadly.”

The program is set to expire at the end of April, unless Congress renews it, which could have a significant impact on the revitalization of U.S. brownfields.

Investors who buy brownfields to redevelop them, and generate jobs at those sites, may be eligible for green cards under the Immigrant Investor Program, also known as EB-5. The program was created in 1990 by an act of Congress.

Dan French, CEO and founder of Brownfield Listings, an online marketplace for real estate redevelopment, told Bloomberg BNA foreign investment in brownfields would increase if the EB-5 program was expanded.

Several senators and representatives—Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.)—wrote a letter to Senate and House majority and minority leaders April 6 to oppose EB-5’s renewal.

The program is “riddled with fraud and raises national security concerns,” they wrote. The program’s purpose, directing investment to high unemployment and rural areas, has been forgotten, they wrote, and has become the subject of “rampant abuse.”

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