Jared Kushner used a federal program loophole to obtain $50 million in federal funding aimed to help the poor to build luxury apartments in Jersey City, NJ, the Washington Post reports.
Mr. Kushner and his real estate partners used the money to built an opulent, 50-story residential tower in the city’s booming waterfront district, just across the Hudson River from Lower Manhattan.
The tactic — critics liken it to the gerrymandering of legislative districts — made it appear that the luxury tower was in an area with extraordinarily high unemployment, allowing Kushner to get $50 million in low-cost financing through the EB-5 visa program.
Jared Kushner has made headlines lately for reportedly communicating with Russian officials during the Trump administration’s transition to the White House. Now, however, the Post report points to even more seemingly sketchy behavior on the part of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.
According to the report, consultants working on Kushner’s real estate project got creative with the endeavor and created a map that “defined the area around 65 Bay Street as a swath of land that stretched nearly four miles and included some of the city’s poorest and most crime-ridden neighborhoods,” while simultaneously omitting several wealthy neighborhoods in the area. The idea was to create the illusion that the tower would be built in an area with a high unemployment rate, thus allowing Kushner Companies to receive the $50 million in funding through the federal government’s EB-5 visa program.
Wealthy foreigners can receive a fast-track residence visa under the EB-5 program by investing at least $500,000 in a real estate project in an economically impoverished neighborhood. The loophole in the program is reportedly legal, and “prominent members of both parties say [it] has been plagued by fraud and abuse.”
“That’s very sad. Unfortunately, the people who are benefiting from this are not the people in this area,” Pastor Shyrone Richardson, of the World Outreach Christian Church told WaPo. Richardson works in an economically disadvantaged area of Jersey City.
“In large urban markets like Jersey City these types of real estate development projects create much-needed jobs, particularly in the construction industry across areas of the city that cover multiple census tracts,” he added.
Meanwhile, some people involved in the carrying out of the project believe Kushner Companies did anything wrong by using federal grants for the poor to build a business. Mark Giresi, CEO of the firm helping Kushner raise EB-5 funds for the project, told WaPo that the project “helped create 1,280 construction jobs that otherwise wouldn’t have been available to residents surrounding the area.”
Congress is reportedly considering legislation that would make EB-5 gerrymandering much tougher, and Kushner has said he will recuse himself from any involvement in that decision, should the decision come under serious consideration.
But it seems Kushner doesn’t see a problem with manipulating a federal funding program — let alone one for a low-income area. In fact, Kushner Companies — which Mr. Kushner was the former CEO of before becoming President Trump’s senior adviser — is once again attempting to use the same program to fund another luxury property in Jersey City’s Journal Square neighborhood. This time, they’re seeking $150 million in funding.