The Impact of Public Finance on Community Development

In this Chambers Legal Topics article, we discuss the importance of public finance in supporting various community development projects and the key role that specialized public finance lawyers play in making these undertakings a reality.

Published on 19 May 2023
Written by James Haggerty
James Haggerty

Types of Public Finance Incentives

Public finance, or municipal finance, is a crucial aspect of community development. Local governments and public entities often provide private companies with financial incentives to encourage investment in specific sectors or areas in their state. Ultimately, this benefits local communities through new job opportunities and the improvement of the overall quality of life for residents. 

Public finance incentives can take various forms to encourage investment in specific sectors or regions.  

These may include: 

  • Tax-exempt bonds: These bonds allow private companies to borrow money for projects without paying federal income tax on the interest, making the loans more affordable and attractive. 
  • Low-interest rate loans: Governments can offer loans with lower interest rates that make it easier for companies to finance their projects than with those available on the open market.  
  • Mix of debt and equity incentives: In some cases, governments may provide a combination of loans and equity investments to help finance a project, reducing the risk for private companies and encouraging them to invest. 
  • Direct financial assistance: Governments may also provide grants or other direct financial support to private companies to fund specific projects, reducing the overall cost of the project for the company. 

Public Finance and Community Restructuring

Public finance plays a significant role in funding various types of institutions, including sports stadiums, hospitals, theaters, art centers, and universities. These projects often have a significant impact on local communities, creating jobs, boosting the economy, and improving the quality of life for residents. In some cases, public finance has also been instrumental in addressing crises and funding necessary infrastructure projects. 

For instance, in the aftermath of the Flint water crisis in Michigan, public finance played a crucial role in addressing the health and environmental impacts of lead-contaminated drinking water. The city issued tax-exempt bonds and sold debts to fund infrastructure upgrades and remediation efforts, while also providing financial assistance to residents for medical expenses and property value losses. 

And, the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) was signed into law in 2016 to address the ongoing fiscal and humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. Nixon Peabody served as bond counsel on the restructuring of more than $34 billion of outstanding debt, which was exchanged for $7.4 billion in new general obligation bonds and $8.7 billion in new general obligation contingent value instrument notes. This massive restructuring has allowed Puerto Rico to return to capital markets and promote investment, economic development, and job creation. 

Similarly, the City of Los Angeles issued $389 million in General Obligation Bonds Series 2022-A (Taxable) (Social Bonds). The proceeds of these social bonds will fund projects that provide safe, clean, and affordable housing to those experiencing homelessness and those in danger of becoming homeless, as well as facilities to increase access to mental health care, and drug and alcohol treatment. 

Public finance has also been essential in supporting community projects across various states, such as the development of cultural institutions in New York and the improvement of healthcare facilities in Illinois. Other key sectors that benefit from public finance include higher education, housing, utilities, and transportation. 

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The Role of Public Finance Lawyers

Public finance lawyers can support funding initiatives like these by drafting and negotiating legal documents, representing clients in court, and by advising on legal and policy issues related to the financing of projects. Their expertise in navigating the complexities of public finance enables them to advocate for their clients' best interests and ensure that funding is secured and used effectively. This can lead to more effective corrective efforts and better community outcomes.  

Recognizing the Impact of Public Finance Lawyers and Firms

Chambers & Partners recognizes public finance lawyers and firms for their expertise in many key markets, including New York and Illinois, as well as firm-only impacts in California and the District of Columbia. These listings highlight the important part public finance plays in addressing various challenges faced by local communities and emphasize how much public finance law experts shape the future of the industry. 

The public finance lawyers and firms listed in Chambers have played a significant part in the development and success of numerous projects and initiatives. Their expertise has enabled these professionals to guide their clients through complex legal processes and create lasting positive impacts in the communities they serve. 

While navigating this intricate legal world, attorneys help local governments, public agencies, and private companies secure the necessary funding and guide the legal landscape to ensure that projects are executed in compliance with relevant laws and regulations. 


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