Karen M. Williams
Karen Williams has extensive experience providing financial and legal advice to participants in public-private projects. Her skills include structuring and negotiating tax-advantaged financing, urban renewal, real estate development and financing renewable energy projects. Karen’s 20-year career includes facilitating successful New Markets Tax Credit transactions and providing strategic, technical, development, financial and transaction advice on tax increment programs for community development projects.
As General Counsel to the Portland Development Commission, Karen helped to create several of Portland’s urban renewal (tax increment) plans. She assisted the agency in developing tools and programs for affordable multi-family housing, homeownership programs, and transit-oriented development. She guided discussions on creation of the Portland Community Land Trust and drafted a plain-language shared appreciation mortgage that gives market access to moderate-income homebuyers. Karen helped to structure, and was a lead negotiator, for financing of Portland’s Airport Light Rail, the only light rail system developed through a public-private partnership with no federal subsidy and no new taxes. She helped to design the workforce development program that delivers the benefits of Oregon’s Strategic Investment Program (SIP) to unemployed and underemployed citizens. SIP is a tax abatement designed to bring major employers into the state.
Karen led the Public-Private Development Group at Lane Powell, PC, a law firm that has a strong tax credit practice including New Markets Tax Credits. There she assisted many clients by identifying tax credit allocatees and investors, structuring transactions, negotiating terms, and overseeing the closing process. Her ability to combine tax credits, private funds, and other federal, state, and local subsidies has resulted in many significant community development projects. Karen has written successful NMTC applications for many clients by combining her knowledge of financing, tax credit programs, and community development policy.
Karen has represented a variety of public and private entities in economic development, infrastructure, energy and mixed-use policy and development projects. Some of her past clients and projects include the Portland Armory, EcoTrust Forest project, Fremont Building, The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, Mercy Corps World Headquarters, the Community Transitional School, and in Seattle, the Wing Luke Asian Museum and Seattle Housing Authority. Outside the Northwest, she has assisted a regional community loan fund in Northern California, Community Development Entities in Southern California, a charter school in Houston, and many others.
Karen has twice been voted by her peers one of Oregon’s top 25 women lawyers and five times one of the top 100 lawyers in Oregon. She is listed as one of the Best Lawyers in America and has been the chair of both the Government Law Section and the Real Estate and Land Use Section of the Oregon State Bar.
Thoroughly invested in her community, Karen is an active board member for a variety of industry and community groups including the Portland Business Alliance, Urban League of Portland, Oregon Institute of Technology’s Renewable Energy Center and Portland State University Center for Real Estate, among others. She is a lecturer for the International Sustainable Development Foundation’s China-U S Secretariat, providing insights on Western real estate financing and relocation practices for Chinese government officials.
Conferences & Speaking Engagements
Karen Williams is an acclaimed speaker at many industry conferences, sharing her extensive knowledge of the complexities of New Markets Tax Credits.
Karen designs financing transactions with multiple funding sources and tax credits to create community development projects that contribute to building a healthy economic fabric.