Written by Erica Stewart
One of my wise co-workers recently posited that a commercial district is only as strong as its surrounding neighborhood. While I am not 100 percent sure someone couldn’t come up with an example of a healthy shopping district that draws mostly from neighborhoods other than its own, I absolutely agree with the underlying sentiment that commercial district revitalization and residential rehabilitation go hand-in-hand.
The recent introduction in the U.S. House of Representatives of two key pieces of legislation is designed to address both sides of that coin. These bills would capitalize on historic preservation’s power to create jobs and revitalize the communities where we live, work and yes, shop.
The first bill, the “Creating American Prosperity through Preservation Act,” or CAPP, is co-sponsored by Reps. Aaron Schock (R-IL) and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). A major feature of this bill is to make the existing federal historic tax credit more useful to developers of smaller-sized historic rehabilitation projects, typically found in Main Street districts. Historic rehabilitation activity generates more and better-paying jobs than new construction. The changes proposed by this bill will undoubtedly increase the volume of historic tax credit deals done in this country. This is good news for the economy.
Reps. Michael Turner’s (R-OH) and Russ Carnahan’s (D-MO) “Historic Homeownership Revitalization Act (HHRA)” creates a complementary homeowner tax credit that would incentivize the rehabilitation of historic homes and the revitalization of historic neighborhoods. This credit would serve to make it more affordable for homeowners to care for their homes—a definite boon during these difficult economic and real estate market conditions—while helping to maintain the historic integrity of the properties and the vitality of historic neighborhoods.
Together, the bills promote balanced residential and commercial economic development, and construction activity that creates skilled jobs, in our historic Main Streets and neighborhoods. This legislation will help ensure that our older neighborhoods and commercial districts remain vibrant, relevant thriving centers of modern life that are sustainable, attractive, meaningful places to live, work and do business.
I know what you’re thinking: new tax credits—in this political climate and federal budget situation? The economics of the federal historic tax credit are clear. Rutgers University data revealed that the credit has attracted $5 of private investment for every $1 of credit paid out by the Treasury. The cumulative, 32-year, $17.5 billion cost of the program is more than offset by the $22.3 billion in federal taxes these projects have generated.The successful track record of similar state tax credit programs makes a compelling case for the passage of a federal historic homeowner tax credit. We hope you’ll agree and help us by calling on your Representative to sign on as a co-sponsor of both bills. Take action now.
More information about the bills, including the newly released Rutgers University report on the Economic Impact of the Federal Historic Tax Credit, a list of endorsing organizations and a sample letter to send your Representative can be found on the PreservationNation website.
Erica Stewart is the outreach coordinator for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Public Affairs department.