It Makes Economic Good Sense: Help Save the Federal Historic Tax Credit!

As any regular reader of this blog will know, I grew up with a love of history and of old buildings. I believe strongly that our communities are stronger when historic buildings are preserved and utilized. But one of the few tools we have to save historic buildings in this country is under attack. It’s been a tough two weeks in the preservation world as we ponder the possibility that the Federal Historic Tax Credit might cease to exist.

The Fifth District School in Covington, Kentucky, was renovated into housing thanks to the Federal historic tax credit.

If you follow Gardens to Gables on Facebook, you will have noticed I’ve been sharing a great many posts related to the threat the Federal Historic Tax Credit (HTC) is facing.  On November 2, 2017, a tax reform outline from the US House of Representatives eliminated the historic tax credit.

The Old Talbott Tavern might not be delighting scores of tourists every year in Bardstown, Kentucky, if it weren’t for the historic tax credit.

What is the HTC and why is it important? The HTC provides a 20% income tax credit to developers of income producing properties located in historic buildings such as office buildings, retail establishments, rental apartments, and others. Basically, it allows people across the country to renovate historic buildings (that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places) so that they can continue to be useful structures, improving the communities around them.

Downtown Stanford, Kentucky has benefited from the HTC.

In Kentucky alone in the last 15 years, the HTC has:

  • facilitated 345 projects
  • generated more than $500 million in Kentucky development
  • created 9,583 jobs
  • generated $112,187,000 in taxes – $11,811,500 local; $15,982,100 state; and, $84,483,300 federal.

The Jenkins School, in the former coal camp of Jenkins in Letcher County, Kentucky, provides much-needed housing thanks to the HTC.

Arkansas State Representative Vivian Flowers called the HTC “a jobs maker; this tax credit is an economic developer and it’s a community developer.”

The HTC was created in 1976, and 10 years later, President Ronald Regean signed it into his Tax Reform Bill, saying, “Our tax credits have made the preservation of our older buildings not only a matter of respect for beauty and history, but of economic good sense.”

A look at the HTC projects in Kentucky from 2002-2016. Source: the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Since the HTC began, it has created more than 2.4 million well-paying local jobs; generated more tax revenue than it has cost the Treasury; leveraged $131.8 billion in private investment in our communities;and preserved more than 42,293 buildings that form the historic fabric of our nation.

Springfield, Kentucky is another community that has used the HTC to preserve some of its iconic downtown buildings, like the Robertson Building (on left in photo).

Kentucky is lucky. We have a state historic tax credit for folks who live in historic buildings – but many, many projects across the Commonwealth and the country would not be possible without the Federal historic tax credit.

So, please – take a minute and send an email or call your elected officials in Congress and urge (beg!) for the retention of the historic tax credit. I can’t even imagine what its loss would mean to hundreds of preservation projects, not just in Kentucky, but across the nation.




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