sustaining a historic tax credit programConstant Vigilance - Albert Rex
Constant Vigilance - Albert Rex
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to once again testify at the State House on behalf of the Massachusetts Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit. I've done this numerous times since the credit was first submitted as a component of an economic stimulus bill in 2003 and passed into law later that year. From the beginning, Jim Igoe and his staff at Preservation Massachusetts has organized these efforts along with their lobbyist Paul Pezzella. It seems like each trip to the Statehouse to testify or meet with a legislator does not immediately bear fruit, but over the eight years since the legislation was passed the credit has had its sunset date extended by a decade and the credit has been increased five fold.
Constant vigilance has long been a part of the ethos of the preservation community, and is really needed in creating and sustaining a historic tax credit program. Many statewide preservation organizations have brought this level of commitment to advocating for these programs. They have funded or undertaken studies that show the impact of these credits on their state's economy from job creation to increases in tax revenue and their stateâ€™s gross domestic product. They have developed relationships with their legislators and other stakeholders and educated them about the importance of the credit. They have spent hours upon hours testifying and working for the retention and increase of these credits. Finally, they have developed relationships with the development community, who has also come out in support of these programs.
This same level of vigilance has not taken place at the federal level – because it really hasn't needed to. There have been no significant threats to the credit in the 30-plus years it has been around, with the biggest changes happening during the Reagan tax changes in 1986 and the reduction of the credit from 25% to 20% . There were efforts to create a homeowners historic credit, led by the late Rhode Island Senator John Chafee, but until the last two years, there has been little effort in trying to have any impact on the federal historic credit. With tax reform at the federal level now a reality, it is time to look at the successful track record in many states of creating and maintaining their credits. Over the past year or so the Historic Tax Credit Coalition (HTCC) has made important headway on expanding advocacy on behalf of the federal credit and its constituents. A good- and necessary- first step, but the effort must continue.
The success of advocacy at the state level, at a time when state budgets are being slashed, should provide a course of action in addressing the federal program. The historic credit has been the most affective tool for historic preservation and has led to the rehabilitation of thousands of buildings. The same level of commitment and constant vigilance that is seen at the state level must be applied at the federal level, or the preservation community risks losing a most valuable asset.
About the Blogger – Albert Rex is the Director of the Northeast Office of MacRostie Historic Advisors.
Albert has been active in preservation and real estate in New England for the past 17 years. Read more about Albert here.