Action Needed: Save the Historic Tax Credit

Do you know how your state is affected by the Historic Tax Credit (HTC)? Do you know that a lot of downtown and village revitalization would not happen without the aid of the HTC? The HTC makes up the difference in project cost, which allows for the buildings to be rehabilitated.

Need an example? A current project in Enosburg Falls, Vermont is rehabilitating the historic Quincy Hotel. This building, constructed in 1874, began as a railroad hotel and served travelers well into the 21st century, becoming one of the longest continually operating hotels in Vermont. 

Quincy_House_1913

Quincy House, ca. 1910, prior to the fire on the 3rd floor, which resulted in the altered windows and roof (see next photo). Image source: Enosburg Historical Society. 


Enosburg Falls is a typical example of a northern Vermont village; it was a bustling village and regional hub for industry, but with the demise of the railroad, it entered a protracted period of economic decline. This was manifested in a village center with many underutilized buildings and consequently fewer options for local employment, which have adversely affected the cohesiveness and vibrancy of the community. People left, businesses left, and buildings fell into disrepair. On top of that, the village suffered fires in some of its main building blocks.

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One of the rooms inside the Quincy Hotel prior to rehabilitation. 

The rehabilitation of Quincy Hotel will provide the community with public spaces to host events ranging from business meetings to workshops and retreats, all with in -house accommodations and meals, complementing what is already in the Village. The hotel is located downtown and adjacent to the Enosburg Opera House. The railroad has been converted to the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail; cyclists and tourists will find comfortable lodging at the Quincy Hotel. The rehabilitation of the Quincy Hotel would not be economically feasible without the state and federal Historic Tax Credits. There is a need for this project; Enosburg Falls is undergoing revitalization by dedicated residents and business people with investment in restaurants, retail, housing, parks, and now lodging.  Long-time readers will recall the Flying Disc coffee shop, a locally owned and successful coffee shop, which is just a short walk from the Quincy Hotel. 

This project, like all tax credit projects, will act as an economic multiplier; a catalyst for continued economic development. The local tax base will expand and jobs will be created as a direct result of this project. Even one small project can serve as a catalyst, leading to larger projects. Bringing housing downtown encourages commercial development (restaurants, retail, office spaces) and investment in a town or city block. This makes our existing communities more livable for all, and prevents poor development (i.e. sprawl) elsewhere. People want to live and work in vibrant communities.

So far tax credit projects seem like win-win situations, right? Yes. However, over the years our preservation efforts – from ordinances to regulations to tax credits – have been threatened at the local, state, and national levels. The only way to prevent their loss is to speak up! Right now is one of those times. Read on for an overview of the issues and how to help save the Historic Tax Credit (HTC), formerly called the Rehabilitation Investment Tax Credit (RITC).

The issue: The current tax reform bill introduced in the House of Representatives would eliminate the HTC. The HTC is a proven economic driver, as well the federal government’s most significant investment in historic preservation. If we take away the HTC, businesses and development projects are far less likely to pursue preservation projects because there will be no financial incentive. Why invest additional money if there will not be a guaranteed return-on-investment for developers?

Does this matter? Yes, it matters. If you take away the HTC, you take away valuable preservation dollars and in turn, irreplaceable historic fabric of your communities. How much of an impact will it have in your city or state? Find your state here and download an easy to use fact sheet. You can see which projects are housing, commercial, etc. For example, in Vermont (whose population is only approx. 600,000), from 2002-2016, there have been 234 HTC projects that resulted in over $200 million in total development.

Overall, the HTC generates more dollars than it costs to implement. It gives money back to the government while benefitting local and state communities. Most everyone is catching on; in 2016, the HTC was used more than ever, according to the National Park Service and Rutgers UniversityFrom the National Trust for Historic Preservation: over the life of the program, the historic rehabilitation tax credit (HTC) has:

  • created more than 2.4 million good-paying local jobs
  • leveraged $131.8 billion in private investment in our communities;
  • used $25.2 billion in tax credits to generate more than $29.8 billion in federal tax revenue;
  • and preserved more than 42,293 buildings that form the historic fabric of our nation.

This video from the National Trust shares highlights of the HTC.

Think this just a concern for Democrats? Not true. President Ronald Reagan put the HTC into place and fully believed in it. Watch and listen here.

What can you do to help? Contact your representatives! Here is an easy way to send an email. And, even more effective, call them!

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3 thoughts on “Action Needed: Save the Historic Tax Credit

  1. thegreydivorceeblog says:

    Good luck with your preservation efforts. I’m not American, so I’m not able to support you in any way other than offering moral support. In addition to all the economic and social reasons you raised, I wonder if there’s an environmental benefit to renovating old buildings, rather than abandoning them or tearing them down to build something new. Surely a renovation uses less resources than a new build?

  2. Susie says:

    Thanks for doing this write-up, Kaitlin! Historic preservation gets the short straw too often just because the benefits are long term rather than short term. I really hope everyone can rally and we can save the historic tax credit!

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