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This blog is a place for dialogue on issues and actions relating to Boston's unique built environment and the preservation and continuing evolution of historic resources within it. My goal, as the Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, is to post timely, relevant and thought-provoking intelligence, ideas, and insights that will engage conversations, inform our actions, and broaden perspectives on preservation.

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Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

GREG GALER
Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

Historic Preservation Under Threat in Washington, DC

March 9th, 2014  |  Posted by: Greg Galer

 

The Massachusetts Contingent at Washington: (L to R) Greg Galer (Boston Preservation Alliance), Albert Rex (MacRostie Historic Advisors), Erin Kelly & Jim Igoe (Preservation Massachusetts)The Massachusetts Contingent at Washington: (L to R) Greg Galer (Boston Preservation Alliance), Albert Rex (MacRostie Historic Advisors), Erin Kelly & Jim Igoe (Preservation Massachusetts)

Last past week I took time out of the Alliance office to join preservationists from around the country who gather in Washington, DC each year for “Preservation Advocacy Week.” Organized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Preservation Action (a national preservation-focused lobbying group), the National Council of State Historic Preservation Officers, and others, the activities are centered around making the needs and concerns of the preservation community heard by our federal representatives in Washington. This is the first time I’ve been involved in lobbying on such a direct level, and it was a gratifying and educational experience for me.

Before walking the halls of the Congressional and Senate Office Buildings, the group gathered at various sessions to learn of the current pressing issues and strategies for speaking with Congressmen, Senators, and their staffs. The timing of the visit, became quite prescient, when House Ways and Means Committee Chairman, Rep. Camp of Michigan released a 1,000+ page proposal for major tax reform at the end of the preceeding week.  Included in his plan is the elimination of the Federal Historic Tax Credit (HTC) as well as the reduction in the Affordable Housing Tax Credit, which is often paired with the Historic Credit to make historic rehabilitation projects financially viable. While we heard universally from the lobbying and policy experts, Congressional staffers, Congressmen, and Senators with whom we met that Camp’s proposal is going nowhere – getting no traction on either side of the aisle, the preservation community is greatly concerned that the proposal marks a new day for us. This is a  “Shot Across the Bow” if you will, that the credit which has been so vital to our successes since its beginning in 1976, is in the cross-hairs of those aggressively pushing tax reform. With the drumbeat of a major tax overhaul growing ever stronger, although Camp’s proposal may be DOA, it will likely significantly influence  a new starting point for discussion when tax reform begins to get serious attention. While the chorus of tax reform may not rise fully above the din in this Congress, it will likely become a tune many more in Congress are singing in 2015 and into 2016. Now is the time to get our message clarified and to strengthen our coalition. 

Preservationists can no longer remain complacent that this critical program will continue. We must now build our campaign and spread the message about how important the Historic Preservation Tax Credit is for the work we all do and our cities, towns, and neighborhoods . So, for all of you interested in the many benefits of historic preservation to your community – it’s essential nature to the character of our towns in cities, its dramatically positive effect in the revitalization of neighborhoods and Main Streets, and its straight-up clear economic benefit – for all of you who support historic preservation, now is the time to get involved, share your ideas and support for preservation efforts, and let your government representatives know how you feel.

There is much data already available to demonstrate why continuing the HTC makes complete sense.  I’ll share a few key facts below as well as some links to additional data and supporting resources.

  • The HTC is revenue positive, putting more tax dollars into the Federal coffers than it takes out :
  • The cumulative $21 billlion of cost of this program since its inception has been more than offset by the $26.6 billion in federal tax receipts generated and the $109 billion in private investment nationwide.
  • The HTC leverages private investment at a rate of $5 of private investment for every $1 of federal funding.
  • The HTC creates skilled, high-paying jobs, 2.4 million jobs in over 39,000 buildings rehabiliated across the country since the HTC began.
  • The HTC is a bi-partisan, nationwide issue positively impacting the full spectrum of communities across all 50 states from big cities to small towns.
  • The HTC is economically stimulative. The catalytic effect on economically challenged neighborhoods, towns, and cities has been proven, where historic buildings are rehabilitated and given new, viable uses that trigger private investment in the same neighborhood. Without the HTC these early projects which set the wheels of economic change in motion would simply not happen.
  • The HTC has been the single-most effective tool in historic preservation in the United States.

Without the HTC these many positive efforts would go away.  Private investors would take on a minuscule portion of the projects they do today, historic buildings would continue to lay fallow to not only further deteriorate themselves but to continue to be a drag on the local community, dissuading private investment, minimally contributing to the local tax base and not leveraging further investment and tax payments as they do today.

For additional information see:  http://tinyurl.com/nxfocc6

 

 

What can  you do? 

Contact your local Congressmen and Senators and let them know you oppose any efforts to reduce the HTC. Tell them that you believe historic preservation is essential to the economic success and livability of your community. Remind them that while you realize the Camp proposal is unlikely to move forward today you want your representatives in Washington to begin now to send the message to their colleagues that Historic Preservation is an important effort for our nation – important to our character, to our educational system, to our sense of communities and their livability, to our efforts to be “green,” and yes, too our economic success. 

Please urge your representative to contact Speaker of the House John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor with the message that repealing the historic tax credit would eliminate an incentive that has a proven track record of revitalizing communities and creating jobs.

 

More than ever before, now is the time to speak up for the historic tax credit. Now is the time to rally the troops and make our voices louder than the poorly informed who lump the HTC in with revenue negative tax credits.

 

And, to learn more about the Economic Benefits of Historic Preservation, attend the upcoming Alliance event, “Preservonomics 101: The Economic Benefits of Historic Preservation” March 20, 6pm at the Modern Theatre. 

http://www.bostonpreservation.org/programs/documents/AllianceForumposter.pdf

 

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