Historic Preservation and Housing
Historic preservation values should not be limited to certified historic structures or communities. Older communities which may not be officially designated as historic nevertheless add to the overall texture of our nation, which would be diminished should these communities be lost. Solid housing stock within many older neighborhoods is being lost because they are not protected by a "historic designation". This is especially an issue in lower income neighborhoods where two phenomena are underway. In "hot" neighborhoods, stakeholders are not organized enough to protect the architectural integrity of their community or to keep up with rising property values. The integrity of the area is often compromised by the demolition of existing, and often stable houses, inappropriate renovation of existing houses, and introduction of new construction which is incompatible with the existing architectural character of the area. In weak market neighborhoods, the lack of national and state programs to fend off decline, has led to widespread abandonment and demolition by neglect, leaving clearance and rebuilding as the only viable option to recovery.
Historic preservation can benefit both market rate and affordable housing. There is a growing realization in the field of housing and community development that housing strategies need to be tailored to the market dynamics of a community. Some communities—in very distressed cities and rural areas—have large concentrations of abandoned or deteriorated houses, businesses, and infrastructure. They are losing population, and are at risk of continuing decline in property values and overall community health. In other situations--where housing prices are rising or are likely to rise in ways that will cause involuntary displacement of low and moderate income residents--our vision of a successful and healthy older community is one in which a substantial portion of housing units remain affordable for the foreseeable future. Housing approaches need to be tailored to housing market conditions. The National Trust works in concert with community leaders to strengthen older communities through the rehabilitation, adaptive reuse, and development of housing for a broad income range of buyers and renters, while working to preserve the affordability of housing for lower income residents.
Although rehabilitation and reuse of older properties continues to be our preferred approach, in some settings, the loss of structures has been so substantial that new construction is needed to rebuild the community. One recent Brookings Institution study indicates that in the 100 largest American cities, 15 percent of their land area is "usable vacant land." A considerable portion of this land is in older areas, and can and should be used for in-fill housing development, stimulating the revitalization of older communities. The National Trust works in partnership with others to achieve the right balance between preservation and new construction.
NEW -- PUBLIC POLICY UPDATE
The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA) includes provisions that impact historic preservation projects using the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC). Amendments within HERA include the requirement to consider both the energy efficiency of the project and the historic character of the project when determining how these tax credits will be awarded. As a result, state Qualified Allocation Plans (QAP’s) for distribution of the credits may need to be updated in order to reflect the new requirements. This offers preservationists an opportunity to give input on the importance of historic preservation as an affordable housing strategy. LEARN MORE ABOUT QAP's