OP-ED: Preservation Tax Credit Makes Sense

Published in the Asheville Citizen-Times

For decades, North Carolina has benefited from the federal historic tax credit program. Combined with state tax credits for rehabilitation, it has helped revitalize North Carolina’s vacant and underutilized mills and factories, department stores and schools while protecting our heritage and fueling the economy. The Grove Arcade and the Orange Peel are just a few well-known local projects that demonstrate the power of saving and reusing our historic places.

Now, legislators on Capitol Hill are threatening to weaken or eliminate this powerful program, claiming that we cannot afford to rehab historic places. In fact, we can’t afford NOT to.

Here are the facts: first and foremost, the federal historic tax credit more than pays for itself. It has cost $19.2 billion over the life of the program, yet it has generated $24.4 billion in revenue to the U.S. Treasury. That should give even the most ardent tax reformist pause.

Second, the federal historic tax credit is a proven job-creating, economic engine. Since its inception, the program has attracted nearly $100 billion to the rehabilitation of 38,000 historic buildings and created 2.2 million skilled jobs—jobs which cannot be outsourced. Here in North Carolina, in 2010 alone, 44 projects created 3,645 jobs (at the height of the recession), and generated $45 million in taxes — more than covering the $11 million cost of the federal tax credit.

Third, research shows that rehabbing old buildings creates more economic impact than the same-size investment in new construction, new highways, machinery manufacturing or agriculture.

As compelling as the evidence is, with a few strategic improvements, we could make the federal credit even stronger.

New bipartisan legislation in Congress, the Creating American Prosperity through Preservation (CAPP) Act, would make Main Street-sized communities like Asheville more attractive to investors, opening the door to tax revenue, jobs and an infusion of energy and investment that stems from returning vacant buildings to life.

For all these reasons, we urge North Carolina’s Congressional delegation to be on the forefront of promoting sensible, cost-effective federal programs that are good for our economy and our quality of life. North Carolina’s state legislators recently extended the state historic tax credits to 2015. Now it’s time for its lawmakers in Washington to step up. We understand that deficit reductions are prudent and necessary, but cutting or eliminating this federal program is not the answer. The federal historic tax credit is exactly the kind of program we need to keep our country moving forward.

###

The National Trust for Historic Preservation, a privately funded nonprofit organization, works to save America’s historic places.
PreservationNation.org