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Proposed "Portman-Jefferson" Bill Would Buoy Historic Preservation

The most significant historic preservation incentives that our government has to offer- historic rehabilitation tax credits in the Internal Revenue Code - are themselves in need of preservation. The provisions now have very limited application, conflict with similar tax credits, and don't provide enough incentive to restore most historic properties, says Thomas Wolfe, The AIA's Senior Director of Federal Affairs.

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"These limitations weren't apparent when the tax credits were created in 1986," he notes. "They are now."

To help remedy the situation, Representatives Rob Portman (R-OH) and William Jefferson (D-LA), with the support of the AIA and The National Trust for Historic Preservation, on February 8 introduced the Community Restoration and Revitalization Act of 2005 (HR 659). Among other benefits, the new bill would provide greater incentives for private investment in older properties, broadening the current 10% tax credit to cover any building over 50 years old, including residential properties, which are not covered under existing law. Other benefits include restructuring the historic credit so that it can be used in tandem with the low income tax credit, thus creating affordable housing benefits, and encouraging smaller-scale development. The bill would especially help lower-income communities, since over half of the country's 12,500 historic districts overlap census tracts where the poverty rate exceeds 20%.

The bi-partisan sponsors believe it has a good chance of passing, considering its fairly low cost and reliance on business, not government, for implementation.

Sam Lubell