Federal Historic Tax Credit Endangered

By Elizabeth Hughes, Director, Maryland Historical Trust

Last week, following release of the tax reform bill by the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives, Maryland residents began reaching out to our office, alarmed that changes to the tax code could impact historic preservation projects in their communities.  The draft bill eliminates one of preservation’s most valuable tools – the federal historic tax credit.    

Introduced in 1976, the federal historic tax credit has supported over 42,000 rehabilitation projects nationwide. This number includes 505 projects completed in Maryland between 2002 and 2016 that generated over $2 billion in development expenditures and created over 28,000 jobs. Rutgers University recently studied the nationwide impacts of this incentive program and found that its investments are leveraged more than five times over; that is, for every dollar invested by the federal government in a historic rehabilitation project, an additional five or more dollars are invested through non-federal sources. The extraordinary return, plus the positive impact on historic properties, makes the tax credit (according to the National Park Service, in its preface to the Rutgers report) one of the Federal government’s “most successful and cost-effective community revitalization programs.”

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This former industrial laundry building, adapted as the headquarters for the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, used a federal historic tax credit of $922,653 and a state historic tax credit of $700,000 toward development costs of $8.3 million.

The federal historic tax credit has assisted projects in every corner of our state. The incentive has helped rehabilitate blocks of rowhouses in Baltimore City, bringing these historic properties back into use as single family dwellings, and spurred the adaptive reuse of industrial buildings like the McCord Laundry in Easton (now the headquarters of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy).  The credit has incentivized the renewal of obsolete institutional buildings like the Cottage “G” at the Warfield Hospital Complex in Sykesville that now serves as office space. Although the federal credit is often paired with the state historic tax credit, many of these projects require both incentives to be financially feasible.

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Rowhouse rehabilitation is changing the face of Baltimore City by bringing historic properties back into use as single family dwellings.

Work on the tax reform bill is expected to happen quickly.  If you wish to learn more about the historic tax credit, its future and its impact on state preservation efforts, we encourage you to connect with Preservation Maryland, which has compiled a wealth of resources and information to assist. The Maryland Historical Trust will be monitoring this situation closely.

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Maryland Historical Trust Director Honored with Award

On May 11, 2017, at the College Park Aviation Museum, Preservation Maryland – the statewide non-profit organization dedicated to historic preservation– awarded Maryland Historical Trust director Elizabeth Hughes its Special Recognition award. This award is reserved for projects or individuals who have exhibited exceptional merit in the field of preservation.

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Elizabeth Hughes with Preservation Maryland Executive Director Nick Redding

Governor Larry Hogan appointed Elizabeth as Maryland’s State Historic Preservation Officer and confirmed her appointment by the Board of Trustees as the MHT director in 2015. Prior to her appointment, she had served as the agency’s deputy director. As Preservation Maryland executive director Nick Redding said in his remarks:

“She has shepherded the organization into a new era for preservation – finding ways to help preserve diverse places and stories while also maintaining an agency with the responsibility and oversight of a critical tax credit program and millions of dollars in annual funding. For these reasons alone, she deserves our recognition, but in addition to her work here in Maryland, Elizabeth has quietly and humbly served as the President of the National Council of State Historic Preservation Officers. During her tenure as President of this organization, she proudly represented the Old Line State and helped see that the federal historic preservation fund was re-authorized… If not re-authorized, this program, like many others would currently be on the chopping block. But, thanks to Elizabeth’s leadership, testimony and strategy, the Fund is secure and will provide millions of dollars in support to preservationists around the nation.”

Many thanks to Preservation Maryland for recognizing Elizabeth’s achievements and congratulations to Elizabeth on her award!

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Director Elizabeth Hughes with Deputy Director Anne Raines