Tax Reform Act Threatens Essential Rightsizing Tax Credit Programs

The Preservation Rightsizing Network raises strong concerns about the recent proposal from Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) to eliminate tax credits that are essential to building strong neighborhoods across the country. Rep. Camp’s Tax Reform Act of 2014 proposes to remove tools that promote historic preservation, reuse of existing buildings, sustainable development, and neighborhood stabilization.

Rep. Camp is departing chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee, so his proposal is more speculative than imminent. However, it certainly will impact future discussions on federal tax credits. The proposed changes take aim at a variety of credits that currently incentivize the reduction of vacant land and building stock, as well as sustainable new and historic development.

The following changes proposed by Rep. Camp all negatively impact rightsizing efforts:

Federal Historic Tax Credits: Rep. Camp proposes complete elimination of the federal historic tax credit, which provides a non-transferable 20% credit against expenses that are incurred rehabilitating certified historic buildings and a 10% credit for age-qualified buildings. These credits are essential for cities looking to strengthen historic neighborhoods and avoid the prospect of having demolition be the only blight-fighting remedy.

Energy Credit: Rep. Camp proposes eliminating the 30% federal credit against the cost of energy efficiency measures on existing and new buildings. This credit helps property owners enhance sustainability of older buildings, making their rehabilitation more feasible.

Low Income Housing Tax Credit: Rep. Camp proposes eliminating the 4% tax credit entirely. His bill would eliminate the increased basis rule for high-cost and difficult development areas and repeal the requirement that states should include energy efficiency and historic status of properties in their low-income housing selection criteria. For the 9% program, Rep. Camp would shift from allocating credit amounts to allocating qualified basis. These changes would make the program difficult to utilize for urban housing development and reduce the chances that the credit would prioritize rehabilitation of existing historic buildings.

New Energy Efficient Home Tax Credit: Rep. Camp proposes complete repeal of the tax credit for construction of qualified energy-efficient homes. This change would remove an incentive for sustainable residential development on vacant lots utilized in urban infill.

The Preservation Rightsizing Network promotes the retention of all of these incentives, because they are needed together to offer cities options for their futures. We call for our colleagues in historic preservation and allied fields—those that value sustainability and affordability, and work for lasting community revitalization—to stand against Rep. Camp’s proposal and those to follow that may adopt the anti-tax credit agenda.


Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities: Proposals due by February 1!

The Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University and the Cleveland Restoration Society are convening an interdisciplinary meeting to discuss the role of historic preservation in revitalizing America’s legacy cities, where long-term population loss and economic decline present significant challenges for the future of the urban built environment. These cities have significant cultural heritage and a large stock of historic buildings, yet vacancy and abandonment are very pressing realities and, at times, demolition may be the best course of action.

At this crucial juncture, cities face difficult questions. What is the role that preservation can and should play in shaping the future of legacy cities? How can historic assets be identified and leveraged for planning and revitalization? What benefits and impediments exist in integrating preservation into community and economic development? How should we make decisions about what to save and what to destroy? This convening will be an opportunity to collaborate, share ideas, and devise solutions, with the goals of launching a more integrated approach to planning for the future of legacy cities, bringing preservation into urban policymaking, and crafting a 21st -century preservation profession that is responsive to current needs and conditions.

We invite policymakers, community leaders, practitioners, and scholars from a range of fields, including urban planning and design, community and economic development, urban policy, and historic preservation. The convening will take place at the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University from Thursday, June 5 through Saturday, June 7, 2014, and will include a mix of speaker sessions, roundtable discussions and local tours.

Proposals are invited on any topic that addresses the role of historic preservation in America’s legacy cities. Potential topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • Case studies of innovative projects, policies, or programs that leverage and/or incorporate historic resources
  • Synergies and tensions between preservation and legacy city planning and development
  • Partnerships between public, private, nonprofit, and/or community actors
  • The role of preservation in community and/or economic development
  • Preservation and rightsizing policies at the local, state, and/or federal levels
  • Decision-making around demolition and targeted reinvestment
  • The role of non-governmental (or quasi-governmental) actors in shaping and revitalizing historic cities and neighborhoods (e.g., community development corporations, land banks)

Proposals can be for individual presentations or entire sessions. The program committee will organize individual proposals into sessions of 3-5 speakers, with presenters having about 15 minutes each. Session proposals should similarly include 3-5 speakers.

Please send all proposals in either Word or PDF format to All of the following information must be included:

  • Session title (if a session proposal)
  • Individual presentation title(s)
  • A one-page (about 300 words) description of the proposed presentation or session
  • Name, contact information (address, email, phone), and a brief bio (100 words) for each speaker. For session proposals, all speakers must be confirmed prior to proposal submission.

Deadline for proposal submission: February 1, 2014. You will be notified if your proposal has been accepted by March 15, 2014.

Presenters are required to register for the convening. Any presenter not registered by May 15, 2014, will be dropped from the program. All presenters are responsible for their own registration fees, travel, lodging, and expenses. Information on registration fees and hotel rates will be available in early 2014.

For more information, visit or find us on Facebook: Questions may be sent to or to Dr. Stephanie Ryberg-Webster at:

Save the date for Historic Preservation in America’s Legacy Cities on June 5-7, 2014

Save the date for an interdisciplinary convening to address the role of historic preservation in revitalizing Legacy Cities on June 5-7, 2014 in Cleveland, Ohio. Hosted by The Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University and the Cleveland Restoration Society, the meeting will be an opportunity to cross-collaborate, share ideas, and devise solutions with the goals of launching a more integrated approach to planning for the future of legacy cities, bringing historic preservation into urban policymaking, and crafting a 21st-century preservation profession that is responsive to the needs and conditions of legacy cities. Preservationists, community developers, economic developers, urban planners and policymakers, urban designers, and others are invited to participate.

For more information, contact Assistant Professor Stephanie R. Ryberg at

Resource: Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities, May 2013

The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy recently published a new report “Regenerating America’s Legacy Cities” by Alan Mallach and Lavea Brachman available for download as a PDF here. Find more information on their website or read on for an excerpt of the abstract:

This policy focus report explores the challenges of regenerating America’s legacy cities—older industrial cities that have experienced sustained job and population loss over the past few decades. It identifies the powerful obstacles that stand in the way of fundamental change in the dynamics of these cities, and suggests directions by which cities can overcome those obstacles and embark on the path of regeneration.

While almost all of the nation’s older industrial cities declined through the 1980s, the picture has changed in more recent decades. The report examines 18 representative cities to explore how their trajectories have changed, with some showing signs of revival while others continued to decline. These 18 cities were selected from a universe of approximately 50 legacy cities, which met two primary criteria: population of at least 50,000 in 2010; and loss of at least 20 percent from the city’s peak population. The cities represent geographic diversity, including New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southern, and Midwestern cities, as well as variation in their level of recovery or regeneration.

Alan Mallach and Lavea Brachman lay the groundwork by exploring the challenges these cities face and reviewing the economic, social, market, physical, and operational factors that have led to their present condition. The relative health or vitality of each of these cities was tracked with 15 separate indicators to measure population change, socioeconomic condition, housing markets, and economic activity. Some appear highly successful, at least in relative terms; others are clearly unsuccessful; and others fall in between.