As federal, state, and local governments coordinate an emergency response to natural disasters in Florida and the Gulf Coast region, the National Trust, together with our state and national partners, is developing recommendations for a recovery package that prioritizes the rehabilitation of historic properties damaged by wind and water. Increasing the amount of the historic tax credit (HTC) for federally declared disaster areas has worked well as one aspect of the legislative response to help repair, rebuild, and revitalize damaged historic buildings during past relief efforts. The Trust will continue to work with our partners to ensure that the federal government’s response to hurricanes Harvey and Irma includes adequate attention to historic resources.
How these natural disasters and the federal response might impact tax reform efforts is not clear, but the past several weeks have seen greater attention to the issue. President Donald Trump recently joined a meeting of the Group of Six to discuss enacting tax reform before the end of the calendar year. The president has also delivered speeches on the subject in Missouri and North Dakota.
The agreement President Trump recently reached with Democratic leaders Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi to fund the government for the next three months may give tax writers time to develop a detailed proposal in the near term. Over the longer term, however, the agreement sets up a difficult political dynamic for passing any legislation, including tax reform, around the end of December when government funding again runs out.
The Group of Six is expected to release a template for tax reform by the end of September, and the president has repeatedly called on lawmakers to work quickly to finalize a plan. The National Trust does not anticipate that the template will specifically reference the HTC, and it also appears unlikely that tax-writing committees will hold hearings focused on community redevelopment before the legislation is unveiled. HTC supporters must continue to look for ways to emphasize the importance of the credit to lawmakers.
In August, for example, the National Trust, the National Trust Community Investment Corporation, and the Historic Tax Credit Coalition submitted a letter to the Senate Finance Committee in response to a hearing about the affordable housing crisis. The letter notes that roughly half of all HTC projects produce housing and highlights the fact that, in 2017, 34 percent of the housing units created using the HTC were affordable, for a total of 7,181 units. The HTC not only helps address our affordable housing crisis in combination with the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and the New Market Tax Credit but it also works independently to support historic preservation and economic revitalization.
Members of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee are meeting this month to begin assembling a tax proposal that could become public as early as October. What it will look like remains unclear, but tax writers will soon be making decisions about which programs to cut and which to keep. Change is happening quickly in Washington, and the preservation community needs to be ready. Urge members of your congressional delegation to make the HTC a priority during the tax reform process.
The National Trust, the Historic Tax Credit Coalition, Preservation Action, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, and Main Street America are finalizing a sign-on letter calling on the Ways and Means and Finance committees to protect the HTC in tax reform. Please consider adding your business or organization to the letter, which will close at the end of September.
Over the next several months, it is critical that the preservation community continue to communicate with congressional representatives about the importance of the HTC. Showing members of Congress rehabilitated historic buildings is one of the most effective ways to demonstrate the value of the credit. The House will be in recess September 15–22 and October 16–20, and the Senate will be in recess September 21–22 and October 9–13. Contact your congressional representatives, and ask to speak with the scheduler to request in-district meetings.
Urge legislators to cosponsor the Historic Tax Credit Improvement Act (HTCIA), H.R. 1158/S. 425. Together we are building strong bipartisan support for this important legislation.
Historic Tax Credit Campaign Staff Contacts
Shaw Sprague is the senior director for Government Relations and Policy at the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
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