The future of the 20% rehab tax credit: brighter than I thought

If you’re like me, you’ve probably got a favorite Oscar Wilde quote. One of his memorable thoughts that has stuck with me through the years is this one, defining a cynic as someone “who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” So today, I want to do just a little gentle revision to Wilde’s quote to read:

Beware the politician who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

And why am I picking on politicians as a group (and specifically our Congressional body)? Because the 20% rehab tax credit is on the chopping block, courtesy of those men and women in Congress.

Why? Not because it’s an overly onerous regulation (it’s a voluntary tax incentive), not because it’s a drain on the federal treasury (in fact, the latest NPS report on the credit states the credit has generated 29.8 billion dollars in federal tax revenue, against 25.2 billion dollars paid out, over the course of the credit’s existence), not because it’s a job killer (when $1,000,000 spent on rehab creates more jobs than $1,000,000 spent on new construction), and not because Republicans today are trying to do right by the legacy of Reagan (indeed, Reagan talks up the tax credit in a clip, jazzed up with some National Trust commentary, here). And not because new construction is such a boon to payroll tax receipts. The opposite is true, but you’d think keeping an incentive that boosts payroll tax, creates jobs, and does our collective heritage right would be a no-brainer.

The rehab tax credit? It’s a great program! I’m afraid we’ll have to kill it.

No, I think it’s on the chopping block because we, as regular citizens, need another reason to plant our collective face in our palms while we mutter about the utter lack of common sense in DC. When it comes to tax credits at the federal level, the fewer the better, whether or not they help inject serious capital into worthwhile redevelopment projects, whether or not they bring more net dollars into the treasury than they cost, whether or not they help save a bit of our collective history here and there. It’s enough to make me want to beat my head against a wall at the sheer lack of thoughtfulness, or careful evaluation to determine where tax credits actually make sense for the greater good, and to keep those tax credits in place, much like the administration and Congress have done with the affordable housing tax credit.

So, while I’d like to think that politicians can be brought back to reality, and that if enough people explain the benefits of an incentive program that they’ve obviously missed or glossed over, the 20% rehab tax credit will be inserted with haste back into the tax bill, my personal outlook on this happening is very gloomy. I’m guessing that the people in power made up their minds long ago on who wins and who loses in the incentives game, and no amount of good information is going to change the outcome.

I think we’re right, as preservationists. I think we’re on the right side, and we’re going to lose anyway. And that reality of the political process just ups my level of pessimism when it comes to politics, making me into that cynic that Wilde was warning you about.

Update 1/4/2018: So, we all know what happened: the 20% tax credit was not killed, but saved, in the tax reform legislation. Politicians went to work, the DC sausage machine cranked up, and in the end we got a new tax law. Sure, maybe we got tax credit links when we were expecting patties. And, maybe we were expecting five, and only got four, but we have our sausage, er, tax credit incentive, still intact, and still a very strong tool in our redevelopment toolbox. Now, it’s just up to the smartest preservationists in the room to figure out how to maximize the effectiveness of the tax credit going forward.

With that in mind, the National Trust has scheduled a “Now What?” webinar to give us an understanding of how the revamped tax credit will likely operate going forward, and whether we can all take a breather regarding tax advocacy (Hint: No). We hope to “see” you there!

Tuesday, January, 2pm EST

Free Webinar:  Understanding the Historic Tax Credit Post Tax Reform

To register, visit: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7285418309228831490

On December 19th, 2017, Congress once again acknowledged historic preservation as a valuable economic development tool when it retained the 20% Historic Tax Credit in its tax bill.  The credit’s retention is a significant accomplishment for preservationists, architects, contractors, mayors, Main Street organizations, developers, and property owners of historic buildings in towns across America.

Join this webinar to hear a recap of the bill’s provisions, the possible impacts of phasing on historic rehabilitation projects and the potential legislative vehicles that might be available in the remaining months of the 115th Congress to make changes.

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Student Preservationist Conference Scholarship now accepting applications!

Thanks to the generosity of former Heritage Ohio Trustee Glenn Harper, we’re pleased to announce a scholarship to attend our annual conference in Columbus, October 16-18. The scholarship includes a full registration to attend the conference (including our Legacy Circle Reception on October 16), two nights lodging at the conference hotel, The Sheraton Columbus on Capitol Square, and a $100 travel stipend.

To be eligible to apply for the scholarship you need to be currently enrolled in a degree program, a resident of Ohio, and under the age of 40 as of October 16.

If you would like to join us, please complete the scholarship application no later than Friday, September 1. We’ll announce the winner of the scholarship Friday, September 8.

Please contact Frank Quinn at 614.258.6200, or at fquinn@heritageohio.org with any questions you have about the application. Good luck!

You can access the scholarship application below.

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Wright-Patt Air Force Base Public Meeting Announcement: June 27 & 28

Public Hearing Announcement
Public Hearings
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
88th Air Base Wing
Holding Public Hearings on the Housing Program
Draft Environmental Impact Statement

The United States Air Force (Air Force) invites the public to attend public hearings on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) Housing Program.

The Air Force will hold two public hearings to present the findings of the Draft EIS and to solicit input from the public. The Air Force proposes to build new or renovate, privatize, lease, or demolish its current government-owned housing units to support housing needs for WPAFB’s 30 key and essential personnel that meets Air Force housing standards. Eighty-nine Brick Quarters Historic District homes built in 1934-1937, Foulois House built in 1874, and ten homes on Yount Drive built in 1975 are included in the Housing Program effort.

The public hearings will be held on 27 June 2017 and 28 June 2017, at the Fairborn High School Media Center, 900 East Dayton Yellow Springs Road, Fairborn, OH 45324. An open house will begin at 5:30 p.m. and the meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. and end at 8:30 p.m.

The public is encouraged to offer comments and input on the Draft EIS which is available for download and review at http://wpafbhousingeis.versar.com. Comments made during the public hearing will be considered in preparation of the Final EIS. Written comments may be made at the meetings, and meeting attendees can offer comments verbally by turning in a speaker request card at the meeting. Additionally, written comments will be accepted by mail or e-mail through July 17, 2017.

For more information, to request handicap assistance or translation services at the meetings, or to submit comments, please contact:

Theodore Theopolos
88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs Office
5135 Pearson Road, Building 10, Room 253A, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio 45433
Phone: 937-522- 3252; E-mail 88abw.pa@us.af.mil;
or the project website located at: http://wpafbhousingeis.versar.com

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2017 Heritage Ohio Annual Awards Call For Nominations

What is the awards nomination process?

To nominate a a person, building, or project, simply complete this form and attach supporting documents and high-resolution photos (Limit 9.75 MB). If your documents or photos are large files, please email them to fquinn@heritageohio.org with the name of the nomination in the title of the email. To view a detailed description of the awards categories, view the 2017 Awards List.

All nominations must be received by July 17, 2017. Nominations that do not follow the formatting provided in the form and incomplete entries will NOT be accepted.

Not sure if your nomination fits a category? Contact us at 614-258-6200 or fquinn@heritageohio.org and we will be happy to discuss the nomination with you.

Where will the awards ceremony be held?

The 2017 Heritage Ohio Annual Awards Ceremony will take place on October 17, 2017 at the Statehouse Atrium. Tickets to the conference will go on sale in June of 2017.

Here’s a sampling of 2016 Annual Awards winners:


Best Main Street Committee Project or Event –
Main Street Kent Art & Wine Festival




Best Downtown Placemaking –
Mulberry Street Sidewalk Cafe




Main Street Business of the Year –
Off the Wagon Shop in Kent




Main Street Manager of the Year –
Heather Malarcik




Historic Theater of the Year –
Peoples Bank Theatre in Marietta




Best Public Building Rehabilitation –
The Columbian Building in Lancaster




Best Public Private Partnership –
The Phoenix Block in Ravenna




Best Residential Rehabilitation –
530 South Court Street in Medina




Best Commercial Rehabilitation – Small Community
The Carlisle Building in Chillicothe




Best Commercial Rehabilitation – Large Community
Goodyear Hall in Akron




Best Public Leader in Revitalization Award
Kimberly Marshall – City of Medina




Spirit of Main Street Award
Linda Shearer of Main Street Delaware




Preservation Hero Award
Martha Boice

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And the Preservation Month Photo Contest Winner is…

Update 5/16: With a total of 1,057 votes, by far our most votes ever, congratulations go to Carl E Feather, the winner of the 2016 Preservation Month Photo Contest! Carl’s entry, Night Train Approaching Ashtabula, garnered 464 votes. We’ll be seeing his winning image on a future cover of Revitalize Ohio. Congratulations also to Judith Khaner who won our Peoples’ Choice Award at the Old House Fair in Medina last weekend.

Thanks to everyone who submitted an entry for our 2016 Photo Contest, and to everyone who voted!

Carl E Feather, with his “Night Train Approaching Ashtabula” entry:


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Old House Fair Q&A

Old House Fair Q&A: Everything you need to know about our second annual Old House Fair.

We’re excited to bring you the second annual Old House Fair, taking place on Saturday, May 7, in historic downtown Medina, Ohio. If you have questions about the Old House Fair then we’re here to provide the answers.

Where is the Old House Fair taking place?

The Old House Fair is happening right downtown, with sessions and events on Medina’s historic Square, and an additional track of sessions at the Medina County District Library. The library address is 210 South Broadway, and it’s located adjacent to the southeast corner of the Square.

What’s happening at the Old House Fair and where can I see the agenda?

Over the course of Saturday, beginning at 9:30 am with opening comments from Bernice Radle, we’ll have information and demonstration sessions, a variety old house vendors under the big tent, and a host of additional activities. You can view the full Old House Fair agenda here.

What else is happening?

We have a special reception for Bernice Radle on Friday, beginning at 6 pm, at Root Candles. Network with your fellow Old House Fairgoers, meet Bernice Radle, and check out Root’s wonderful candle selection. Tickets are just $25 per person, and each attendee receives a complimentary candle, and a 40% discount on any purchases at Root Candles! You can purchase your tickets here.

The Old House Fair Olympics are back and better, beginning at 1 pm. Here’s your chance to test your old house IQ and tool skills in a friendly competition with your fellow fairgoers. To the victors will go the coveted “Golden Hammer!”

New this year, we’ll have the Preservation Month Photo Contest Peoples’ Choice Cash Award. Our 2016 finalist images will be on display Saturday, and we’ll have in-person voting. You can vote by putting a dollar or two toward your favorite image, and the finalist image that receives the most votes (dollars) during voting wins their “votes.”

For the kids coming to the Old House Fair, we’ll have a mini-barn raising happening right on the Square beginning at 10 am. Paul Knoebel, a charter member of Friends of Ohio Barns, will direct the barn raising process. In the process, the children will learn about the traditional craft of timber framing, and how the barn fits together with large posts and beams, securing the frame with just wooden pegs. Children under 13 can attend the Old House Fair free of charge with a parent’s paid ticket to attend.

Finally, the Medina Town Hall & Engine House Museum located at 50 Public Square will be open 11 am-2 pm on Saturday. A great local history museum, stop in to learn more about the story of Medina and what makes this community unique.

How much are tickets and where do I purchase them?

Tickets are just $10 to attend and available for purchase here. Children under 13 can attend for free with a parent’s paid ticket.

Where do I park?

Medina has plenty of free parking around the Square. Check out this map with parking lots noted here.

What about restrooms?

Medina has a public restroom facility, including a family restroom, located on the northwest corner of the Square, which will be accessible during the Old House Fair.

What food options do we have around the Square?

Medina offers a veritable cornucopia of dining options ringing the Square, so grab a bite to eat at noon, and we’ll see you back for the afternoon sessions. Check out dining options here.

We love our sponsors and vendors and hope you do too!

The Old House Fair wouldn’t be possible without the support of our major Old House Fair sponsors, Benjamin Moore Paints and The Painted House & More, and the City of Medina, and our local partners Main Street Medina. And thanks to our vendors: Community Action Wayne/Medina, Medina Community Design Committee, Progress Through Preservation, Total Home Inspection Services, Ursuline College Historic Preservation Program, and Young Ohio Preservationists.

We hope we’ve answered your questions, but feel free to use the Comments below to ask your question and we’ll get you an answer. See you at the Old House Fair!

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Join us for a pre-Old House Fair reception with Bernice on Friday, May 6!

This year we’re kicking off the Old House Fair festivities with a special reception with Bernice Radle on Friday evening, May 6, at Root Candles, beginning at 6:00pm. Tickets to attend are only $25 per person, and can be purchased here.

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Our Preservation Month Photo Contest is open for entries!

Preservation Month is just around the corner…well, OK, still a few weeks off, but, our 7th Annual Preservation Month Photo Contest is now open for entries! We’re looking for great subject matter capturing the spirit of preservation & revitalization in our communities.

And while we’re hoping to capture the spirit of preservation & revitalization, this year we’re also co-opting the #iwanttoberecycled campaign (you can check out the campaign here). So, submit a picture of a great historic building in your community waiting to be recycled, or a photo of a building that has been recycled for a new use and given a new life. We preservationists know that the value of recycling isn’t limited to that plastic shampoo bottle or empty soda can, so let’s broaden the conversation.

When you get that perfect shot, submit it to us. We have a limit of one entry per person, so you have to send us your very best! You can enter here (we have the form at the bottom of the page) or post your entry on our Facebook wall using the hashtag #heritageohiophotocontest. You can also enter through Instagram, again using the hashtag #heritageohiophotocontest. Add the #iwanttoberecycled hashtag, too, and help broaden the conversation about the things we use that deserve to be recycled.

We’ll accept entries through Friday, April 29. Online voting for your favorite finalist begins Saturday, May 7, and closes at 5 PM on Friday, May 13. Our photo contest winner, bringing preservation fame and a featured spot on the cover of Revitalize Ohio, will be announced Monday, May 16.

New this year, when we name our finalists on Saturday, we’ll have in-person voting for a Peoples’ Choice Cash Award at the Old House Fair. The finalist image that receives the most votes (dollars) during voting at the Old House Fair gets to keep their “votes.”  So, if you’re at the Old House Fair, check out the finalists and put a buck or two toward your favorite.

Some guidelines to remember: be creative and original with your photo composition…we love photo entries depicting historic buildings in use (or, for this year, historic buildings waiting to be in use); make sure your image highlights Ohio subject matter; and finally, use your best judgment as to whether or not you should get permission from the building owner before photographing your subject matter.

The Arcade

Our 2015 winner, Judith Khaner, captured the architectural beauty of The Arcade in Cleveland

Good luck!

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OHC’s SHPO looking to the future with publication of its 2016-2020 preservation plan

Our State Historic Preservation Office recently unveiled its most recent preservation plan. Finding Common Ground: A Historic Preservation Plan for Ohioans | 2016-2020 seeks to help steer the conversation, and, more importantly, guide the actions of preservationists across the state to achieve critical preservation goals over the next few years. You can download a copy of the plan here.

Cover of the historic preservation plan published by the State Historic Preservation Office

Cover of the historic preservation plan published by the State Historic Preservation Office

Being the preservation geek that I am, after I read through the plan, I rummaged around in my file cabinet and pulled out the previous preservation plan. I wanted to see how we’re doing when it comes to achieving the goals that we as Ohioans set for ourselves. There were six goals listed (and numerous opportunities under each of the goals):
Goal 1.Pay for preservation
Goal 2.Educate the public
Goal 3.Identify historic resources
Goal 4.Get involved
Goal 5.Lead!
Goal 6.Promote historic preservation

Under each of the six goals was listed a series of opportunities, and I’m happy to report, Heritage Ohio has played a role in furthering many of the opportunities listed in the previous plan. From our advocacy efforts at preserving and strengthening the state tax credit, to providing training to design review boards, to leading efforts to secure an economic impact study on the effectiveness of the state tax credits, we’re working on a day-in, day-out basis to move preservation forward.

And looking outside the context of the preservation plan, we have great initiatives we’ve launched independently. I firmly believe that Ohio’s next generation of preservation leadership resides within the Young Ohio Preservationists, and they have accomplished so much in just the past couple years. Our Save Ohio’s Treasures fund, when capitalized, will provide one of the few sources of brick and mortar loans for worthy preservation projects. Our Old House Fair, back for a second year in Medina in May, was launched to help give owners of old buildings a chance to network and learn from the artisans doing work on those old buildings. So, while we know that the work is never truly done, we’ve taken some important steps over the past few years in the name of preservation, and will continue to do so in the future.

So, take a look at the new plan, take a look at the goals, and let us know: what’s most important to you as an Ohioan? Where do you see opportunities for Heritage Ohio to help continue moving preservation forward over the next few years?

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Is Ohio Next?

Have you kept up with the recent proposals coming from the Wisconsin and Michigan legislatures? Legislators in both states have sought to weaken laws when it comes to local design review. In Wisconsin, perhaps the most chilling language in the proposed legislation (you can read the full text here) focuses on what a property owner can do with his/her property:

“A city may not designate a property as a historic landmark without the consent of the owner. A city may not require or prohibit any action by an owner of a property related to the preservation of special character, historic or aesthetic interest, or any other significant value of the property without the consent of the owner.”

Chelly 2014 with other building

Would you think historic buildings would be endangered species in a local historic district? They will, if Michigan and Wisconsin legislators get their way.

Do you read this the way I do? If passed, this legislation would allow the owner of a property in a local district the right to alter or demolish the property, regardless of its historic significance. Which means that maybe the local district’s most important reason for existence, preventing shortsighted demolitions that erode the strength of the district, gets tossed out the window.

In Michigan, the legislature proposes (bill text here) additional hurdles for keeping their local districts in existence:

“A historic district in existence on the effective date of the amendatory act that added this subsection shall dissolve 10 years after the effective date of the amendatory act that added this subsection unless the question of its renewal is submitted to the electors in the local unit at the regular election immediately preceding the date that the historic district would otherwise dissolve and a majority of those electors voting at the election approve the renewal of the historic district.”

So, if you like and want to keep your historic district, not only does it go away as a rule after 10 years, but in order to keep your district you have to convince a majority of voters in your city to grant the district another 10 years of existence. Interestingly enough, when deciding to delist a local district, the legislation doesn’t seem to require the same popular vote hurdle.

So, what’s wrong with private property owner rights? Nothing. But cities need to balance community needs with individual rights. In a historic district, you can’t just protect your investment by keeping your property in great shape. If every owner surrounding your property decided to replace their historic buildings with vacant, weeded lots, what would happen to the value of your property? That could be a real possibility if Michigan’s proposed legislation is allowed to pass.

Whenever I see copycat legislation pop up in nearby states to Ohio, I always wonder when the same proposal may find its way to Ohio. I hope our General Assembly doesn’t have proposed legislation up its sleeve to gut the benefits of our local design districts, but after seeing what’s happening in Wisconsin and Michigan, I wouldn’t be especially surprised to see something like this proposed.

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