Save the Iowa State Historic Tax Credit

Adapted from a post Tanya Keith wrote for Hat Trick Renovation, the blog for her company, where she works to restore historic houses in the urban core of Des Moines. -promoted by desmoinesdem

The current version of the Iowa Senate tax bill would reduce the Iowa State Historic Tax Credit from $45 million to $35 million, starting next fiscal year, and repeal the tax credit in 2025. That would be a huge loss for neighborhoods and main streets in Iowa. Many of our projects at Hat Trick Renovation are only viable because of state historic tax credits. Often older buildings need so much work, it can cost more to restore them than the building will eventually be worth. However, once restored, these buildings become beautiful, irreplaceable structures that will last far longer than modern day construction.

Not only are tax credits a vital part of our work in saving historic buildings in Des Moines, they are also good for the financial health of our state.

Findings from a study of Iowa projects using state historic tax credits:

– Job creation: 6,000 construction jobs and 4,600 permanent full time positions created by state historic tax credit investments
– 284 percent increase in assessed value of impacted buildings
– Anticipated to yield a 5.04:1 return on investment by year 3, ramping upward to 19.7:1 in year 10, and to 32.1:1 by year 15, based on direct economic outputs alone.

In other words, historic tax credits have a budget positive impact. We should be expanding this program in our tight economy, not cutting and eliminating it. In addition to my own residence and work feeling the positive impact of these credits, I looked into projects taking place around the state, focusing on happenings in the districts of Republicans on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. All of them voted for the bill last week, perhaps because they are not aware of the fabulous projects taking place back home.

In Senate District 2 (represented by Republican Randy Feenstra), St Mary’s Parish in Remsen, Iowa is working on its second state historic tax credit project. The building is just stunning. Feenstra chairs the Ways and Means Committee and is the lead sponsor of the tax bill.

In Senate District 28 (represented by Republican Michael Breitbach), there are many Decorah sights to enjoy. Steyer Opera House looks like a great place to hold events. Decorah Woolen Mill is now a revenue generating apartment building. And if I visit Decorah, I’m definitely going to try to stay at Cooley-Whitney B&B, yet another successful tax credit project.

Across the state in Senate District 8 (represented by Republican Dan Dawson), Council Bluffs had ten projects that I could find, which is too many for me to Google. I encourage you to look up Bennett Building, Bradley’s Academy, Vavra Dry Goods, Creston House, Nonpareil Building, Hughes-Irons Motor Company, and so many more. (Edit: I couldn’t resist looking a few up and linking them….one thing I noticed: there’s no availability in these apartment projects! Successful rehabilitation at its best!)

Along the Mississippi River in Senate district 44 (represented by Republican Thomas Greene), Burlington’s downtown has been transformed by projects including the Historic Tama Complex, McConnell Lofts, and Capitol Theater. (Greene serves on the Appropriations Committee, not Ways and Means.)

Maybe you want gorgeous old buildings saved from the wrecking ball. Maybe you want to fight urban sprawl by maintaining our existing building stock. Maybe you like job creation. Maybe you like taking abandoned buildings and making them revenue generators. Whatever your reason, please contact your state senator and ask them to keep state historic tax credits at the current funding levels, $45 million per year. They need to hear from you immediately to save this vital program.

Below you will find files that will help you learn more about the state historic tax credit program.

Link to Iowa Historic Tax Credits Fact Sheet

Link to Iowa Historic Tax Credits Full Report

Top image: The author’s home (right) in the Riverbend neighborhood of Des Moines. Three of the five houses on that block are being renovated thanks to the historic tax credit program.

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  • Preserve our most beautiful buildings

    Thank you Tanya Keith and all the other Iowans who preserve historic houses and buildings. These buildings are treasures the current generation inherited and need to pass on to the next generation. Restored historic houses, churches, main streets, theatres, barns, etc. enrich our neighborhoods and communities in ways we cannot replace. I have seen many redevelopment budgets so I know that the federal and state historic credits are essential. Whether a developer or a neighbor, everyone is urge to contact their legislator to urge that the State Historic Tax Credit not be reduced.

  • Details

    Keith should explain how the tax credit works: how it is calculated and whose taxes go down for how long as a result.