This past week our CEO & President Melissa Wyllie headed to Washington D.C. to join fellow preservationists to advocate for historic preservation to the 118th Congress.
The National Historic Preservation Advocacy Week is an annual gathering to promote federal preservation policies and programs. The event on Capitol Hill was hosted by Preservation Action and their partners at the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers. Our CEO & President, Melissa Wyllie, joined the action and met with members of Congress to advocate for national historic preservation. Among these were Senator Marco Rubio and Senator Rick Scott, as well as Representative Scott Franklin, Representative Bill Posey, Representative John Rutherford, Representative Lois Frankel and Representative Mario Diaz-Balart. We are so grateful for the time these legislators took out of their busy schedules to learn about the 2023 goals for historic preservation. We hope they gained a deeper understanding of the value that historic preservation can bring on the national level and are inspired to promulgate these changes.
This year, the National Historic Preservation Advocacy Week was focused on three main legislative issues for 2023: funding the Historic Preservation Fund, improving the federal Historic Tax Credit and encouraging U.S. House members to join the Congressional Historic Preservation Caucus.
The Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) is essential in advancing historic and cultural places across the United States. The HPF provides financial assistance to all 59 State Historic Preservation Officers, over 200 Tribal Historic Preservation officers and other important preservation grant programs. Unfortunately, the HPF is subject to the annual Congressional Appropriations process, meaning the funding is never guaranteed. Further, the current program authorization for the HPF is set to expire in September of this year. Thus, advocates are fighting stronger than ever for the permanent authorization of the Historic Preservation Fund.
The Historic Preservation Fund was created in 1976. That year, Congress authorized $150 million in funding for the Historic Preservation Fund. Forty-seven years later, the annual amount authorized has never been increased. Adjusted for inflation, $150 million in 1976 equals the purchasing power of $605,897,634 in 2023. Therefore, it is critical that the annual authorized amount is raised to $300 million to keep up with rising inflation. Full funding of the HPF at this increased level would enhance the SHPOs and THPOs ability to fulfill their federal obligations and create jobs. The appropriation ask for the FY2024 HPF is broken down in the following way:
$70m: State Historic Preservation Officers
$40m: Save America’s Treasures
$34m: Tribal Historic Preservation Officers
$28m: African American Civil Rights Grants
$17m: Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grants
$13m: Historically Black Colleges/Universities Grants
$11m: Semiquincentennial Celebration Grants
$7m: History of Equal Rights Grants
$5m: Underrepresented Communities Grants
Next, the federal Historic Tax Credit program encourages private investments in historic buildings and generates economic activity in communities. Since its inception, over 47,000 buildings have been rehabilitated, nearly 3 million jobs were created, approximately $199 billion attracted in private investments and over 180,000 low and moderate-income housing units were produced. According to the HTC FY2020 Annual Report, 78% of the projects were in economically distressed areas. Further, HTCs return more money than they cost. The HTC has generated $42.9 billion in federal tax revenue from $32.6 billion in federal tax credits.
However, over the last 10 years, HTCs have lost about 25% of their value. Rehabilitation projects have become increasingly more difficult and less attractive to undergo due to stringent IRS guidelines, Congress spreading the credit over a 5-year period, inflation and raising interest rates. To fix this, the Historic Tax Credit is getting reintroduced as the Historic Tax Credit Growth & Opportunity Act (HTC-GO). HTC-GO will make it easier to complete small rehabilitation projects by increasing the HTC to 30% for projects less than $2.5 million in qualified rehabilitation expenses. It will make more buildings eligible for HTCs by lowering the substantial rehabilitation threshold. Further, it will eliminate the requirement that the value of the HTC must be deducted from a building's basis. This will make the HTC easier to access by non-profit organizations, like the Florida Trust.
The Congressional Historic Preservation Caucus was established in 2003 as a bipartisan effort to support and encourage national historic preservation. Currently, there are over 70 Representatives in the Caucus and efforts are underway to grow this number. The Caucus brings together members of Congress, from both sides of the aisle, who understand the full potential of America's historic places. The Caucus allows members to share information and ideas and support legislative and budget matters as they pertain to national, state, and local issues and opportunities in historic preservation. We encourage you to ask your House members to join the Congressional Historic Preservation Caucus by contacting Tucker Johnson in Representatives Earl Blumenauer’s office (D-OR) at 202-225-4811 or Maggie Ward in Representative Mike Turner’s (R-OH) office at 202-225-6465. If they are already a member, thank them! Encouraging members to join the Caucus is especially important in a new Congress.
Read more about the Florida Trust state legislative initiatives in 2023, learn how the proposed state historic tax credit may impact your community or sign up for our advocacy newsletter!