Editor's Notebook - Stop the Decay

Tax relief for historic renovation enables remodelers to stop city decay.

May 31, 1999

This spring, Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.) and Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-Fla.) introduced twin bills in the House and Senate. Coined The Historic Homeownership Assistance Act (H.R.1172/S.664), the proposed legislation would provide tax relief for owners of historic buildings.

Without going into full-blown detail, the legislation would establish a 20-percent tax credit to homeowners who rehabilitate or purchase a newly rehabbed house with certain historic value or in a historic district.
The beauty of this legislation is that it would provide not only business opportunities for remodelers, but also a golden opportunity to shed positive light on the industry.

As we mentioned last month, remodelers are often unfairly labeled as anti-environment instead of taking credit for what they are already doing regarding "green" remodeling.

These bills allow remodelers to set themselves firmly on the popular side of issues such as affordable housing, urban renewal, and sprawl. Passage of The Historic Homeownership Assistance Act would enable homebuyers to purchase historic buildings in need of work and remodel them at a reduced cost after the tax credit. Or a remodeler could purchase the property, rehab it, and pass the cost savings from the credit on to the purchaser. Either way, the house is occupied with a reduced price of investment.

Passage of the Act would also encourage property owners to rehabilitate aging housing stock, thereby revitalizing communities and neighborhoods in cities large and small.

From a public relations standpoint, passage of the Act would provide a way for remodelers to step up with a solid solution to uncontrolled sprawl. With the ability to recreate housing and revitalize cities, remodelers can take the high road and derail the sprawl issue.

In any case, introduction of this legislation gives the remodeling industry a chance to influence the nation’s housing.

The bill was introduced with broad bipartisan support: The Senate bill has nine cosponsors; the House version has 84. A full list of sponsors is available at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov. The Capital switchboard phone number is (202) 224-3121.

In talking with legislative staff, the bills have a good chance of passage. A telephone call, email, fax or letter would encourage Congress to follow through and make the bills law.

This is political action that pays off for the industry. Let your voice be heard.

Rod Sutton

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