Friday, March 6, 2015

The Envelope, Please: NPS Issues Its Annual Rehabilitation Tax Credit Report

By: Jason Yots

We’ve entered that exciting season that straddles Winter and Spring:  Award Season.  Yes, yes, there are the Academy Awards, and all that sexy red carpet stuff, but more importantly for places like Buffalo, NY, it’s time for the annual Rehabilitation Tax Credit Awards!  Each year, the National Park Service publishes a titillating report discussing the performance of its rehabilitation tax credit (RTC) program.[1]  And the big winners for 2014 are . . .

Best Supporting Actor in the Role of Job Creation

We’ve said it before, and we’re saying it again: preservation means jobs.  In 2014, the RTC program created nearly 78,000 jobs, or roughly 1.5 times the office worker population in downtown Buffalo.   And these are not minimum-wage, service-sector jobs: the average annual pay-day on an RTC project is over $40,000.  Bravo RTCs!

Best Director of Taxpayer Dollars

The RTC leverages private sector investment with taxpayer dollars.   As a result, the program is relatively efficient in its delivery of a wide array of end-spaces: rental housing (42% in 2014), offices (18%) and commercial, such as retail, hospitality, manufacturing, performance, etc. (25%).  The RTC program also serves a broad spectrum of users in nearly every corner of the nation.  For example, among the nearly 20,000 new rental housing units generated by the RTC program last year, a full third will be available for low- and moderate-income tenants.  This is great news for both high-rent cities (where affordable housing is vanishing daily) and poorer regions (where competition for affordable housing subsidies is fierce).  Encore, encore!

Best Choreography of Economic Development Incentives

As a result of this flexibility, the RTC program can be used to double-down on other economic development subsidies, such as federal low-income housing tax credits (4% of RTC projects), state rehabilitation tax credits (50%), property tax abatements (18%), brownfields tax credits and others.  Based on an NPS survey of RTC program users, 88% of program participants used multiple economic development resources to achieve economic feasibility.  Raise your glass to a proven budget-gap-filler: the RTC!

Lifetime Achievement Award for Awesomeness

The Lifetime Achievement Award for Awesomeness goes, again, to the RTC program!  This is becoming embarrassing! But seriously folks, this program gets economic development done.  Since 1977, it has:

* Created 2.47 million well-paying jobs

* Generated $73.8 billion in rehabilitation activity across 40,038 projects nationwide

* Helped finance the construction of 255,994 housing units, of which 137,978 are available to low- and moderate-income renters

* Prompted many of the 1.59 million listings in the National Register of Historic Places

RTC, you are, in a word, awesome.  Keep up the good work!

Jason Yots is a tax credit lawyer and President of Preservation Studios LLC, an historic preservation consulting firm headquartered in Buffalo, NY.

[1] “Federal Tax Incentives for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings: Statistical Report and Analysis for Fiscal Year 2014” ( )

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