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Senators want to expand historic rehab tax credit

Published: Friday, March 29, 2013 11:39 a.m. CST

DES MOINES (AP) — A program that provides tax credits for the restoration of historic buildings would get more funding under a proposal unveiled by Senate Democrats Thursday.

Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, said historic preservation credits help create jobs and downtown housing opportunities in Iowa towns. He said the fund will help communities build additional housing where it’s needed, especially “new urbanism” developments like those found in condos and flats being built in the East Village portion of Des Moines.

“There’s a real trend of young professionals wanting to live downtown, wanting to live in older buildings,” Dotzler said

The program, started in 2000, offers property owners or developers tax credits for 25 percent of qualifying rehabilitation costs in eligible historic buildings. Several types of properties are eligible, including those on the National Register of Historic Places and buildings in historic districts. Currently the state approves up to $45 million in credits in a fiscal year. Under the Democratic plan, that number would gradually rise to $60 million.

Officials with the state Department of Cultural Affairs said the demand for these tax credits consistently exceeds the funding available.

David Heiar, economic development director in Dubuque, said these tax credits have been key for big rehabilitation projects in the city. He noted the renovation of an historic downtown department store building and the revitalization of a former industrial site as two examples.

“Historic preservation is a very expensive venture because it’s very labor intensive to do historic rehabilitation,” Heiar said. “There needs to be these types of incentives. We’ve also developed local incentives, but without state and federal tax credits, these projects couldn’t happen.”

Tim Albrecht, a spokesman for Gov. Terry Branstad, said the governor’s priority was property tax reductions. He said the governor would review this proposal if it passed the legislature.