Historic Tax Credits in a Modern World” Retail as Theater

The heart of the historic tax credit (HTC) program is economics. In creating the current program, Congress recognized that preserving and rehabilitating older and historic buildings provided a social and aesthetic public benefit, but that incentives were needed because rehabilitation projects’ extra costs. In particular, changes to the tax code in 1981 had the undesirable effect of leading investors and property owners toward neglecting older structures and relocating their businesses into new buildings. In revamping the HTC program, Congress believed that the Secretary of Interior’s Standards would protect the character-defining features of historic buildings while the incentives would make rehabilitation economically viable. By providing a financial incentive, Congress believed it would rebalance the marketplace and eliminate a bias toward new construction.