In Upstate New York, low property values, declining tax bases, and a depressed economy limit private investment in downtown areas. Lack of available resources and a prohibitive credit market further discourage significant investments. The Upstate economy has been in decline for decades, and rents across the region have not kept pace with inflation.
A well-structured Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit (HRTC) is a proven tool for catalyzing economic growth, increasing homeownership rates and property values, attracting new business in existing commercial districts, and sparking investments in aging urban infrastructure. This is why the Upstate Caucus and the New York State Senate have focused so passionately on passage of this bill. We need this key legislation in our economic development toolkit.
Nationally, historic rehabilitation tax credits have proven to be one of the most successful policy tools in economic and community development. In Rhode Island, for example, where the HRTC program is hailed as the most effective economic redevelopment program in state history, it has generated $795.25 million in economic activity ($5.47 million per $1.0 million in credits) and created 11,000 new jobs.
The Senate has recognized the transformation potential of the HRTC and with its unanimous passage of S.2960, paved the way for long-stalled and sorely needed economic activity. This program will certainly benefit commercial and residential properties statewide, but it is in Upstate metropolitan areas with an abundance of underutilized historic building stock that have the most to benefit from financing assistance.
This legislation is also fiscally responsible. Because the Senate bill is focused on distressed census districts, this program targets areas where the aid is most needed. And as the benefits are allocated only after investments are made, there is no fiscal impact to the state this year.
Upstate Mayors, county executives, community and economic development associations, historic property advocates and others have long sought for this program's potential to be applied to New York's economic crisis. We look forward with great anticipation for the NYS Assembly to pass the bill, as they have in the past, and for the Governor to sign it into law.
Kristen Heath is Executive Director of the Upstate Caucus.