Thursday, September 11, 2008

Show me the money!

In the past few weeks, I’ve gotten an even higher than usual number of calls from people who were looking for funding for the rehabilitation of historic buildings. This is a very common question – probably the most common one we get. While we get this question all the time, the recent uptick was noticeable, suggesting to me that people are starting to look more closely at all those warm-weather projects they want to get done.

Frequently, the calls are from people who would like to do some work on their private homes. For these people, the answer is pretty simple. There is a new New York State income-tax credit for rehabilitation of historic houses, but it is available to a very, very small number of people (in this region, virtually the only area that meets the criteria for this program is the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood in Rochester) who do substantial rehabilitation work. Legislation is in the works to expand its availability to more National Register-listed buildings and districts. There is also a program through HUD that assists people who purchase fixer-uppers, offering a low interest rate that encompasses the purchase and rehabilitation costs. Otherwise, there are no grants or other financial resources out there for homeowners that provide funding specifically for preservation activities. For developers, there is a tax credit for the rehabilitation of income-producing properties; this is commonly used in some parts of the country but hasn’t been used in Rochester in years, apparently because it works best for very large, multi-million-dollar projects.

The news is somewhat better for municipalities, not-for-profit organizations, and religious organizations. For these groups, there are some funds available for certain types of projects; even so, this funding is very limited and grant programs tend to be highly competitive. More funders will help offset the cost of architectural services (such as hiring an architect to conduct a conditions study) than the actual hands-on work. The best program for funding the work itself is a program called Sacred Sites, which is only for (you guessed it!) religious buildings in New York State.

We have a section on our website devoted to this very issue. A few weeks ago, since so many calls on this issue were coming in, I posted our new funding handout as a pdf. Note that this focuses on sources available in the Rochester region; if you’re outside our service area or outside New York State, fewer of these programs will apply to you.

As always, if you think your project may qualify for grants, please give one of us a call. We’re always happy to talk you through the process, and we regularly write letters of support for applicants in our nine-county region.

Posted by Katie Eggers Comeau, Advocacy Coordinator