Green homes tax credit lauded at hearing

A County Council bill to give property tax credits to new homes being built to certain environmentally friendly standards was lauded at a public hearing Monday, Nov. 21 as a potential boon to business and the environment.

"The proposed tax credits are carrots, incentives to have home builders go green and invest in homes that are a little more energy efficient," said Columbia resident Ruth Keeting-White, of Climate Change Initiative of Howard County.

Keeting-White was one of seven people to testify in support of the bill, which was introduced by council Chairman Calvin Ball, a Columbia Democrat, and co-sponsored by Ellicott City Democrat Courtney Watson. No one testified against it.

Ball said the testimony reaffirmed that "environmental sustainability and economic development are priorities throughout Howard County."

The credit would be given to new homes that achieve at least a silver rating under the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system.

If approved, the credit will only be given to the property owner for four years, starting at 100 percent in the first year and decreasing each ensuing year until it ends.

Charles Alexander, an architect who practices in Howard County, said developers should build green, even without tax credits, but the credits serve as a nice incentive.

"The reality is it costs money to make homes green," he said. "If LEED silver is one of the bench marks … there are a lot of costs beyond what is added just to the house itself."

But councilman Greg Fox, a Fulton Republican, said the bill will not spur economic development.

"You're not going to build any additional homes based off of this tax credit," he said after the hearing. "You might spend a few more dollars on them."

The council is scheduled to vote on the bill Dec. 5.

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