Tax break proposed for restoring city's historic homes


Restoring a historic but antiquated home in Baltimore would be less costly with the help of a tax break being considered by the City Council.

In an effort to encourage property owners to invest in historic buildings and older neighborhoods, the council has proposed a 10-year deferral on the increases in tax assessments that result from major renovations.

"The idea is to attract people to the city to rehab historic business and residential properties," said City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who introduced the measure Thursday at the final council session before summer recess. "It lets you pay off your investment before the assessor comes to call."

The bill, which will be reviewed over the summer, has the strong support of Baltimore Heritage Inc., the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fells Point, the city Commission on Historic and Architectural Preservation and other preservation groups.

It is designed to benefit property owners who undertake an overhaul -- such as installing a new kitchen or building an addition -- to some of the elegant yet outdated houses in Canton, Dickeyville, Federal Hill, Marble Hill, Mount Vernon, Seton Hill and elsewhere. Homeowners within 33 historic districts in Baltimore would be eligible for the tax credit.

"We're very excited about this program because we feel it's going to attract a lot of first-time homeowners to the city," said Romaine Somerville, executive director of the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fells Point. "I think it will generate some enthusiasm for buying older homes and fixing them up."

The Maryland General Assembly approved legislation last year authorizing all jurisdictions in the state to postpone tax increases from renovations to historic properties. Exact terms of the tax credit are to be set by the subdivisions.

City officials estimate that at least 14,000 properties would be eligible for the proposed tax incentive. The council measure, if adopted in the next session, would give property owners the maximum 10-year grace period on higher assessments.

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