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Spruce Hill District

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Spruce Hill Historic District
Questions Asked At The April 24 Public Meeting


Tax Incentives & Economic Hardship

Tatly (?) support historic zoning. I am an artist (PAFA 1969) and want to stop the rape of art and history in the neighborhood in the name of freedom and rights. However, taxes the house on the block looks the were should be taxed the most for bringing property values down. Not the reversed. Can I get a tax break for improving the historical value of my properties?
There is a federal rehabilitation tax credit program in place for income-producing properties. Although preservationists have been lobbying for several years for a similar program for homeowners, there is no tax credit program for privately owned historic houses.

Could Dick Tyler or Laura Spina give us some concrete examples of how the hardship provision works? Is the process private or public?
There are two types of financial hardship. The first is when the building itself no longer proves economically feasible [Section 14-2007(7)(f) of the historic preservation ordinance]. Some buildings simply cannot be reused again in a way that makes sense economically, e.g. Yellin Iron Works on Arch Street. This type of financial hardship application requires a pro forma analysis, reports from a structural engineer or architect, copies of ads for the sale of the property, and other details that pertain to the building itself. (In the case of the Yellin Iron Works, the owners could not even donate the property to anyone and the environmental clean-up required for the property made the buildings too difficult to reuse.)

The second type of financial hardship is when the owner cannot afford certain maintenance, such as new wood windows [Section 14-2007(7)(k)(.7) of the ordinance]. In this case, the person's private financial papers are not made public, but are reviewed by a single Commission staff member who certifies the hardship to the Commission and seals the personal record.

In hardship applications, is information other than tax returns, made public and isn't this an invasion of privacy?
For an application under the personal financial hardship regulations, absolutely none of the personal financial information is made public.

What is the process and criteria for gaining exemption due to economic hardship? Could you discuss what if any tax incentives, rebate programs or grants that would be available with a designation. For landlords and also for homeowners.
The process for financial hardship is described in the Commission's Rules and Regulations. None of the financial information of an individual is made public.

Is financial aid available for exterior maintenance like painting? What are the standards determining the projects that qualify for financial aid?
Unfortunately, there are no grants available for owners of historic properties. Some property owners may be eligible for grants based on income, rather than the fact that the house has been designated as historic. To find out if you qualify for an income-based grant, contact the Redevelopment Authority at 215-854-6500. For other forms of financial aid, contact the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation at 215-448-3000.

Is it more expensive to fix exteriors in an historic district than in a non-historic district? If so, how much more? If not by much, what is it that keeps prices comparable?
There are many products available on the market for all kinds of projects. Catering to owners of historic buildings has become a very large and competitive business. Contact the staff of the Historical Commission to get information on the products available and general price ranges.

How to overcome the inevitable added expense due to additional time and paperwork that will be required, even before the work begins?
Much of the paperwork required for an application with the Historical Commission is the same as a permit application for L&I. Some applications may require more information, but the Historical Commission needs this additional information in order to make a decision.

What is the process for economic hardship? How often are economic hardship cases granted?
The Historical Commission has received very few applications for financial hardship based on personal finances [Section 14-2007(7)(k)(.7) of the ordinance], and all of them have been approved.

Are their any grant monies available for restoration and repairs? Low interest loans?
The only financing available for owners of historic houses is based on income, not the fact that the house has been designated as historic. Owners of income-producing properties may be eligible for rehabilitation tax credits.

Is there any funding available to help lower property owners conform to your standards? I am deeply concerned that the historic designation will destroy the inter-racial and inter-class and inter-ethnic character of West Philly.
There may be financing available to lower-income property owners. To find out if you qualify for an income-based grant, contact the Redevelopment Authority at 215-854-6500. For other forms of financial aid, contact the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation at 215-448-3000.

The Historical Commission has designated other areas of the city without altering the general racial, ethnic and economic status of the community. Diamond Street in North Philadelphia has been a historic district since 1986. The Commission also has numerous individually designated properties in Germantown, Juniata Park, and South Philadelphia.

Will the properties within the district qualify for technical assistance or preservation incentives?
The staff of the Historical Commission provides technical assistance to all property owners, at no charge.

Many of these questions address very specific situations. Without knowing the subject property's address or having photographs showing the existing conditions, it is difficult to give answers that take into account every instance that may occur on every building. If you have any follow-up questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Historical Commission directly at 215-683-4590.

The questions were grouped into broad categories. Click the category to see that group of questions and answers.

Technical | Building Permit Application Process | Designation Process
Enforcement | Tax Incentives & Economic Hardship | Impact
Neighborhood Transformation Initiative | University of Pennsylvania
Ethics | Comment
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