Advocacy Efforts Lead to Availability of Important Tax Incentive
January 26, 2017
Landmarks Illinois is celebrating the good news that Township High School District 113 in Chicago’s north suburbs decided earlier this month to allow owners of historic homes within the district to use an important tax incentive to rehabilitate their property. The tax incentive is made available through the state’s Property Tax Assessment Freeze for Historic Residences program, administered by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA) in Springfield. The tax freeze gives the owner of a locally landmarked or National Register-listed historic home the opportunity to have the assessed valuation of the property frozen for eight years at its level the year a qualified renovation on the home takes place. Since January 2016, the district had chosen to opt out of the tax break.
On January 9, 2017, Township High School District 113 voted to no longer opt out of the tax freeze program, opening up new possibilities for owners of historic homes within the district to take advantage of the incentive to rehabilitate their property. The decision comes after discussions over the last year in which Landmarks Illinois and Highland Park preservation advocates met with Township High School District 113 officials and the Lake County Assessor’s Office to answer questions the district had on the tax freeze program and address the school board’s concerns regarding the possible financial impact of the program.
District 113, which serves the communities of Deerfield, Highland Park, Highwood, Bannockburn and Riverwoods, had originally opted out of this program due to concerns the district would lose revenue if a homeowner receives the property tax assessment freeze. During our discussions with the district and county assessor’s office, Landmarks Illinois and other advocates pointed to the numerous benefits of the program for both homeowners and the community, including rewarding owners of historic homes who chose to reinvest in their property and maintain its historic character and creating an increased value of the rehabilitated property.
Landmarks Illinois is happy eligible residents within District 113 can now take advantage of this tax freeze opportunity.
“This was a true collaboration between Landmarks Illinois, local advocates and city and school district officials,” said Will Tippens, Landmarks Illinois Board Chair who was active in discussions with District 113. “The district’s decision to not opt out of the Property Tax Assessment Freeze program is one that supports reinvestment in the community and the preservation of local historic homes.”
Susan Benjamin, a Highland Park resident and preservation consultant who participated in the discussions with the district, also commended the district’s recent decision.
“This is government functioning as it should, with a district staff and board gathering information, understanding the impact of their decision and then voting,” said Benjamin. “Knowing the district will still receive property tax revenue, the board voted favorably and in support of allowing homeowners to – when following the necessary regulations – receive the freeze. The chairman of the board also spoke up in favor of preservation as a value.”
More information on the tax freeze program
After the eight-year period of the tax freeze is over, the valuation of the property is brought back to market level over a period of four years for an overall 12-year property tax incentive, according to IHPA. The owner of the historic home must spend 25% of the assessor’s market value (the stated market value on the owner’s tax bill) on the home’s renovation. The renovation also must be in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s “Standards for Rehabilitation,” undergo review by the architecture staff of the IHPA.
In the 33-year history of this state program – for which Landmarks Illinois has been a principal advocate – only two other taxing bodies in the state have opted out: the Village of Riverside and North Shore School District 112.
(Photos: Before (left) and after (right) a renovation at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Mary Adams House in Highland Park. The owner of the home used the property tax assessment freeze incentive as part of a qualified renovation. The home is a local Highland Park Landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.)
- IHPA webpage on Property Tax Assessment Freeze
- District 113 pivots on tax break for historic homes (Chicago Tribune, Jan. 10, 2017)