Making Historic Preservation and Tax Credits Work for You

UG Planning + Urban Design
4 min readDec 23, 2021

Emma Dambek ,Historic Preservation VISTA

Growing up in a farmhouse built in the early 1890s, I saw my parents deal with a seemingly never-ending list of things that needed to be fixed around the house. One year it’s the siding, the next year it’s the roof. Most recently the sinking foundation needed support, which led to the discovery that the front tower has been held up by loose rocks and that’s about it. I remember thinking about all these roadblocks they faced in terms of cost and not being able to find a contractor that would work on such an old house — wondering if there was anyway to make it a little easier. I was unaware of the opportunities available for owners of historic buildings, like the National Register of Historic Places and rehabilitation tax credits.

Historic preservation is an umbrella term that covers the care, maintenance, and protections given to designated historic parks, archaeological sites, and buildings, to name a few. These parks, sites, and buildings have valuable histories in the stories they tell, the people they are associated with, or the demonstration of broad patterns in American history at a given point in time. Some local examples of the protected sites include the Wyandot National Burial Grounds, the Kansas City, Kansas Fire Station №9, and Trowbridge Archaeological Site. These places are given special protections to stop land or building owners from changing the appearance or character of a place in order to preserve the history and time period represented.

Focusing specifically on historic buildings, owners of buildings listed individually or as a contributing part of a historic district on the Register of Historic Kansas Places or the National Register of Historic Places are eligible for tax credits on qualifying expenses related to the restoration or rehabilitation of the historic building. The State of Kansas offers a 25% rehabilitation tax credit and the National Parks Service offers a 20% historic rehabilitation tax credit. By applying for these tax credits, building owners can receive some of their money back, offsetting costs of construction.

An important first step is contacting the Kansas State Historic Preservation Office (KSHPO) about the project, the tax credit application process, and guidelines to follow when completing the work. The next step is contacting the Department of Planning and Urban Design at the Unified Government for any applications, such as a Certificate of Appropriateness, that need to be completed before construction can begin. It is important to remember that building owners will not be able to participate in the tax credit program if the project has begun, and construction will have to halt if the proper permits are not secured.

With all the paperwork and project planning, building owners need to remember that a qualifying project means keeping the historic character of the building. For example, if the wooden windows need to be replaced, then they will need to be replaced by wood windows (or a material that maintains the look — but never vinyl!) of the same size. Replacing wooden 4 over 4 windows with vinyl single hung windows will not qualify for tax credits and most likely will need to be replaced with a window closer to the original, like a wood or metal material of the same window divisions. This will not only cost the building owner more money, but it will slow down the timeline of the project. It’s important to note the local historic preservation ordinances apply only to changes on the exterior of the building, whereas both interior and exterior changes to the building are reviewed by the state and federal guidelines.

Tax credits through the Kansas State Historic Preservation Office and the National Parks Service are a great opportunity for historic building owners to preserve the historic character of the building, which in turn preserves the history and context of the area for future generations. There are many steps to applying for tax credits, so be sure to do a lot of research and connect with preservationists that will be able to help navigate the system.

So what can the everyday owner of a historic property do to take advantage of these state and federal benefits?

1. Start researching early. The National Parks Service and the Kansas State Historic Preservation Office have information about applying for these tax credits.

2. Nominate your historic place for the Local, State, National and Registers of Historic Places. By nominating your building and having it officially listed, owners can take advantage of these tax credits. Remember: anyone can nominate a place for this list!

3. Ask lots of questions! The Department of Planning and Urban Design and the Kansas State Historic Preservation Offices are there to help and answer your questions about this process.

Resources:

Kansas State Historic Preservation Office: https://www.kshs.org/

Check to see if your building is listed on the Register of Historic Kansas Places or National Register of Historic Places: https://www.kshs.org/p/preserve/19387 https://khri.kansasgis.org/

Kansas Tax Credit information: https://www.kshs.org/p/state-historic-rehabilitation-tax-credit/14666

NPS Tax Credit Information: https://www.nps.gov/tps/tax-incentives/before-you-apply.htm

Secretary’s Standards for Rehabilitation: https://www.nps.gov/tps/standards/rehabilitation.htm

How to List a Property on the National Register: How to List a Property — National Register of Historic Places (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)

How to List a Property on the State Register: https://www.kshs.org/p/nomination-process/14654

KCK Local Landmark Application (English): https://www.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/planning-amp-urban-design/documents/applications/2021-landmarks-application-packet_eng.pdf

KCK Local Landmark Application (Spanish): https://www.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/planning-amp-urban-design/documents/applications/2021-landmarks-application-packet_esp.pdf

KCK Local Landmark Designation Criteria: https://www.wycokck.org/files/assets/public/planning-amp-urban-design/documents/landmark-designations.pdf

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