Senate passes bill to boost historic rehab

The Senate today approved a Macon lawmaker's bill to greatly expand the tax breaks that homeowners and businesses can get when they renovate a historic structure.

The Senate voted 49-2 for House Bill 851, authored by Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon. The bill would increase the state income-tax credit available for historic rehabilitation to 25 percent of the total project cost, compared to 10 percent currently.

The total income-tax credit available over 10 years was raised from $5,000 to $100,000 for homes, and to $300,000 for a certified, non-residential structure.

Peake said a statewide historic preservation group brought him the bill, and he soon realized the impact it could have on his district. Macon has 11 historic districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places, more than any other Georgia city, according to the Historic Macon Foundation.

Supporters of the bill said that rehabilitating historic properties is an effective way to improve blighted neighborhoods and commercial districts, attracting new residents, fill-in development and tourism.

"Studies show we receive $5 to $12 in economic impact for each $1 of tax credit we give out," said Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, who presented the bill in the Senate.

The cost of the tax break at current rates of certified rehabs would be about $2.5 million per year, Peake said, and likely will rise as more people take advantage of the higher caps.

"But what better way to appropriate money than to improve the quality of life?"?? Peake said.

The vote in effect was final passage, as the House is virtually certain to agree to the minor changes the Senate made to the bill, Peake said. The House initially passed the bill 152-1 on Feb. 29.