Historic Districts – Playing By The Rules

I recently sold a beautiful home in the McDonald District, here in Santa Rosa. One thing I did learn, is that when it comes to working with historic homes, it is a whole different game. There is a completely different set of rules for any homes located in historic districts, supervised by city’s “Cultural Review Committee”.  The premise is that homes located in these areas must maintain and preserve the original condition and appearance of the home.  Any and all changes must be permitted by the committee, and in some cases can get kind of pricey.

The Mills Act

The son of my wonderful clients, informed them about the Mills Act Property Tax Abatement program, which he had recently became a part of due to his purchase of a historic home in Pasadena, CA.

What this “state approved” program does, is provide property tax savings anywhere from 40-60%, (for up to 10 years) for homeowners and buyers of historic homes if they pledge rehabilitate and maintain the historical and architectural character of their properties for at least a 10 year period. (There is a whole income approach calculation used to establish the the figures for the tax savings.)

State and City

Here is the caveat, however.  Even though this program is available throughout all of California, it has to be adopted by the cities individually. The city of Pasadena does use this program, as do many other Southern California cities as well as Berkeley and other areas in California. Santa Rosa currently has not adopted this program.

In my email exchanges with both the State of California as well as the City of Santa Rosa’s “cultural review committee” for historic homes, there was a gap. The state of California is happy to help any city incorporate this program.  The city, wasn’t as enthusiastic.  You see, again my opinion, a reduction in property taxes may fiscally impact the city.  Not really a homeowner’s problem, though.  More of a city’s financial budgeting issue.

Time To Push It

In my opinion, if a city is going to dictate what a homeowner can and can’t do with their historic home and make a homeowner abide by strict guidelines as far as any improvements or changes….and these programs exist to help, I definitely think it is time to make a change…

For more information about the Mills Act, click here

Holly Young – Coldwell Banker