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Historic Preservation Incentives

Incentives for Historic Preservation in California - Technical Assistance Bulletin #15


Economic incentives foster the preservation of residential neighborhoods and the revitalization of downtown commercial districts. A wide variety of local, state and federal incentives are available for property owners who appropriately repair and rehabilitate historical resources rather than turn to demolition and new construction.

The Mills Act Property Tax Abatement Program is the single most important preservation incentive program in California. Mills Act contracts are between the property owner and the local government granting the tax abatement. Each jurisdiction individually determines the criteria and requirements for participation. Not all local governments participate in the Mills Act Program. Questions regarding the specific terms of Mills Act contracts should be addressed to the local government within whose jurisdiction the property is located. 

OHP administers the 20% Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit Program for California in partnership with the National Park Service pursuant to federal regulations (36 CFR Part 67). California ranked 11th in the country in the amount of investments certified for fiscal year 2006 with total investments of $80,571,840 divided among 7 projects.

OHP acts on behalf of the NPS as the initial reviewer to determine if projects submitted for preservation tax credits conform to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation (Standards). OHP review may involve consultation with the project team, site visits, and recommendations for alternative designs, construction solutions, or preservation techniques to ensure compliance with the Standards for subsequent NPS approval.


Many local governments offer a variety of other incentives which may include fee waivers, reduced parking requirements, signage, etc. Contact your local planning department to see what local incentives are available.

The California Historical Building Code (CHBC) provides regulations for the preservation, restoration, rehabilitation, relocation or reconstruction of qualified historic buildings or properties. These regulations are intended to facilitate alternative solutions for such historic buildings or properties so as to preserve their original or restored architectural elements and features as well as meet safety, access, and energy efficiency needs.

In addition to the 20% Federal Tax Credit for Historic Preservation, the federal government has other tax and investment credit programs, and makes grants to local governments and other entities for preservation activities.