Worried that Congress will slam the door on the heavily used federal tax credit to restore historic buildings, some of the biggest names in Wisconsin real estate are pushing elected officials to preserve the program. Joseph Alexander, for example, plans to use the credits to restore buildings in Milwaukee’s Soldiers’ Home. He visited Washington, D.C., in early November to discuss the tax credits with Wisconsin congressional delegates, and hand-delivered a letter supporting the credits backed by more than 370 Wisconsin public officials, businesses and executives.
“These projects can’t run on charity,” warned Alexander, president of Madison-based Alexander Co.
The federal program awards a tax credit equal to 20 percent of the construction cost for restoring historic buildings. Wisconsin has a matching 20 percent credit, but starting in July 2018, will limit those state credits to $500,000 per project. Supporters argue that, coupled with the possible loss of the federal credits, a program that spurred $736 million in private spending in Wisconsin over 15 years will die.
The Milwaukee Soldiers’ Home rehab will begin in March and likely would advance even if Congress this year eliminates the program, Alexander said. But historic rehab projects that are not yet under construction, or earlier in the development process, likely will be canceled if the federal credits are eliminated, he said.
“I don’t think anybody knows exactly how that will play out,” he said, of Congress killing the program. “It depends on where projects are in their pre-development.”