Latest Federal Budget overlooks heritage architecture

The Heritage Canada Foundation, Canada’s national voice for the conservation of historic places, expressed disappointment that the federal government missed an opportunity to encourage investment in Canadian communities in its May 2006 budget. For decades, the Heritage Canada Foundation and its partners in architecture, urban planning and municipal affairs have asked for changes to the federal tax system that would encourage Canadians to rehabilitate deteriorating heritage buildings. In its brief to the Department of Finance, the Foundation proposed that the government create financial incentives such as a tax credit or capital cost allowance to encourage the private sector to rehabilitate revenue-producing heritage buildings. The federal government estimates that there are some 20,000 such buildings with recognized heritage value capable of generating revenue. In the United States, approximately 1,000 buildings a year are rehabilitated through its tax incentive program. For example, the 20 percent federal rehabilitation tax credit equals 20 percent of the amount spent in a certified rehabilitation of a historic structure. Since 1976, the US federal tax code became aligned with national historic preservation policy encouraging investment nationwide, stimulating local economies, increasing the property tax base for municipalities and the growth of heritage tourism. For several decades, many municipalities and provinces in Canada have offered tax-based incentives, such as phased-in tax increases, which result from a rehabilitation project, over 10 years. It is time the federal government stepped up. Projects like the Distillery District in Toronto and the Lougheed Building in Calgary enhance Canadian communities instead of sending building material to the landfill. Canada is the only G8 country that doesn’t have federal tax incentives to encourage private sector investment in the country’s historic buildings.