Save the brownfield and historic tax credits!

I’ve generally let Gov. Snyder off the hook for his state budget proposal, and I also generally like the idea of wiping out tax credits across the board.  There is a big exception, a proposal that I simply can not, as an urbanist, justify to myself, and that is wiping out Michigan’s brownfield and historic redevelopment tax credits.  Re-development and construction investment in older inner cities will greatly diminish without them.  I can not reconcile that fact with a full across-the-board elimination of tax credits.

The obvious alternative is to create a subsidy or grant program to make redevelopment in older urban more attractive.   With rural and suburban Republicans controlling every branch of state government, however, it’s a political non-starter.

Because development in inner cities is so much less attractive to real estate developers and bankers than greenfield development in the exurbs, we’ll see a lot less infill, preservation and redevelopment in older neighborhoods without them.  If these credits are eliminated, rehab of old masterpieces like the Book-Cadillac in downtown Detroit will become a thing of the past.

If any tax credits make it through this year’s state budget intact, I hope it’s these. This is one of those times when defenders of cities really are forced to explain why they deserve to be saved, and why they will die without policy intervention.

For another high-profile defense of these credits, see this recent Free Press op-ed, as well as the “Let’s Save Michigan” website, the online headquarters of the fight to preserve them.  Most importantly, contact your state legislators (especially if either of them are Republicans) in support of them.

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