Just as Buffalo’s revival starts firing on all cylinders, there was news from Washington Wednesday that two redevelopment incentive programs are targeted for elimination in a report released by the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Buffalo and other communities across New York State cannot afford to lose the federal tax credits for revitalizing vacant and underutilized historic buildings and the “New Market” incentives for reinvesting capital and creating jobs in distressed areas. New York State’s congressional delegation should move aggressively to enhance and make permanent both credits.
Following a short, two-year extension fought for by Sen. Charles E. Schumer in 2012, Congress allowed the federal New Markets Tax Credit program to expire in December. Schumer, D-N.Y., is a sponsor of a bipartisan bill to extend the credit and make it permanent. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, has also called for a permanent extension of the credits.
As Higgins noted, the credit has amounted to more than $180 million for projects in the City of Buffalo.
In one example last year, as a result of a push by the lawmakers and Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown, Roswell Park Cancer Institute received more than $6 million in additional funds to be distributed through the New Markets Tax Credits to help finance construction of its Clinical Sciences Center.
Other projects that the credits made possible include the Electric Tower, the Oak School Lofts, Ellicott Commons, the Webb Lofts, Asbury Hall, AM&A’s Warehouse Lofts, 567 Exchange St., and the Innovation Center.
The credit, targeted at low-income communities, covers 39 percent of the investment costs for eligible projects. This tax credit program has been one of the essential keys to Buffalo redevelopment.
Making the New Market program permanent means it would not face a political battle every few years. The program’s track record, documented impact and restrictions directing its use only to distressed areas indicate that it is already adapted for current fiscal realities. It has a specific purpose and use in neighborhoods and downtowns that have the greatest needs for reinvestment.
Another program, the Creating American Prosperity through Preservation (CAPP) Act, should also be protected from outright elimination. Rather than terminating the program, Congress’ focus should be enhancing it. At risk in Buffalo: 36 projects, totaling more than $83 million in projected capital investments, that are currently on the drawing board. Statewide, $1 billion in pending projects would be put at risk, according to National Park Service data just released.
The New Markets Credit and federal historic tax credit have demonstrated their effectiveness, and should have the chance to continue to produce significant results for cities like Buffalo and smaller communities. Their protection and enhancement should be a top priority.