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Historic Preservation Tools

Best Practice Category:

Affordable Housing Commercial Stabilization, Business Retention and Expansion


A variety of programs exist to encourage the rehabilitation of historic buildings in keeping with their architectural heritage. These programs can be used to supplement other funding sources for particular transit-oriented developments that repurpose older buildings. While these programs do not explicitly target transit-oriented development, TOD sites are frequently historic nodes with under-utilized historic buildings. Historic preservation programs offer supplementary funding that can draw private-sector investment to transit nodes.

Milano Lofts, Downtown LA; Google Maps
Milano Lofts, Downtown LA; Google Maps

The Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program encourages private investment in the re-use of historic buildings. The program provides for a 20% income tax credit for the rehabilitation of income-producing buildings that are “certified historic structures.” A smaller tax credit (10%) is available for non-certified buildings constructed before 1936. To date, the program has been used in the preservation of over $40,000 properties with total private-sector investment reaching $78 billion.

Selected local programs can also support historic revitalization and state support for historic preservation is currently under legislative consideration. Furthermore, the Mills Act Historical Property Contract Program grants participating local governments authority to enter into contracts with owners of qualified historic properties who actively participate in the restoration and maintenance of their property. The City of Los Angeles adopted Mills Act legislation in 1996 and other local municipalities also participate in the program.


  • Repurposed older housing stock
  • Augmented housing supply
  • Revitalization of under-utilized, older buildings in historic cores


Milano Lofts Apartments

The Milano Lofts Apartments is a 12-story, mixed-use property totaling 131,433 square feet. Designed in the art deco style, the 1925 building is Downtown Los Angeles landmark. In addition to ground-floor retail space, the property houses 99 residential apartments. In 2005, the project’s developers converted the building using the Downtown Los Angeles adaptive reuse ordinance. Furthermore, the developers made use of Los Angeles’s Mills Act Historical Property Contract Program. Through the Mills Act program, the property benefited from a reduced property tax basis in return for the preservation of the buildings historic aspects. The property is located in Downtown Los Angeles’s financial district. The site is a short walk from many area amenities and stations on the Metro system.

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