It's this or anarchy

A dilemma of historic proportions

Curtis Minner was replacing the siding on his home at 621 E. Avenue A when it was halted by a city inspector.

Curtis Minner was replacing the siding on his home at 621 E. Avenue A when it was halted by a city inspector.

Aug. 6 Update:  Curtis Minner appealed to the Hutchinson City Council, which voted 5-0 to give him the building permit he needs to complete his siding project.  Read the entire story here on hutchnews.com.

Maybe you read the cautionary tale I wrote a week ago about Curtis Minner’s efforts to replace the deteriorated siding on his house in the Houston Whiteside Historic District.

Unfortunately for Minner, his project was halted by a city inspector and the Landmarks Commission about halfway through because he didn’t have a building permit and he didn’t submit his plan for historic review, as required for homes in the Houston Whiteside district.  He also was putting up a modern siding that, although it looks very nice, was of non-historic materials and dimensions.

Read the original story here.

Minner may yet complete his project.  His attorney is studying his options, which include an appeal to the City Council. In the meantime, his saga came up again at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Gene McVey doesn’t live anywhere near Minner, but he came to the meeting bearing a copy of Sunday’s newspaper and my story about an online survey in which many of the 142 respondents complained about the poor state of the city’s housing stock. Then referring to my story about Minner, McVey said:

“I’m lost. We have a housing problem, and here’s a guy trying to fix up his property and now he’s in trouble and he can’t continue.”

Council Member Cindy Proett, who lives in the Houston Whiteside district, said she’d been by Minner’s house.

“It looks really good,” she said of the work in progress. “And there are other historic houses that look really bad.”

Proett said she has talked to “quite a few people” who live in the district, among whom the prevailing sentiment seems to be that they’d like the historic designation of their neighborhood to go away because it adds too much trouble and cost to repairing a home.

Proett said it “could take tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands,” to rehabilitate some of those homes to a historic standard. The city, she said, needs to face the fact that many of those homes are simply never going to be rehabilitated to a historic standard. Instead, she said, they will “continue to deteriorate until they have to be torn down.”

She said the City needs to explore options to make it easier for those people to repair their homes, including getting the district delisted as a historic neighborhood if that’s a barrier.

Planning Director Nancy Scott said they need to think carefully about that, because the historic designation comes with financial incentives to help people repair their homes.

If your house is listed as a “contributing” property, as are two-thirds of the 184 properties in Houston Whiteside, your rehabilitation project may be eligible for state and federal tax credits.  After you complete your project, you apply for the credits, which are 25 percent of the qualified expenses in state credits and 20 percent in federal credits.

You can take those as a dollar for dollar reduction in your income tax liability, or you can sell them to someone else, but your project must be approved and follow the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

A new building project or renovation south of 11th Avenue may also be eligible for a 10-year rebate on any resulting increase in city, county, USD 308, Hutchinson Community College, Hutchinson Recreation Commission and Hutchinson Public Library property taxes.

For most property outside downtown, the rebate is on a sliding scale of 95 percent of the tax increase in year one, 85 percent in year two, 75 percent in year three, 65 percent in year four, 55 percent in year five and 50 percent in year’s six through 10.  But if your property is historic, the rebate is 100 percent for all 10 years.

For homes, the project must cost at least $5,000 and add at least 5 percent to the assessed valuation.

A third possible rehabilitation incentive is the state’s Heritage Trust Fund Grant Program. Eligible properties are those listed on the national or state register of historic places or those listed as contributing properties in a national or state historic district.

The grants range from $5,000 to $90,000 and cover 80 percent of the costs; 50 percent for for-profit corporations.

If you live in a historic district and have a project in mind, it might not hurt to call the City Planning Department to see if any of these tax credits, rebates or grants might be a fit for you and your home. The phone number is: 620-694-2639.

The city also has a publication with recommendations on historic renovation and at the back is additional information on the financial incentives. See the Houston Whiteside Historic District Homeowner Preservation Handbook.

Houston Whiteside: Contributing and Non-Contributing properties.

Houston Whiteside: Contributing and Non-Contributing properties.

 

To read other posts on Hutchinson housing issues, click here.

 

 

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