What Local Historic District DOES NOT do: · Does not regulate paint colors · Does not require repairs or renovations to be made · Does not increase taxes beyond normal increases for the City or County · Does not prevent additions · Does not prevent non-contributing homes from being demolished · Does not require use of historic materials or historic building methods · Does not require that you open you home to the public · Does not restrict routine maintenance of properties
What Local Historic District DOES do: · Recognizes that Oakhurst has a distinctive historic character important to the overall character of the City of Decatur · Encourages creative and compatible development with historic areas · Requires that a Certificate of Appropriateness be obtained for exterior changes to contributing properties, demolition of buildings, and new construction. · Applies only to major renovations to the exterior of your home. Interior renovations are not restricted.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Regarding Economic Benefits of Historic Districts in Georgia

A commenter left the following comment regarding the 6/23/2007 post:

"Are the LHD neighborhoods in the referenced study comparable to the Oakhurst district? In most of these studies the homes are either in a state of blight and historic designation is an incentive to rehab them as an investment. They are also usually lovely old Victorian mansions or the like build by the wealthy of their time. In most cases like ours, the houses decrease in value until all have been refurbished. At that point the value begins to rise and so do the taxes. Decatur taxes are about the highest in the state so increases are a serious issue to many of our neighbors - particularly for our older citizens on fixed income. "

The answer to your initial question is YES. I am not certain what in the study suggested the communities studied were in a state of blight. Most of the economic data came from Athens, Rome, and Tifton, which are all communities with solid economic histories.
While the study can be confusing, it is not true that the neighborhoods in Athens, Rome, and Tifton are from the Victorian period. Actually the age of many of the historic neighborhoods are exactly those of Decatur and Oakhurst. Here is a photograph of one of the protected Athens neighborhoods:

Some of the protected neighborhoods in Athens are similar to Cabbage Town - old mill town homes consisting of 4 rooms. There are local historic districts in Athens that have some older grand homes as well, but it makes up the minority of the protected homes. This is the case in both Rome and Tifton as well.
I am unable to locate any data supporting the claim that homes decrease in value until they are refurbished. I do know that some homes that have not been renovated can actually be more valuable because they retain some of the original woodwork and heart pine flooring. I will continue researching this aspect and publish my findings.
You are correct that tax increases are a real issue for Decatur residents, especially for the elderly that may be on a fixed income. Because local historic districts provide for a wide range of housing values it can actually help cities such as Decatur do what they can to protect the elderly while still complying with state laws regarding taxation of real estate. We will return to this issue in a later post.