Historic Properties Mills Act

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Historic Properties Mills Act

Adopted by the California Legislature in 1976, the Mills Act gives local governments the authority to grant property tax relief to owners of qualified historic properties, including owner-occupied and income producing properties. In exchange for this relief, the property owners must agree by contract to maintain the properties in accordance with specific historic preservation standards and conditions.

The overall intent of the legislation is to provide an incentive for owners to preserve and maintain the community’s historic resources. The Mills Act is the single most important economic incentive program in California for the restoration and preservation of qualified historic buildings by private property owners. The Mills Act Program is administered and implemented by local governments. Mills Act contracts are between the property owner and the local government granting the tax abatement.

A formal agreement, generally known as a Mills Act or Historical Property Contract, is executed between the local government and the property owner for a minimum ten-year term. Contracts are automatically renewed each year and are transferred to new owners when the property is sold. Property owners agree to restore, maintain, and protect the property in accordance with specific historic preservation standards and conditions identified in the contract.

Periodic inspections by city or county officials ensure proper maintenance of the property. Local authorities may impose penalties for breach of contract or failure to protect the historic property. The contract is binding to all owners during the contract period. Mills Act participants may realize substantial property tax savings of between 40% and 60% each year for newly improved or purchased older properties because valuations of Mills Act properties are determined by the Income Approach to Value rather than by the standard Market Approach to Value.

Each local government establishes their own criteria and determines how many contracts they will allow in their jurisdiction. For answers to specific questions such as local eligibility criteria, application procedures, and contract terms, contact the city or county official for your jurisdiction.

Check out the Office of Historic Preservation’s current Mills Act Contacts List. The list is updated weekly, as needed.

Historic Propertes, Mills Act FAQs

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