WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) announced its adoption of a policy statement on housing and historic preservation that advances a multi-pronged strategy, at all levels of government, to encourage rehabilitation of historic buildings for housing and accelerate permitting and environmental review. The policy statement also will provide a critical tool for community groups, nonprofit organizations, developers, and others in the private sector to use in advancing preservation values while proactively expediting housing creation and retention.

In adopting this policy statement the ACHP supports the White House’s Housing Supply Action Plan, including its provisions on commercial-to-residential conversions and accessory dwelling units. The statement also explicitly acknowledges and aims to address burdens historically imposed on disadvantaged and underserved communities, and communities with environmental justice concerns, consistent with the White House’s Justice40 Initiative. The policy statement encourages changes in building codes aligned with the White House Initiative to Modernize Building Codes, Improve Climate Resilience, and Reduce Energy Costs. Finally, it promotes significant streamlining and improved permitting to support the wide variety of housing and infrastructure investments under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act.

The consensus among academics, housing advocates, and politicians and leaders across the political spectrum is that policymakers must do all they can to facilitate the construction of both affordable and market-rate housing. Recognizing this consensus, the ACHP policy statement advances specific strategies for rehabilitating existing buildings, especially the 40 percent of buildings more than 50 years old, to boost housing supply, while meeting environmental sustainability goals and utilizing community assets more effectively.

“With many communities across America experiencing housing shortages, preservationists must proactively play a part in the solution,” ACHP Chair Sara C. Bronin said. “The ACHP’s policy statement calls for all stakeholders to collaborate on regulatory reforms, new research, and innovative financial incentives, while also recognizing that some communities are disproportionately affected by the housing supply shortfall, and we should prioritize solutions serving their needs.

The policy statement explicitly affects the ACHP’s oversight of project reviews under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, which requires federal agencies to consider the impact of around 120,000 undertakings (including housing construction and financing) annually on historic properties. Importantly, the policy statement encourages a focus on effects to exterior (not interior) features, encourages federal historic preservation standards to be flexibly applied, and promotes streamlining of reviews.

“I commend ACHP members for adopting this policy statement, and I have directed staff to immediately develop formal guidance as to how the ACHP will implement key tenets of this statement through its oversight of the Section 106 process,” ACHP Executive Director Reid Nelson said.

The policy statement builds on the ACHP’s July 2023 Climate Change and Historic Preservation Policy Statement, encouraging renewable energy installation and improvements to energy efficiency in historic housing. Aligned with the goals of the National Climate Resilience Framework, the Housing and Historic Preservation policy statement directs public-serving institutions to use and develop programs that assist in the maintenance, repair, and weatherization of homes, and in the cost-saving installation of renewable energy.

The statement also offers policy advice in support of:

  • additional historic tax incentives and easier ways to pair such incentives with housing and energy tax incentives;
  • zoning code changes that encourage greater density and availability of housing in tandem with preserving historic buildings, that allow for mixed uses, and that allow housing in historic buildings in areas where it is now prohibited;
  • changes in building codes and interpretations of the Americans with Disabilities Act to create more flexible standards to facilitate conversion of nonresidential historic buildings to residential use and to prioritize design solutions for historic housing that ensure accessibility;
  • government disposition or outleasing of excess or underutilized historic government buildings for housing development;
  • expanded federal guidance regarding reuse and rehabilitation of historic properties for housing and encouraging flexible yet consistent application of such guidance; and
  • expedited development of housing projects through efficient and effective permitting processes and environmental reviews while still ensuring full consideration of potential impacts to historic properties.

Read the full policy statement here.