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Mills Act Historical Property Contract Program

Do you own a great historic building in Los Angeles? Is your property an existing City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument or a contributing structure in a designated Historic Preservation Overlay Zone? Are you interested in a financial incentive that can help you rehabilitate, restore and maintain your building? The City of Los Angeles can help.

The Mills Act Historical Property Contract Program allows qualifying owners to receive a potential property tax reduction and use the savings to help rehabilitate, restore and maintain their buildings. The Mills Act is the single most important economic incentive program in California for the restoration and preservation of historic buildings by private property owners. Enacted in 1972, the Mills Act legislation grants participating local governments (cities and counties) authority to enter into contracts with owners of qualified historic properties who actively participate in the restoration and maintenance of their properties to receive property tax relief. The City of Los Angeles adopted local Mills Act legislation in 1996. Since then, over 600 properties have benefited from the program.

Benefits of the Program

A formal agreement, generally known as a Mills Act or Historical Property Contract, is executed between the City of Los Angeles and the property owner for a revolving ten-year term. Contracts are automatically renewed each year so that the term of the contract always extends for ten years. 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 and County officials ensure proper maintenance of the property. The City may impose penalties for breach of contract or failure to protect the historic property. The contract is transferred to new owners if the property is sold, and is binding to all successive owners.

Benefits to Owners

Owners of qualified historic properties may apply for the program if they pledge to rehabilitate and maintain the historical and architectural character of their properties for the life of the Contract. The Mills Act program is especially beneficial for recent buyers of historic properties and for current owners of historic buildings who have made major improvements to their properties.

Mills Act participants may realize substantial property tax savings each year for recently improved or purchased older properties because valuations of Mills Act properties are determined by an Income Approach to Value rather than by the standard Market approach to determining appraised value. The Income Approach, divided by a capitalization rate, determines the assessed value of the property. In general, the income potential for an owner-occupied residential property is calculated by examining comparable rents for similar properties in the area, while the income amount on a commercial property is based on actual rent received. Because rental values vary from area to area, actual property savings may vary. In addition, as County Assessors are required to assess all property annually, Mills Act properties may realize slight increases in property taxes each year.

Qualified Historic Property

A qualified historic property in the City of Los Angeles is a property listed as a locally-designated Historic-Cultural Monument or Contributing Property to an approved Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. Additionally, single-family residences (with a property tax value assessment of not more than $1,500,000) and income producing multi-family/commercial/industrial properties (with a property tax value assessment of not more than $3,000,000) are eligible to apply. Property values in excess of these limits may apply for an exemption if they meet certain criteria.

The City will be accepting applications for properties that need significant rehabilitation or restoration work. The work needed to rehabilitate or restore the property shall be pending or not completed. Applications will be prioritized based on how the Mills Act will be used to assist the viability of the project.

Properties seeking an Exemption from the Valuation Limits of $1.5 million for Single-Family Residences and $3 million for Multi-family/Commercial Properties are required to prepare a Historic Structure Report (HSR). The report shall follow the methodology outlined in Preservation Brief 43 - The Preparation and Use of Historic Structures Reports published by the National Park Service (see http://www.nps.gov/history/hps/TPS/briefs/brief43.htm). The HSR is used to substantiate the exceptional circumstances that warrant granting the exemption.

Changes to the 2014 Mills Act Program

The Department will be implementing changes to the 2014 Mills Act application process to better assess applicant eligibility for the program and ensure greater participation by property owners through the application process.

The Application Form (Exhibit A, first page) and application payment will be due on or before Tuesday April 1, 2014.  Application Forms will be reviewed to ensure that property owners meet Mills Act Program eligibility requirements. 

All eligible property owners must attend a mandatory workshop to be held on April 26, 2014.  Consultants who prepare Mills Act Program applications are also required to attend.  Workshop topics will include an overview of the application process and scope of proposed future work necessary for a successful application.  Attendees shall bring a draft copy of application materials, including Rehabilitation/Restoration/Maintenance Plan and other supporting documentation.  Those property owners required to prepare a Historic Structure Report (HSR) shall also bring draft copies to the workshop.

Completed applications must be submitted and received by our office no later than 4pm on Thursday, May 22, 2014.

For Additional Information

If you need additional information, please contact the Department of City Planning's Office of Historic Resources at (213) 978-1200 or email planning.millsact@lacity.org.

The following documents provide information about the program. The 2014 application materials were made available to the applicants who successfully submitted applications to the 2014 Mills Act program. The following documents are for reference only. 

  1. Mills Act Application Guide 2014
  2. Mills Act Application Check-off List 2014
  3. Priority Consideration Criteria 2014 (EXAMPLE)
  4. Historical Property Contract Application 2014
  5. Exemption Form 2014 (EXAMPLE)
  6. Historical Property Contract 2014 (EXAMPLE)
  7. Notary Acknowledgement Form 2014 (EXAMPLE)
  8. Exhibit A - Rehabilitation/Restoration/Maintenance Plan 2014 (EXAMPLE)
  9. Exhibit B - Maintenance and Rehabilitation Conditions 2014 (EXAMPLE)
  10. Tax Adjustment Worksheet 2014 (EXAMPLE)
  11. 2014 Mills Act Workshop Presentation