Long Beach Mills Act Program
There are many benefits to owning a historic home in Long Beach, with one of the biggest potential financial benefits being the opportunity to obtain a tax break through the Mills Act.
The Mills Act program offers property tax breaks to encourage the owners of historic buildings to restore and maintain the architectural integrity of their residential or commercial structures.
For many owners of homes qualifying for the Mills Act, a home's historic architecture and character is the initial draw but the tax break is a bonus.
The California legislature enacted the Mills Act in 1972 with the objective of designating and protecting historic properties. The program was first launched in Long Beach in 1993 and has since designated and approved tax incentives for 57 single-family residences and duplexes, 15 multi-family buildings and 13 commercial buildings. The program went dormant in 2006 amid budget cuts at city hall and was restored years later because homeowners voiced their support for its return. In 2015, the Long Beach City Council approved revisions to the Mills Act Program to provide more opportunities for eligible historic property owners.
Properties must be designated City of Long Beach historic landmarks or contributing structures in Landmark Districts to get a Mills Act contract. Applicants who own properties not yet recognized as Historic Landmarks may submit a Landmark Application at the same time they turn in their Mills Act application.
Once approved, participating property owners sign an agreement with the city for a minimum of 10 years. Under the agreement, property owners agree to restore, maintain and protect their historic structures according to certain standards and conditions.
Upon receiving a property tax reassessment by the County Assessor, Mills Act participants can expect a 30 to 50 percent reduction in property taxes.
In Long Beach, the Mills Act program is overseen by the city's Planning Department. Here are some of the criteria for getting the city of Long Beach to approve tax benefits for your historic home.
Residential properties must have an assessed value of less than $1,055,700 for single-family residences, $1,267,000 for duplexes and $1,900,500 for triplexes. Historic multi-family buildings with four or more units are eligible regardless of their assessed value.
Priority is given to unique or important historic structures in particularly poor condition and in need of significant restoration.
The city prioritizes tax relief for improvements that are visible from the street, correct any critical structural deficiencies, reverse inappropriate alteration or preserves historic features.
Not eligible for tax benefits are additions, solar panels, pools, built-in barbeques and interior remodels that don't restore or rehabilitate historic character.
Besides landmark buildings in the city's historic districts, several multi-family buildings are eligible for the Mills Act as designated historic landmarks. Two examples are Rose Towers at 1728 E. 3rd Street and the Villa Riviera building at Ocean Boulevard and Alamitos Avenue. These properties have a different application process because they are governed by homeowners' associations.
Maureen Neeley, a local reference librarian, owns a consulting firm called HouStories that helps historic homeowners research their house's story. This type of information is critical when applying for the Mills Act.
"People who move into neighborhoods or blocks that have Mills Act homes find it tends to stabilize the neighborhood, it inspires pride and it galvanizes the community," Maureen said. Additionally, there is a monetary value attached to owning a Mills Act qualified home.
For a more comprehensive outline of Long Beach's requirements for Mills Act tax breaks, check out its 2019 Mills Act Application Guide.