For Property Owners

If you're an owner of a residential or commercial historic property in Orange County the information found here can guide the choices you make in managing your historic asset. The information in this section is up-to-date and reflects the state-of-the-art in preservation locally and nationally.      

Mills Act: The Best Incentive for Residential Property Owners

The State of California offers a property tax rebate program to owners of historic homes under the Mills Act.  If you live in one of the eleven cities in Orange County that have Mills Act contracts with the state then you may be eligible for a reduction in your property tax in exchange for a commitment to maintain your home. For more information about your city’s program, select one of the links below. Do you own a historic home in an Orange County city that does not have the Mills Act and would like to become an advocate? Learn more.

Mills Act Cities in Orange County


Smart Guidelines for Restoring and Renovating

If you’ve read your city’s Design Guidelines or Historic Preservation Ordinance, they likely make reference to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards. These  standards are applied by owners of historic places- public and private, residential and commercial- all over the US. If you want to "rehabilitate" or make changes to your historic property follow the example of hundreds of thousands of historic properties throughout the country. In the language of the Secretary of the Interior, emphasize "repair over replacement" and "limited rather than wholesale change to accommodate new uses." 

Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and Ilustrated Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings

About Those Windows

Nothing takes up more air time in discussions among historic home owners and city planners than the subject of window replacement. Before contacting your city planning department, consult some of this great background material from expert resources.

Incentives for Commercial Property Owners

The rehabilitation of an historic building that is income-producing can be eligible for the Federal Historic Tax Credit (HTC). The tax credit represents 20% of all qualified rehabilitation expenditures. If you’re converting an historic building such as a train station, warehouse, or school into a new use, and your project team is following the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Rehabilitation, your project may be eligible. Since 2002, only one building in Orange County- the Old City Hall in Santa Ana- has taken advantage of the tax credit. In 2003, the project owners received credit for $2,000,000 in eligible expenses. Today, Assyrian sentries adorn the entrance to this Art Deco gem that functions as an office building. Between 2002 and 2016, there were 169 HTC projects in California with over $450,000,000 earned in tax credits! Historic buildings from Eureka to Merced to San Diego were adapted and are now being re-used as offices, hotels, housing, mixed-use operations, and commercial enterprises.

For owners of a historic property in California, another incentive to restore or adapt it to a new use while meeting the state’s health and safety laws is to follow the California Historical Building Code.

The rehabilitation of the old Santa Ana City Hall building (217 N Main Street) in 2003 is the only Federal Tax Credit project undertaken in Orange County between 2002 and 2016.

The rehabilitation of the old Santa Ana City Hall building (217 N Main Street) in 2003 is the only Federal Tax Credit project undertaken in Orange County between 2002 and 2016.