The city offers higher incentives for higher levels of LEED certification.

Although the City of Cincinnati’s strong commitment to sustainable building practices may come as a surprise to an outsider, to a resident of the city, it is no secret that they are leading the charge in green building development.

In the new Transforming a City One Home at a Time, USGBC examines the Cincinnati Community Reinvestment Area (CRA) Tax Abatement program, created by the city under a state authorizing law.

With the goal of increasing local economic activity, city management hoped to spur investment in building redevelopment by offering a property tax exemption for qualified projects within defined CRA areas. In 1994, the CRA Tax Abatement program was launched, targeting commercial and large multifamily projects in the first CRA. The program’s residential component was expanded in 2001 to include detached houses and a new residential incentive structure. Since its inception, the program has expanded from one neighborhood to all of Cincinnati.

Perhaps the most notable—and greenest—feature of the program was enacted in 2006, when the city chose to specifically provide tax exemptions for 100 percent of the improvements assessed as property value to LEED-certified projects.

Currently, Cincinnati offers a full property tax exemption on the improvement value, subject to a cap, for 10 years. This allows a property owner to pay property tax only on the pre-improvement value of the property for new construction and for renovations. These incentives are increased for projects that earn LEED certification, with projects receiving a higher maximum project exemption value and a longer abatement duration.

In addition, the city recognizes the value in achieving higher levels of performance through LEED—projects that reach higher levels of certification are offered greater value exemptions. By adopting an increased duration of property tax abatement for LEED-certified projects, Cincinnati has helped to support a sharp increase of LEED properties in the city, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas.

The Cincinnati incentives have successfully attracted reinvestment in distressed properties and sustainable building practices through LEED, with neighborhoods, businesses, property owners and developers experiencing the benefits. USGBC commends the City of Cincinnati in exhibiting national-scale leadership in community redevelopment, economic growth and more sustainable and resilient ways of life by incentivizing LEED.

For more information on how the abatement has transformed Cincinnati, read the case study.

Download the case study