Historic preservation recognizes and safeguards our history—and it can also play an important role in shaping the future. Older buildings are more sustainable, support affordable housing, and help small businesses and arts organizations to start and grow. And they foster a sense of place by preserving the character and culture of a particular street or neighborhood.
Older buildings house people affordably.
- In Austin, older buildings contain more than 64,000 residential units. Many of these are naturally priced below market rate, in part due to building age.
- Areas of Austin that include historic districts have more than twice as many rental housing units that are affordable to Austinites earning 60 or 80 percent of the city’s median income.1
- Affordable units in older and historic neighborhoods promote a diverse mix of residents of varying socioeconomic status.2
Older buildings enable greater density and walkability.
- Older buildings are often built on smaller lots, allowing for increased density at a human scale. Parts of Austin that include historic districts average 80 percent greater population density and more than 2½ times the density of housing units, compared to areas that do not include historic districts.1
- Historic districts and older neighborhoods with a variety of small, mixed-age buildings have significantly higher WalkScore, Transit Score, and Bike Score ratings than newer areas.2,3
Older buildings support small local businesses.
- Small, non-chain businesses are more likely to thrive in areas with higher concentrations of older buildings, especially those with a diverse range of sizes. This helps to support a resilient, adaptable local economy.3
- Areas of Austin where most buildings were constructed before 1945 have more than twice the density of jobs in small businesses and more than 60 percent greater density of jobs in new businesses, compared to areas where most buildings were constructed after 1970. Majority pre-war areas also have about twice the density of women- and minority-owned business than areas with majority post-1970 construction.1
Preservation supports cultural vitality.
- Older buildings are a better fit for arts and cultural organizations in terms of space and price. Just under 4 percent of Austin’s land area has a majority of buildings built before 1945—and contains 20 percent of the city’s arts and cultural facilities.1
- Even excluding downtown, areas containing National Register historic districts average more than twice as many arts and cultural assets as other areas.1
- Areas identified as potential historic districts in East Austin make up less than 1 percent of the city’s land area, but contain more than 7 percent of local arts and cultural assets.1
Older buildings conserve natural resources.
- It can take 35-50 years for a new “energy efficient” building to recoup the amount of embodied energy lost when an older building is demolished.
- Preserving and rehabilitating older buildings reduces the amount of landfill waste. In 2014, construction and demolition debris for buildings totaled 165.6 million tons – and 90% of all C&D waste came from demolition.5
Preservation strengthens and stabilizes property values.
- Property values in historic districts support homeownership. For example, property value increases in San Antonio’s historic districts outperform the local market by a sizeable margin, but homes in historic districts still retain a lower price per square foot.2
- During times of economic downtown, housing prices in local historic districts are more likely to be stable, with foreclosure rates generally well below city averages.2
Preservation saves money.
- Keeping older windows and installing energy-efficient screens and weatherstripping offers a greater return on investment—and comparable energy savings—to installing new “energy efficient” windows, which have relatively short useful lives compared to their historic counterparts.6
- Unlike new construction, rehabilitating a building can be done in phases. This allows property owners to undertake improvement projects according to their budgets and schedules.
Preservation creates local jobs.
- Between $0.60 and $0.70 of every dollar spent on historic preservation activities goes to jobs. In contrast, new construction spends $0.50 of every dollar on jobs, with the remaining $0.50 spent on materials—funds which are typically sent to big-box stores and corporate offices outside the local economy.
- On average, San Antonio gains 1,860 jobs every year from construction in historic districts.2
- In 2013, more than 79,000 jobs in Texas were created by historic preservation activities, supporting local tourism, retail, construction, and manufacturing.7