Rehabilitating your older home is rewarding in many ways, and with the Property Tax Assessment Freeze homeowners may be eligible for a financial incentive that can make the work even more attractive. The program freezes the assessed value of historic owner-occupied, principal residences for 8 years, followed by a four-year period during which the property’s assessed value steps up until the 12th year, when it will be at its then-current level. This program is administered free of charge to Illinois homeowners who sensitively rehabilitate their historic homes.
Download a one-page program summary
The Property Tax Assessment Freeze Program benefits both the owner-occupant and the community by:
- Rewarding owner-occupants for sensitively reinvesting in their homes
- Increasing the value of the rehabilitated property
- Strengthening a community's neighborhoods and housing stock
- Encouraging landmark protection through the promotion, recognition, designation and rehabilitation of historic structures
To qualify for the Property Tax Assessment Freeze, the four following provisions must be met. See the Frequently Asked Questions for more information.
- The residence must be owner-occupied and the owner's principal residence. The following housing types can qualify:
- Single-family house
- Residential building with up to six units as long as the building owner resides in one of the units
- Condominium building
For the duration of the freeze, the homeowner must file an affidavit annually with the assessor verifying continued ownership and use. If the owner sells the property within the 12-year freeze period, or if its use changes from that of an owner-occupied principal residence, the freeze will be cancelled for the remainder of the freeze period.
- The building must be registered as historic. For this program, a historic building is:
- individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in any community in Illinois, or
- a contributing property within a National Register Historic District in any community in Illinois, or
- a designated landmark in a community whose preservation ordinance has been approved for the assessment freeze program, or
- a contributing property within a local historic district in a community whose preservation ordinance has been approved for the assessment freeze program
As of February 2018, the following municipalities and counties have preservation ordinances that have been approved for the assessment freeze program: Aurora, Belleville, Belvidere, Berwyn, Bloomington, Blue Island, Carbondale, Centralia, Charleston, Chicago Heights, Chicago, Crystal Lake, DeKalb, Downers Grove, Edwardsville, Elgin, Elmhurst, Evanston, Galesburg, Geneva, Glen Ellyn, Glencoe, Glenview, Highland Park, Hinsdale, Jacksonville, Joliet, Kane County, Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Lemont, Lockport, Lombard, Macomb, Marengo, Maywood, McHenry County, Morrison, Mount Carroll, Murphysboro, Normal, Oak Park, O’Fallon, Orland Park, Oswego, Park Ridge, Peoria, Plainfield, Quincy, River Forest, Rock Island, Rockford, Rockton, Springfield, St. Charles, Urbana, Washington, West Chicago, Will County, Wilmette, Winnetka, and Woodstock
- The residence must be rehabilitated in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation. These 10 broadly written standards establish that a historic building's significant facades, spaces and elements must be retained and appropriately repaired. Other areas and elements may be altered compatibly. The National Park Service, which wrote and interprets the Standards, has excellent Illustrated Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings available on its website. Any work undertaken during the freeze must also meet the Standards, or the freeze will be cancelled for the remainder of the freeze period.
- The rehabilitation must have eligible expenses equal to or exceeding 25% of the property's fair cash value, as determined by the local assessor, for the year the rehabilitation started. Eligible expenses are those costs spent on the existing building (see the Freeze FAQ's for more information).
The legislation that established the assessment freeze program is Revenue Property Tax Code 35 ILCS 200/Article 10 Division 4. You can find the rules that the SHPO uses to administer the program in Title 17 of the Illinois Administrative Code, Chapter IV, Section 4150. However, our page of Frequently Asked Questions may be more helpful in explaning the details of the program and how it works.
See if the tax assessment freeze is right for you and your project.
Step 1: If you own your own home, determine whether your property has been designated as historic. If you are uncertain, you can:
- Contact your local landmark commission. Many of Illinois' Certified Local Governments have preservation ordinances that are also approved for the assessment freeze.
- Consult Chicago's Zoning and Land Use Map, if you are a resident of the City of Chicago. Chicago's landmarks are displayed by default, but you must turn on National Register properties by opening the map legend and clicking on the "National Register" section.
- Contact the IL SHPO National Register staff at 217-785-4324 to determine if your property is on the National Register elsewhere in Illinois.
Step 2: Determine if your rehab might be eligible.
- Find the assessed value and market value (or fair cash value) of your property by contacting your assessor or by referring to your current property-tax bill. Many assessors provide this information on their websites.
- Decide whether the work you have in mind will cost more than 25% (or 1/4) of your property's fair cash value.
- Contact SHPO staff at 217-524-0276 to discuss whether your work may meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation. We highly recommend you submit Part 2 of the three-part application prior to beginning work and early in the design process.
Step 3: Download the Application and its instructions.
Step 4: Complete and mail us Part 1 and Part 2 of the Application, along with "before" photos and (if prepared) architectural plans:
- Once we approve your Part 2 as meeting the Standards, you may begin construction.
- You are not disqualified from applying if you have already begun or completed construction; however, any work undertaken before we approve your Part 2 is at your own risk. Applications must be submitted within two years of project completion.
- Contact us if your plans change during the course of the project. We must make sure the changes continue to meet the Standards.
Step 5: Request final approval by completing and mailing us Part 3 of the Application.
- When construction is completed, mail us a completed Part 3 form, a freshly taken set of "after" photographs, a summary spreadsheet of all expenses, and copies of proof of expenditure. You must spend at least 25% of the property's market value on rehabbing the existing building, but you must list all project expenses.
- Within 45 days of receipt of the complete and correctly drafted application, we will determine if the project meets the program requirements.
- If the project is approved, we will mail a Certificate of Rehabilitation to you and your local assessor. The assessor will then make the necessary adjustments to your property record.