HB 475, The Sustainable Communities Act of 2010, passed by the General Assembly shortly before the 2010 session ended earlier this month, replaces and expands the former Maryland Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit, offering income tax credits to further the related goals of encouraging the renovation of historic buildings and driving development to areas that are already relatively high density. In addition to providing tax credits, the legislation is intended to be a means of channeling state and federal aid to preferred areas. The bill favors construction in "Sustainable Communities."

The first requirement to qualify as a Sustainable Community is that the community be in a Priority Funding Area. Under Maryland's smart growth policy, Priority Funding Areas are those areas that Maryland state and local governments have designated for encouragement and support of economic development and new growth. Such areas include the entire area inside the Washington and Baltimore Beltways and urban and dense suburban locations throughout the state; for a map, click here. The second requirement is that the community must be within an area of Transit-Oriented Development, in a BRAC Revitalization and Incentive Zone ("BRAC Zone" for short), or otherwise determined to be eligible for reinvestment by the Smart Growth Subcabinet.

There is $10 million for fiscal 2011 for tax credits under this bill. Credits are to be awarded by a competitive ranking system among the applicants. Governor O'Malley has not yet signed this bill, but its passage was among the Administration's legislative goals for the 2010 session, so it seems likely he will sign it in the next few weeks