Cincinnati Takes the Lead in LEED: Effects of a real estate tax abatement for LEED certification on development and green building

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Local governments have played an important role in the adoption of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System. Many local governments offer incentives for the private sector to utilize this green building rating system, including density bonuses, expedited permitting, rebate of permit fees, and tax abatements. In May 2007, the City of Cincinnati, Ohio passed an ordinance that provides an automatic 15 year, 74% real estate tax abatement for commercial new construction that achieves LEED certification. Cincinnati’s LEED tax exemption program is unique because it combines a large tax break, available for a long period of time, for a relatively low level of achievement in the LEED rating system. The purpose of this project was to determine if Cincinnati’s LEED-CRA tax exemption program is encouraging LEED building within the City of Cincinnati and if it is promoting the use of green building practices through the LEED rating system. A comparison of the volume of LEED projects in Cincinnati and other large Ohio cities revealed that the instatement of the LEED-CRA tax abatement program is likely to have had an effect on the recent upward trend in LEED-registered projects in Cincinnati. Owners of LEED-registered projects and developers without LEED projects in the Cincinnati area were surveyed, with the goal of finding out their motivations for building LEED and their perceptions of the City’s tax abatement program. Most respondents liked Cincinnati’s current LEED tax abatement program, highlighting it as a simple and easy-to-use program. They thought the program was a motivating factor within the City limits, which may be one indicator of the program’s success as an economic development tool. The tax abatement was also found to be an incentive to use the LEED certification system on projects that would otherwise not have been built to LEED standards.





LaJeunesse, Katherine (2009). Cincinnati Takes the Lead in LEED: Effects of a real estate tax abatement for LEED certification on development and green building. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

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