The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says it has proposed a new definition of “colonial” to define what constitutes a “colonial home design” and is proposing to classify many of the homes that Americans have lived in for decades as “cultural heritage.”
The definition, which would apply to any home that “remains in the public domain, in a culturally significant manner and in perpetuity,” would apply even if it had been designed before the Civil War.
The department has been pushing to revise and clarify the current definition of what constitutes cultural heritage since last year, when it released a new version of its Historic Landmark Preservation Act, which includes a provision that it would not apply to “designs and features that are in the physical condition of a building or structures at the time the property was constructed, maintained or maintained.”
The new definition would apply only to homes that were built before the U.N. Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the First World War, which set a “general definition of the protection of cultural property,” according to a Department of Commerce press release.
The proposed definition would also apply to architectural or engineering features that “provide an important part of a home’s architecture or design,” and include “such features as the exterior facade or the roof deck.”
It would not “apply to design features that only partially or in some cases partially cover the interior or exterior of the structure,” according the release.
The document also “would not apply” to homes constructed prior to World War I, according to the press release, which is a change from the Department of Agriculture, which has a long-standing definition that includes such features.
Under the proposed definition, “cultural artifacts” would include a collection of “artifacts or objects” that are “intended or designed for use by, or to be used by, a group of people, or for purposes of cultural exchange or education.”
It also includes “cultural or historical materials” that have “a history, significance, and value that may be regarded as of a cultural, historical, or spiritual nature.”
The document also includes a section on “cultural preservation” that includes a definition that would include “objects and materials that have a historical significance and have a potential to affect the social, cultural, economic, and other life history of a community.”
“While it is unclear if the Department will adopt a definition of cultural heritage that would exclude all designs that are culturally significant, it is important to recognize that the Department has already recognized a range of architectural, engineering, and architectural-historical elements in homes that have been built prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” the Department said in the press statement.
The statement added that the department has not determined which of the many architectural, architectural-engineering, and historic elements the definition would include.
The Department of Interior released a statement earlier this month saying that it “continues to encourage states and local governments to define the term ‘cultural heritage’ as broadly as possible.”
It said it was “working closely with the federal government to clarify existing regulations and provide guidance to the federal agencies.”
It also said that the definition “has been defined in accordance with the definition of ‘cultural artifacts’ contained in the U,N.
Civil Rights Convention of 1967.”
The Trump administration has faced backlash from Native American leaders over its proposed changes to the Historic Landmarks Preservation Act in recent years.
In 2017, a coalition of Native American organizations sent a letter to the Trump administration urging it to stop making changes to historic property protections, and to instead work to protect “cultural resources.”