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Retaining Vancouver’s Heritage And Character

Retaining Vancouver’s Heritage and Character

By Emma Caplan

As many Vancouver neighbourhoods demonstrate, the city is a true testament to the retention and preservation of beauty and history. This is captured in many heritage homes throughout neighbourhoods such as Southeast False Creek/Fairview, Strathcona, and Kitsilano, among others.

As of December 2013, the City of Vancouver implemented the Heritage Action Plan This is a review of the policies and tools used to conserve and celebrate heritage resources to improve how heritage conservation is supported in Vancouver. Actions implemented through this will result in an update of the City’s existing Heritage Conservation Program.

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The Heritage Conservation Program is overseen by Vancouver City Council because of the great value Council places in Vancouver’s historically and culturally-significant buildings. It protects, restores, and rehabilitates as many sites as possible. The program is comprised of three things:

  1. Heritage management plan. Council is authorized to protect valuable heritage sites from demolition or unsympathetic alterations. They can also set up arrangements with property owners that encourage them to restore or rehabilitate their heritage properties.
  2. Heritage register. This is the basis of the heritage program. It provides an inventory of Vancouver sites that have historical, cultural, aesthetic, scientific, or educational worth. There are about 2,200 registered heritage buildings in Vancouver (among other preserved entities), which can be viewed in the Vancouver Heritage Register. The City’s long-term goal is to protect, through voluntary designation, as many resources on the Vancouver Heritage Register as possible.
  3. Public education efforts. Education initiatives help increase the visibility of significant historical sites, and increase public awareness of the city’s built heritage and history.

Looking for or already have a character home? Maybe you’re hoping to make some enhancements?

Be sure to review information from the City on the process and where to start.

You may not be aware of what’s permitted when it comes to renovating, redeveloping, or demolishing a character home in Vancouver. Whether you currently own a heritage property, or are considering a purchase, these points could come in handy (if your property was built before 1940 or you’re simply unsure whether your property qualifies, you should conduct a character merit assessment).

In keeping with development options (general building code upgrades, site servicing requirements, and site eligibility requirements), you can likely:

  • Add additional floor area
  • Convert the home into multiple units (multiple conversion dwellings)
  • Build an infill (a smaller detached home typically located in the rear yard where the garage would normally go on a single-family lot)
  • Rent or strata-title dwelling units in the infill or multiple conversion dwelling

Get in touch, ask questions

And, before planning, be sure to review the zoning schedules, guidelines, and policies and check your home’s zoning. Above all, it’s best to get in touch with the City’s Development and Building Services Centre (phone: 604-873-7611) about building and zoning, as they can answer specific questions and help with the approval process.

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