Vancouver has lost many of its character buildings that have history and heritage to replacement by condominiums and other multi-dwelling properties. It has been a sad trend.
The City of Vancouver is concerned about heritage conservation and has an active heritage management plan. You can download the latest staff report to see what is going forward.
Fortunately, many Vancouver homeowners are committed to restoring their distinctive properties to their former - or to new - glory.
It is important to know if you have an older home, that if it can be designated as a character or heritage property, there are some advantages for you.
The City defines a character house as a house built prior to 1940 that is considered to have heritage character merit by City staff but is not listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register. A heritage house is a house that is listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register.
A character house is one that "adds definition and vibrancy to our neighbourhoods and are valued by many Vancouver residents. These older homes were built using high-quality local materials, and give many streets a unique and consistent character, including features which provide a neighbourly face to the street."
The city provides a number of advantages for renovation and restoration purposes to owners who retain their character homes rather than tear them down. They can:
- Add additional floor area to their existing home
- Convert their home into multiple units known as a Multiple Conversion Dwelling
- 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
- Development options: General building code upgrades, site servicing requirements, and site eligibility requirements PDF file (2.7 MB)
The City of Vancouver provides a portal to check out if your home is eligible and can be added as a character house.
Vancouver's system of heritage conservation is designed to preserve unique, noteworthy, prestigious and historic buildings. Some homeowners may believe that a heritage designation is associated only with a property's age. However, homes built in the 1950s and 1960s may qualify for heritage status. In fact, the heritage rules state that a building must be at least 20 years old.
The designation of heritage may be granted when a building is deemed to be a good example of a particular type or style, or deemed to have historic or cultural significance to the neighbourhood, or is associated with a significant person or event.
Registering a heritage home is done through the Vancouver City Heritage Register. As part of the process, the City may alter or relax zoning guidelines for the property, allowing greater freedom for homeowners looking to restore their houses.
Sign up for a Heritage Conservation Grant
For those concerned about the costs of restoring their property, it’s important to find tools to help reduce them. Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s Heritage Conservation Grants can contribute to the restoration work.
The program "provides funding opportunities through two categories of heritage conservation grants: Planning Project Grants and Conservation Project Grants. The grants can support owners or stewards in the care of their historic site with financial assistance and professional guidance, helping to achieve a high standard of heritage conservation to sustain heritage places and the many benefits they offer for communities for the long term."
Eligibility requirements are:
- The site must be on the Vancouver Heritage Register or planning an application to get on the Register. If you are unsure if your site is on the Vancouver Heritage Register check here.
- Applications are open to individual private owners, strata corporations, registered non-profit societies or federally registered charities, and self-governing First Nations.
- The start date of proposed projects must be after the application processing period and must complete within 12 months of acceptance into the program.
- In order to be eligible, projects must pertain to exterior elements or to the site’s overall structural integrity, unless the interior of the site is designated on the Vancouver Heritage Register. VHF will not fund replacement of original heritage fabric when repair and retention is an option.
You can read the full program guidelines.
Trust Kerr to renew and restore your Character or Heritage Home
Kerr Construction & Design has experience with such homes. We have a high level of skill and proven experience working with unique, significant or older homes. In keeping with Vancouver's renowned green ethos, you and the contractor should consider ways to reuse materials in every way possible. Restoring often means replacing, so consider replacing with reclaimed lumber from other sources rather than merely buying new stuff. Discarded lumber can make magnificent cross beams, upright beams, flooring, doors, window frames, and so on.
Here is a case study of an incredible heritage home restoration done in New Westminister.
To find out what we can do for your heritage or character home, we offer a free, no-obligation consultation to go over your project and give you a workable plan whether you use us or not.
To arrange a consultation, call us at 604-263-0343 or use our online form.