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New Frontiers

If you’re a homeowner, investor, or have a client who is, the City of Vancouver (the only city in Canada that doesn’t follow a national standard) has implemented significant new bylaws designed to preserve Vancouver’s loveliness. But like a rose has thorns, there is an upside and a downside to these new laws.

 
Eyco
 

Demolished Vancouver heritage homes built before 1940. Courtesy of Vancouver Vanishes.

The Heritage Action Plan, many months in the making, went into effect at the turn of the new year to preserve the city’s residential history.

“Homeowners are buying a lot of houses in older areas in Vancouver and demolishing the existing houses,” says Trevor Eyford, owner of one of Vancouver’s top builders, Eyco Building Group. “And that has a lot of people upset because they feel that the heritage of Vancouver is disappearing.”

On average, one single-family home is torn down each day in Vancouver. According to the city, 40 percent of these demolished homes are heritage homes built before 1940. Now any pre-1940 homes must go through a rigid assessment process before demolition, a positive step towards preserving what’s left of Vancouver’s residential heritage, but another obstacle in an already slow and expensive permitting process.

And the protection doesn’t stop there. “If I’m going to tear down a pre-1940 house, they’ll give me a 0.6 floor space ratio [FSR]. If I’m tearing down a house that’s post-1940, then I’m eligible for a 0.7 FSR, which means I can build a 10 percent larger house” on the same plot of land, says Eyford.

 
 

3D model of a green home with improved insulation and air tightness. Courtesy of Shutterstock.

Vancouver is not only trying to preserve its heritage but also the environment, as it sets its sights on becoming the greenest city in the world by 2020. To make homes more energy-efficient, new regulations on insulation and air tightness started on January 1st, which, like all change, may require a period of adjustment.

“There’s a lot of controversy over [that bylaw] now, because what it does is, in effect, it drives up the cost of construction significantly.” For a standard Vancouver 33-foot-wide lot, a million-dollar house would probably require another $20,000–$25,000.

Get ahead of the game with Vancouver’s industry experts at the Luxury Home & Design Show, May 1–3 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.