How Does Vancouver’s New Character House Bylaw Affect House Prices?

In June 2014, the City of Vancouver released a bulletin that outlined an interim procedure for their staff to handle applications to develop or demolish houses in the city. The purpose of the new rules was to help save Vancouver’s character and heritage homes. Now, one year later, the City is considering turning the interim procedure into law.

  1. Applicants must first determine if the house has character merit

City staff now require applicants who wish to develop or demolish a house to first determine if the house is a character building. Character houses are defined by a number of criteria. For example, as an interim measure, city staff will consider any house constructed before 1940 to be a character building if it also has a number of heritage features, such as heritage-style roof form, front porch, exterior wall materials, window frames, and other heritage details.

  1. If a house is deemed to be a character building, then the city staff will advise applicants as follows:
    • Where a building is deemed to have character merit or heritage value, owners are encouraged to consider renovation instead of demolition. City staff will consider alternative approaches to help avoid the loss of potential heritage/character buildings wherever possible. This could include allowing additional floor area through conditional provisions, laneway houses, or relaxation of other regulations..
    • Where a building is deemed to have character merit or heritage value, owners may still apply for demolition, but the city will be under no obligation to approve any conditional provisions for the rebuild; rather, city staff will consider only outright provisions in any application to rebuild after demolition.

In a nutshell, a developer can still demolish a character home; however, he/she will be allowed larger floor area, as well relaxation of other rules, if he/she renovates instead of demolishing.

Many sellers have asked us how this affects selling price. After a year of this interim procedure being in place across the City of Vancouver, we have not seen a negative impact on prices. Although this measure discourages tear down, it encourages renovation so in some cases, it’s turned developers into renovators.  For example, we sold a house in Kerrisdale to buyer who considered demolishing the house but instead decided to renovate and expand the floor plan to a larger size than would have been allowed for a re-built house.  The house sold for the same price-per-square-foot as recent sales before the interim procedure came into effect.  Therefore, although the interim procedure technically made the market for the house slightly smaller by removing some developers, there was no discernible impact on the selling price. The City will soon decide whether to make this a permanent law so we’ll have to wait for the outcome of that decision and the exact details of the new law before we can say for sure how it will impact future prices.

*Written by Annette Saliken, YourHomeTeam with Sutton Westcoast Realty – 2015

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