Planning to demolish or Renovate a heritage or Character building in Vancouver?

Vancouver is updating its Heritage Action Plan, Heritage Register and guidelines for heritage buildings. Pending completion of the updates in December 2015, a temporary guideline, Heritage or Character Buildings Review – Interim Procedure, applies to development applications involving pre-1940s buildings.

The interim procedure reflects Vancouver City Council policies adopted in June 2014 that aim to enhance the retention and rehabilitation of character homes throughout Vancouver and reduce construction waste. The City encourages owners to retain pre-1940 buildings through incentives rather than penalties.

City staff will review demolition applications using criteria from the Interim Procedure with a view to retaining houses with character merit or heritage value. Criteria vary across the city.

RT-3, RT-7/8, RT-10, RM-1 and RT-11 zones

A home constructed before 1940 is the basic criterion for preserving homes in the Strathcona, Kitsilano and Mount Pleasant areas. Pre-1940 homes are deemed character buildings if they also include four or more of the following elements:

  • original massing and roof form;
  • original open front porch or veranda, or only partially filled in;
  • original cladding or replacement cladding consistent with 1940;
  • period windows (50% or more), with original location, size and shape;
  • original casings or trim (50% or more) such as around windows and doors; and
  • period details or decorative elements (2 or more of brackets, beams, joist ends); and
  • other period features (porch, roof, foundation).

Property owners retaining original buildings in these zones are eligible for incentives including increased density and height.

RS-3, RS-5, and conditional zoning

The interim procedure applies to pre-1940s homes in these zones, as well as where conditional zoning provisions apply, such as increased density and height. Conditional zoning areas represent approximately 23% of one- and two-family zoning areas in Arbutus, Dunbar and Kerrisdale.

Buildings not on the Heritage Register

City policy encourages owners to retain homes with character merit and heritage value, even if the homes are not on the Heritage Register. City encouragement could take the form of permitting extra density or other relaxations that involve discretion in applying guidelines, policies and regulations. However, the General Manager, Planning and Development has the discretion to approve the demolition of homes with character merit or heritage value if the property is underused or the building is structurally unsound.

First Shaughnessy

A moratorium on the demolition of pre-1940 houses in the First Shaughnessy neighbourhood is in place until June 15, 2015. It is outlined in a bylaw enacted on June 11, 2014. The bylaw declares a Heritage Control Period (see pages 79-83) in First Shaughnessy, the area between West 16th Avenue and King Edward, Arbutus and Oak Streets, originally developed by the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1907.

During this moratorium, unless a property owner has a Heritage Alteration Permit, exterior alterations, structural changes, and any alteration, excavation or construction on the property are prohibited. There is no charge to obtain a Heritage Alteration Permit. For information, contact the Development and Building Services Centre or phone 604.873.7000604.873.7000.

This moratorium is due to expire on June 15, 2015.


RS-1 and outright zones, which represent 77% of the one and two family zoning areas in the city, are exempt from the interim procedure, as are development applications using the outright provision of the applicable district schedule.

Buildings without character merit or heritage value

Buildings without character merit or heritage value, as determined by City staff, may be demolished. Owners demolishing pre-1940 houses must reuse and recycle 75% of the waste according to the City’s Heritage Action Plan: Encouraging Reuse and Recycling of Construction Waste from Pre-1940 Homes and Construction and Demolition Waste Diversion Strategy.