Heritage home plan not enough, say critics
Caroline Adderson, a member of the Vancouver Character House Network, stands in front of a 1928 house slated for demolition in her Dunbar neighbourhood — what she calls "bulldozer bait." (DAVID P. BALL/24 HOURS)
Some Vancouver homeowners are warning the city’s character homes remain under demolition threat, despite a heritage action plan passed by council on Wednesday night.
The council vote to protect “pre-1940” and First Shaughnessy neighbourhood houses is a “very positive” step, said Caroline Adderson, a founding member of the Vancouver Character House Network. Adderson praised in particular its one-year demolition moratorium and boosted requirements to recycle demolition waste.
But council’s refusal to amend the motion to include homes built during the 1940s, as well as high costs to renovate existing houses instead of tearing them down for development, means many of Vancouver’s heritage homes could still be demolished.
“This is a great start but I’m hoping for more,” she said.
Adderson warned development pressures and the requirement that significantly renovated character homes meet modern building codes is causing many homeowners to “get fed up” and tear them down.
“One of the biggest problems is around building code,” said Elizabeth Murphy, an ex- property development officer for the city and council candidate in the 2011 elections with Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver. “It really needs to be reconsidered because it’s so biased towards new construction — it often makes renovation unreasonably expensive and time-consuming.”
Last year, Murphy said, there were more than 1,000 demolitions and many of them character homes. Pressures from property developers mean the plan “needs more work,” she argued.
The plan was originally approved by council last December, and last night’s vote approved a series of “temporary and interim measures to be implemented” while the HAP is considered.
The measures include a one-year “heritage control period” for First Shaughnessy, encouraging the “retention” of pre-1940 character houses, and actions to boost recycling materials from “deconstruction.”
“If they could adapt the building codes to make (required) changes that are perfectly logical for new buildings but not for old houses, it would be a huge step towards making people want to maintain them,” Adderson said.
City coun. Heather Deal, Vision Vancouver’s point-person on the issue, couldn’t be reached by press time.
Comment at vancouver.24hrs.ca