Upon review of the City of Vancouver’s recent policy reports, administrative reports, administration bulletins, the Heritage Action Plan Phase 1 Update and consultation with the Development Services Inquiries Centre at the City of Vancouver, I want to address your concerns regarding building restrictions for pre-1940s homes in RS-3 and RS-5 zoned areas.
1. RS-1 Zones:
If your home is located in an RS-1 or other outright zones, the policies regarding the replacement of an existing home, whether of character merit or not, do not apply as there is no discretionary allowance for increasing the square footage of a future home from what is allowed outright. Note that there are no design guidelines for RS-1 new build homes but there are guidelines with respect to setbacks, height, length and width allowances.
2. RS-3 or RS-5 Zones:
If your home is located in a RS-3 or RS-5 zone, it must be determined if your home was constructed pre-1940.
A. If your home was built pre-1940, a determination must be done by the city as to whether the home is of “character merit”. The process for determining if your home is of character merit will be discussed below.
B. If the home IS of character merit, the following provisions will apply to its redevelopment. The incentive behind these provisions is the preservation of pre-1940s character merit homes:
i. If the home is to be renovated, the Director of Planning will be involved in the renovation process. As the incentive is to preserve pre-1940s character merit homes, the city has provided incentives such as increases to floor area (for the existing building and/or laneway house) over what is permitted outright (10% density bonus), faster processing times and relaxation of such regulations like strata titling.
ii. If the home is to be demolished: the replacement home can only be built outright – that means there are no discretionary allowances to increase the permitted square footage of the new home over and above what is allowed outright under current zoning bylaws. As with the RS-1 zoned or other outright zoned properties there are no design guidelines for new build homes but there are guidelines with respect to setbacks, height, length and width allowances. Note that the Director of Planning is not involved in building applications that involved utilizing outright provisions. However, there may be limited circumstances when demolition of the character merit building will be considered by the Director of Planning, thus allowing for an increased square footage allowance. For example, if a property is underutilized (a small building on a large site) which could result in large additions that would impact the character value of the original building; or if the building is structurally unsound (as confirmed by registered structural engineer).
C. If your home IS NOT of character merit and the home is demolished
i. If the replacement home is to be built outright there are no design guidelines for the style of the replacement home. However, there are restrictions with respect to setbacks, height, length and width allowances, as previously indicated with RS-1 or the replacement home following the demolition of a pre-1940s character merit home.
ii. If the proposed home is larger than what is permitted outright, an application must be made to the Director of Planning under the conditional provisions of the applicable zoning bylaws for discretionary allowance to build greater than outright. Under these conditions, a new home may be considered for up to a 10% density bonus. The application is handled by the Director of Planning with respect to design and other conditions that may be imposed.
As an example, if you had a 2,000 sq. ft. pre-1940s home on a 33’ x 122’ lot, and the building code allowed for 60% density (“building outright”), the implications could be as follows:
RS-1 Zone: whether you demolished and built new or renovated, the maximum size of the home would be the same: 2,415 sq. ft.
RS-3 or RS-5 Zone: as these zones allow for a discretionary density bonus the question becomes (a) whether or not the homeowner is applying for the discretionary density bonus and then (b) whether or not the pre-1940s home is of “character merit”.
If the homeowner is demolishing the pre-1940s home and not applying for the discretionary density bonus, the maximum size of the home would be: 2,415 sq. ft.
If the homeowner is applying for the discretionary density bonus, then the question becomes whether or not the home is of “character merit”.
If the home is to be demolished and not of character merit, the homeowner may apply to the Director of Planning for a 10% density increase, and if granted, the maximum size of the home could be up to 2,656 sq. ft.
If the home to be demolished is of character merit, the Director of Planning will not accept an application for a 10% density increase. If the character merit home were to be demolished, the maximum size of the new home to be constructed would be 2,415 sq. ft. The Director of Planning will only accept an application for the density increase if the character merit pre-1940s home is to be renovated. The maximum size of the character merit renovated home would be 2,656 sq. ft., including the original 2,000 sq. ft. home. Other incentives to be granted as an inducement to retain pre-1940s character merit homes include faster permit processing times and the ability to stratify.
Note that in cases where the Director of Planning allows for the discretionary increase in density, the Director of Planning will determine the design of the home.
Demolition of pre-1940s home: If a pre-1940s home is of character merit 90% of the qualifying demolition waste must be reused or recycled. If a pre-1940s home is not of character merit, 75% of the qualifying demolition waste must be reused or recycled. The intent of this bylaw is to encourage reuse of character features, reuse of wood, which is generally old-growth and the reduction of waste sent to the landfill.
Determining whether or not your home is a pre-1940s “Character Merit” home can be achieved by emailing the City of Vancouver Planner at firstname.lastname@example.org the following information:
1. The address of the home in question as well as your contact information;
2. The approximate length and width of the home currently located on the property; and
3. Pictures of the front exterior of the home, back exterior of the home and both side exterior views of the home.
Guidelines used in the determination of a pre-1940s “Character Merit” home (as provided in the Heritage or Character Buildings Review – Interim Procedure Planning By-law Administration Bulletin):
“Any building constructed before 1940 is considered to be a character building if it also has a number of surviving, prescribed character features such as authentic or period massing, roof form, front porch, exterior wall materials, window openings and frames.
Character Checklist for pre-1940s houses (four or more required)
· 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.
· Period details or decorative elements (two or more of brackets, beams, joist ends etc.)
· Other period features (porch, roof, foundation, etc.)
Sites may be considered as historically under-utilized a follows:
*Frontages up to 14.0m (smaller lots) *Frontages 14.0m and up (larger lots)
Less than 0.45 Floor Space Ratio Less than 0.40 FSR
*Date of underutilization is based on the building density as of November 26, 2013.”