The Character Home Zoning Review—the Vancouver government’s public consultation regarding the city’s heritage homes—started in earnest yesterday, and among the driving issues that it would be attempting to resolve is the question of how much liberty will the owners of homes build before 1940 have to make changes to their properties without sacrificing “character”.
Locals argued that a strict policy of keeping aged homes as they are without any possibility of renovation or enhancement will hinder any move to improve the city’s supply problem via the construction of modern purpose-built housing options.
“We need to live in our own time,” former Heritage Vancouver Society board director Helen Cain told CBC News
“When we focus too much on wanting to keep properties, we're not giving the space for contemporary culture and that's very important for a living breathing city,” added the Richmond city planner, who suggested the cataloguing of these properties into a unified register of heritage homes regardless of period of origin.
Heritage Vancouver society president Javier Campos agreed, noting that it makes far more sense for authorities to adopt a more nuanced conservation stance focused, ultimately, on livability.
“Preservationist arguments are not something I can take seriously. These are people who want to preserve everything,” Campos said.
“You have to set a very high bar for what you are actually going to make people keep,” he added. “Was someone famous born here? Does the house have a unique history or heritage merit?”
This is a notion that has found strong resonance among owners like Maple Ridge city planner Siobhan Murphy, whose neighbourhood is governed by zoning rules that prevent her from having her home expanded with a second floor to accommodate herself and her two siblings.
“I appreciate the character [of my home] but I'd like the freedom to have a little more livable space,” Murphy said.
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