Illustration of a brown character home fronted by small trees

Character Home Zoning Review

Heritage and character buildings are valued by many Vancouver residents, and are an important component of defining neighbourhood identity and character.

In recent years, we've heard growing public concern over the loss of character homes in the city.

We started the Character Home Zoning Review in response to these concerns as part of the Heritage Action Plan, a comprehensive program approved by Council in 2013 to review and improve how we support heritage conservation in Vancouver.

Our purpose

  • Explore ways to encourage the retention of pre-1940 character homes in single-family neighbourhoods in Vancouver (RS zones)
  • Look at options for geographic areas, zoning tools, and the trade-offs and implications for new home development

At this stage, we've put ideas forward for testing and your feedback. We have not made any specific proposals or recommendations yet.


What's a character home?

White house with green trim and shutters, with white picket fence in foreground

A character home:

What's happening

On March 7, 2017 we provided an update to Council including highlights from recent public consultation, consultant studies and analysis by staff, as well as ideas being explored.

Some of these emerging directions include providing incentives to retain character homes, and pursuing character retention through city-wide initiatives, such as the Housing Reset.  Work is currently underway through this separate initiative to review how we can accommodate greater diversity in housing types across of the city, including the single-family zones.  Some ideas not being pursued include reducing the allowable floor area for new homes, or the compulsory retention of a character homes.

A full report with staff recommendations will be presented to Council in the spring.

Ideas we're exploring

We’re looking at ways to:

  1. Incentivize retaining character homes 
  2. Improve the compatibility of new homes in older neighbourhoods
  3. Streamline zoning regulations for new homes and character home retention

Proposed incentives to retain character homes

  • Increase floor area
  • Convert into multi-unit residences
  • Add infill housing

The new units could be for family use, rented, or strata-titled, providing more housing and types of housing.

Impacts on property values

We commissioned a study by independent consultants to look at the possible effect on property values. The study found that land values may decrease by 5 to 10%, but it's unlikely that values would drop below 2015 values.

Land values for single-family homes in Vancouver have increased significantly in recent years (nearly 200% in the last decade) since they are in limited supply.

Our report on the Character Home Zoning Review to City Council will carefully consider the:

  • Potential impacts to property values
  • Potential effect of secondary suites that may result

Renovate or redevelop a character home

Vancouver character home

Character merit assessment

Request a character assessment for a house built before 1940 before you begin renovations or apply for development permits.

Share feedback, ask questions

Tanis Knowles Yarnell

Marco D’Agostini
Senior Planner

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