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

We're summarizing the feedback we received at our open houses and online survey in November and December 2016. As well, we're considering all options and implications before we develop recommendations.

We'll present our analysis to Council around late-March 2017 and receive further direction.

If Council decides to pursue any zoning changes, we'll prepare specific amendments and ask for public feedback before holding a public hearing.

Share feedback, ask questions

Tanis Knowles Yarnell

Marco D’Agostini
Senior Planner

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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.

Proposed options for new single-family home construction

  • Reduce the allowable size of new homes in certain areas
  • Keep the current option to add up to two rental units (secondary suite, laneway house) for homes

In many older neighbourhoods, current zoning allows new houses to be almost twice as big as older character homes in the area.

The options we're exploring aim to help new homes fit in better with neighbourhood scale and make the incentives for retaining a character home more attractive.

Note We're closely examining the implications of reducing floor area in new single-family homes. No decisions have been made yet.

Allowing higher-density housing in single-family areas (like a duplex or triplex) isn't part of our review, but may be part of the City's future work.

Impacts on property values

We commissioned a study by independent consultants to look at the possible effect on property values if Council adopts options such as reducing the allowable size of new homes. 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

Planning to renovate, redevelop, or demolish 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.