The Vancouver Sun reports that the city’s new anti-demolition restrictions have negatively impacted the property values of well-kept character homes built before 1940. Anti-demo rules are intended to help preserve the city’s architectural heritage, especially after the public outcry following demolitions on the city’s west side. As the Sun reports:
Of all homes demolished in Vancouver between 2009 and 2013, 40 per cent were built before 1940. Often these homes were smaller than zoning permitted, and lacked amenities like master bathrooms and walk-in closets.
Now any pre-1940 home with “character merit” — based on criteria such as roof form, front porch, exterior wall materials — is subject to the new, restrictive rules to discourage demos.
Because today’s buyers want and expect things like master bathrooms and walk-in closets–features that were not commonplace in homes built prior to WWII–some choose to buy a piece of prime land, demo the existing structure and build a home that’s more to their taste, often with more square footage. They may also prefer to build a new home rather than dealing with some of the maintenance issues associated with older homes whose windows, electrical wiring and plumbing have not been updated. (As far as financing heritage homes goes, some lenders have age restrictions on the properties they will consider.)
Under these new restrictions, the lots of demolished pre-1940 character homes are subject to size restrictions. The demolished homes can only be replaced by structures smaller than the ones allowed on a regular, so it’s more restrictive than some buyers and owners would like. Owners could apply for a permit to build an addition to the existing home, but that’s more hassle that many buyers just don’t want to deal with.
Because of the size restrictions of new homes built on lots that previously held character-designated homes, Vancouver’s character homes are now much less valuable than they were previously. In fact, one homeowner mentioned in the Sun piece watched his home’s value drop by more than half a million dollars in just a few months (keep in mind, though, that this owner purchased the home for less than $25,000 in the 1960’s). Even those who appreciate the architectural details and charm of an older home and plan to keep their home as is may worry about their future resale potential.
These restrictions don’t apply to post-1940 construction, but they could serve as a real deterrent to buyers considering buying character homes around Vancouver. The article states that these restrictions could be temporary until the city reviews its heritage practices (and hopefully also gets input from the local communities), and unless something is modified buyers may very well decide to purchase elsewhere or buy newer properties.
What do you think? Is there a way to balance preserve character homes without devaluing owners’ property values?