Lighter Side: Saving Vancouver’s heritage homes

by Olivia D'Orazio05 Jun 2014
Heritage homes across Vancouver, including the 115-year old Legg Residence, are being torn down, though some residents and heritage advocates are protesting the city’s demolition work. Some 200 of those protestors gathered at the Legg Residence despite torrential rains at the end of May, in the hopes of preventing the building’s downfall.

Among those residents are writer Caroline Adderson, who started a Facebook page in early 2013 that has 4,465 likes, and Elizabeth Murphy, a former property development officer for the city and a current member of the Character House Network, which started a petition that has more than 3,775 signatures. But that’s not likely enough to stop the city from continuing its scheduled demolition of several old character homes.

Over the last three years, more than 2,240 houses in the city’s west end have been torn down. Murphy told the Globe and Mail that there are several challenges to preserving these homes. First, the city’s zoning changes, which allow for greater high and floor space, have turned old under-built homes into “demo bait”. The current building code also makes it difficult to renovate older homes.

“The guidelines are all based on new construction,” she told the paper in late May. “Many of the codes for new construction really aren’t relevant to old buildings, like the rain screening. These old buildings naturally breathe. They don’t need rain screening.”

The group’s collective voice gained some traction late last year, and the city released a Heritage Action Plan in November. Following its release, Adderson spoke with the Vancouver Courier, claiming that, while the plan can be helpful, “it’s really vague and the timeline is too long.” She also said that it wouldn’t take effect until late 2014 or early 2015, by which time many more homes could be torn down.



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