City slows development in Vancouver neighbourhood

A move by the city of Vancouver to prevent the demolition of older homes in one of the city’s most desirable neighbourhoods has been met with resistance by owners, but one observer says there are pros and cons to the designation and that the market will eventually find its place.

City council recently approved a recommendation to designate the First Shaughnessy neighbourhood as a heritage conservation area to prevent the disappearance of its pre-1940 properties.

“By designating First Shaughnessy as Vancouver’s first Heritage Conservation Area, we are taking a balanced approach that will prevent the demolition of these historic homes while providing new opportunities to add very modest density where appropriate,” stated Mayor Gregor Robertson in a press release.

He pointed out that additional density, allowed under the designation in the form of secondary suites, coach houses, infill developments, and others, can “generate land value and would offset the impact of keeping the existing house.”

Matthew Lee, a real estate agent with Macdonald Realty Ltd. in Vancouver, wasn’t surprised by the move, saying, “the D-word – density – has been a lightning rod for some years now.”

“You can see why the city wants to protect these pre-1940s homes. We have a lot of neighbourhoods in Vancouver that are disappearing along with their character.

“Some owners in the area don’t want density, but with such a shortage of land and such a high demand for property in Vancouver proper, especially these well-established neighbourhoods, there is really only one way to go and that’s density.”

He also understands how homeowners in First Shaughnessy feel.

“They’re saying their property taxes have gone up as neighbouring homes sell for more and now they are left holding the bag because they can’t sell to a developer who wants to tear the home down and rebuild.”

Lee thinks a balance will be found, both in the market and the neighbourhood.
“It’s going to take some time for these property values to adjust, but the market will find its place.”

Eventually, developers and architects will get creative and will be able to deal with and operate within the framework of this designation, whether that’s infill or strata-title coach houses and suites, he says.

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