Tax breaks considered as way to save heritage homes

  • Jun. 10, 2011 1:00 p.m.

Motion passed for staff to push alternatives to demolition

By Emma Prestwich

Oak Bay council is looking seriously at options to preserve the municipality’s heritage character.

On Monday night, council agreed to ask city staff to create a list of discussion points on how to encourage homeowners to renovate their homes, instead of tearing them down. This is for esthetic as well as environmental reasons, according to councillors.

House demolition is a common problem in Oak Bay, said Coun. Allan Cassidy, who is spearheading the campaign on council to protect the area’s original homes. At least a dozen houses a year are being torn down and replaced with new ones, he said.

Cassidy and Coun. Pam Copley were asked at the meeting of the committee of the whole to sit down with the director of planning, Roy Thomassen to come up with strategies.

“Council has agreed it’s something we’d like to discuss and we’re interested in,” said Cassidy.

But there’s no timeline on this plan.

“We haven’t worked out the nitty-gritty of anything, it’s just preliminary,” said Coun. Tara Ney.

Tax breaks are one option, but council has to look at whether or not they are affordable and if a credit would be persuasive to homeowners.

“(A tax break) is not the whole answer, but if we’re going to do it, we have to look at not only how effective it is, but also how wide-reaching,” said Ney.

“This (idea) is a bit more grand and probably requires a multi-pronged strategy.”

 

The municipality would also have to put parameters on who can apply for the credit, she said.

Cassidy said he has been looking at other municipalities that offer tax breaks to residents to see how effective they are.

The City of Victoria has successfully used tax incentives for seismic upgrades on heritage commercial buildings.

Colwood is using them to convince owners of single-family homes to install solar panels.

Homes being targeted for preservation are not only those that have a heritage designation, but also the small, wartime bungalows common to the area.

Ney, who is the council liaison to Oak Bay’s heritage committee, said the committee was in favour of exploring new strategies.

While moving toward the use of tax breaks would be a lot of work, she said, keeping old buildings around is a priority.

“It’s one more tool in a larger inventory to sustain the ambience of Oak Bay.”

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