Task force on home loss a good first step

Council must be proactive to address loss of character homes

Concern among residents over the loss of Oak Bay’s older homes has been brewing for some time. Those voices are amplified every time another home is barged off to a new community or demolished to make way for something new.

Oak Bay residents have reason to be concerned, and the mayor’s task force announced this week is a good first step in the quest for information and context.

One of the main reasons Oak Bay is the unique community it is, is because of the character of its neighbourhoods and streetscapes. Ambience aside, the destruction of older homes also brings environmental concerns, such as tree canopy loss and construction waste, that other communities have moved to address.

At the same time, as Cairine Green, chair of Oak Bay’s Heritage Commission, told the News, some change is good; it’s a question of how a community manages that change. It’s also true that not everything is worth saving.

Also at issue is the right of property owners to create a home they love, within the parameters of local regulations.

Oak Bay’s homes run the gamut of design, from gracious estates to Craftsman bungalows to contemporary West Coast creations. In this discussion, we must remember that while not everyone appreciates those individual styles, that doesn’t, in and of itself, discount their value.

It’s also true that great things are happening out there.

One the municipality’s more distinctive properties, a post-Art Deco heritage registry home, was recognized as the People’s Choice winner at last year’s CARE Awards for Urban Core Ventures’ tastefully stunning refurbishment.

Incentives to encourage more of that kind of foresight may well help stem the flow of home loss.

The mayor’s task force is charged with identifying the extent of the problem, looking at numbers here and in comparative communities, and exploring what tools are available to help Oak Bay preserve its heritage. It will also outline the next steps council could take.

The task force is to report by the end of June and we hope council receives some concrete recommendations it can begin acting on at that time.

As Green said, “We still have time to manage this change. You can run out of time. We have time to get out it front of it.”

 

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