Policies and By-Laws

Understanding the Heritage Action Plan

New Vancouver Heritage Program approved

What is the Heritage Action Plan?

On December 4th 2013, Vancouver City Council approved the Heritage Action Plan (HAP) to update the city’s existing Heritage Conservation program. The HAP identified a total of 14 action items with 5 immediate actions including:

  • Clarify direction on conditional and discretionary zoning to improve protection for heritage buildings.
  • Simplify/streamline rezoning, development permit and Heritage Revitalization Agreement approval processes for heritage retention applications.
  • Increase demolition fees for pre-1940 houses.
  • Solicit senior government support for rehabilitation tax incentives.
  • Update the Vancouver Heritage Register.

Other recommendations include amending RS zoning schedules to encourage heritage retention, reviewing and updating the First Shaughnessy Official Development Plan, extending existing incentive programs in the Downtown Eastside and examining these incentive programs for applicability elsewhere.

View Policy Reports (click Read More)

November 26th 2013 – Policy Report: Heritage Action Plan to Update Vancouver’s Heritage Conservation Program

June 11th 2014 – Policy Report: Heritage Action Plan: Steps to Enhance Protection of First Shaughnessy and pre-1940s Character Houses

June 9th 2015 – Recommendations to Adopt Heritage Conservation Area

Vancouver’s First Heritage Conservation Area

January 29th, 2016 – Amendments to First Shaughnessy HCA

To view a full list of reports and documents visit www.vancouver.ca/heritage-action-plan.


On March 10, 2020, City of Vancouver Council approved the new Vancouver Heritage Program, including its vision, goals, strategic directions, and a set of renewed management tools. The program acknowledges a wider definition of cultural heritage than the previous Heritage Conservation Program and a specific desire to be inclusive of social and cultural heritage significance. It aims to encompass the breadth of the city’s historic places and particular effort to advance recognition of significance for the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations as well as Vancouver’s diverse communities. The program seeks to support both tangible and intangible heritage, including buildings, sites, landscapes, and living heritage such as traditions and cultural practices. An overview of the program is provided here.

A progress report on the Heritage Action Plan was also received. The Vancouver Heritage Register Upgrade is still to be completed and is to be taken forward through the public engagement process planned for the development of the citywide Vancouver Plan during the coming year.


On March 13, 2019, City of Vancouver Council approved the creation and renewal of three grant programs to support heritage conservation across the city. The Heritage Incentive Program can provide grants up to $4m for heritage conservation and seismic upgrading and an expanded Heritage Façade Rehabilitation Program can provide up to $50,000 for restoration and stabilization of heritage facades. Both programs are managed by the City of Vancouver: find more information here. The Heritage Conservation Grant Program can provide matching grants up to $25,000 for a wide range of conservation projects for buildings and sites listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register. It is administered by Vancouver Heritage Foundation, funded by an annual grant from the City of Vancouver: find more information here.


On June 26, 2017 two open houses were held to help explain where the Heritage Action Plan is today, and the progress that has been made to date. Documents presented at those open houses are now available on the Heritage Action Plan webpage. Of particular note is the Historic Context Statement and Thematic Framework Summary, a report that works to broaden the
understanding of heritage values and identify potential sites to add to the Heritage Register, which reflect greater diversity.


The next phase of the Heritage Action Plan involves a review of character home zoning to look at options for the retention of heritage and character homes in single-family zoning districts. Geographic and zoning options are being explored that could result in changes to regulations for both pre-1940 character homes and new home development in older single-family neighbourhoods.


The review and update of the City of Vancouver Heritage Conservation Program is still underway. As new measures are considered or enacted, both temporary and permanent, there are sure to be unanswered questions as to how they may affect property owners and other stakeholders. VHF has created this page as a resource to help understand both the process and the policies with the intent to share updates on progress. There is also a City of Vancouver webpage dedicated to online information and feedback.


The city is currently reviewing the zoning for single-family home neighborhoods in an effort to improve retention of character and heritage houses. Public consultation will take place in the fall. In the mean time, you can learn more about the single-family character home review online.


In January of 2016 a series of amendments were proposed to the First Shaughnessy HCA and subsequently approved. You can read the full report of amendments here. The City is also moving forward with other aspects of the HAP including an update of the Vancouver Heritage Register, a review of the heritage conservation program and processes, and a zoning review regarding single-family character homes. There are plans for public consultation later in the year and we will post here when details are available.


The third session of the public hearing on the recommendation to establish First Shaughnessy as a Heritage Conservation Area (HCA) took place on September 15th at 6pm. Council heard a recap of the previous public hearing sessions from staff and then heard from a large number of speakers. Approximately fifty people had signed up to speak to Council presenting a variety of opinions.  After all present speakers were heard, Council voted to reconvene on September 29th to make a final decision. On September 29th, the motion to designate First Shaughnessy a Heritage Conservation Area passed and the designation made official. You can read more about Vancouver’s first HCA here.

Full recording of the September 15th hearing


The proposal to create a Heritage Conservation Area in First Shaughnessy has stirred the interest of the public. The July 21st public hearing was continued on July 28th after a new report on property values was submitted. At the end of the July 28th hearing, it was decided to resume the public hearing on September 15th6pm at City Hall. Comments are still being accepted at mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca and the public are also invited to register to speak by emailing publichearing@vancouver.ca. To read all the documents supplied at the July public hearing dates visit the City of Vancouver Heritage Action Plan page.  VHF is encouraging all heritage supporters to submit letters or register to speak on this important topic. First Shaughnessy is densely rich with history and architectural resources that cannot be replaced.


There will be a public hearing on July 21st at 6pm at City Hall to discuss First Shaughnessy becoming a Heritage Conservation Area. All are invited to attend. If you’d like to speak at the hearing email publichearing@vancouver.ca starting July 10th at 8:30am. All other comments can be sent to mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca. If approved, all pre-1940s homes in First Shaughnessy are proposed to become protected heritage properties along with other guidelines and initiatives to maintain neighbourhood character.


The reports to recommend that First Shaughnessy become an official Heritage Conservation Area are now available on the City of Vancouver website. It is possible that the public will be invited to review and comment on the report. Declaring First Shaughnessy a Heritage Conservation Area would give City Council powerful tools to preserve important heritage resources in this area, including refusing demolitions and offering incentives such as coach houses and stratification.

As of June 9th, Council has approved moving forward with the proposal to make First Shaughnessy a Heritage Conservation Area by referring it to a Public Hearing. Previously titled a “Heritage Character Area”, First Shaughnessy was identified in 1982 as a special heritage area and the Official Development Plan was created to help protect pre-1940s homes. The proposed change from Heritage Character Area to Heritage Conservation Area would strengthen the retention tools available to council. First Shaughnessy is a very unique area to Vancouver, rich with the cultural history of our city’s development and architecture unlike any seen today. Some of the homes in this neighbourhood were built for early Vancouver’s most influential people including Senators, mayors and captains of industry. Their design, scale and ornamentation reflect a specific era in our history. The heritage resources found with this neighbourhood are irreplaceable for their architecture and design, use of materials no longer available and estate-style landscaping. VHF is excited to see this process move forward, and is encouraged that steps are being taken to ensure this historic part of Vancouver is maintained and conserved for the future.


The City of Vancouver officially launched the next phase of the Heritage Action Plan, the update to the Vancouver Heritage Register, with a free public event. This fun, interactive event announced the public process to nominate sites to the Heritage Register, which you are now able to do online, and at the same time celebrated new technologies created by three heritage organizations.

#HeritageReboot took place on Saturday, May 23rd from 1pm – 4:30pm at the Roundhouse Community Centre. VHF was there to officially launch the Heritage Site Finder, updated with images and information for over 2200 sites listed on the current Heritage Register. Heritage Vancouver Society demonstrated their Historic Building Permit Database and the City of Vancouver Archives demonstrated the newly added layer to VanMap of Goad’s 1912 Fire Insurance Plan.

The public was invited to see demonstrations and interact with the technologies, nominate a site to the Heritage Register, enjoy walking tours of Yaletown, learn about Engine 374 with West Coast Railway Association and celebrate with free cake. This event was free and open to all ages.


First Shaughnessy could become Vancouver’s first official heritage conservation area. The City of Vancouver created a series of sessions that offered information regarding First Shaughnessy and its current development plan along with the option of becoming a heritage conservation area. City staff were present at these sessions to answer questions and collect feedback. The sessions occurred on four weeknights in March.


The City of Vancouver held opportunities for everyone to find out more about the Heritage Action Plan and give input. VHF strongly encouraged those who are able and interested to attend these sessions and give honest feedback. There were three public open houses held on February 24th, February 28th and March 4th.

In February, the City of Vancouver also released a webpage dedicated to online information and feedback.


In the first half of the year, the protection and management of heritage in the First Shaughnessy neighbourhood and the options for retention of character homes in other areas will be under discussion. Preparation for updating the Vancouver Heritage Register will also begin.

Public consultation will take place in the coming months. In addition to posting information about this, VHF and other heritage partners will be offering opportunities to get informed and join the discussions. The City of Vancouver has also created a webpage dedicated to the Heritage Action Plan.

Shaughnessy Heights: “The Swellest and Most Beautiful Neighbourhood” – With John Atkin

VHF offered a special Walking Tour to get more familiar with the First Shaughnessy neighbourhood, ahead of public consultation on how to best manage the rich heritage of the area. The tours proved incredibly popular and all four dates were sold out.

With its winding avenues, lush landscape and grand homes, Shaughnessy was originally created and managed by the Canadian Pacific Railway. It is one of Vancouver’s most desirable neighbourhoods and happens to be the city’s first planned community. The neighbourhood has heritage value, a complex and intriguing development history and some fabulous architecture.

First Shaughnessy is the earliest part of the Shaughnessy neighbourhood. It was developed by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) starting around 1909, as Shaughnessy Heights, a planned community with a distinctive contoured street pattern. Its boundaries are West 16th Avenue to the north, West King Edward Avenue to the south, Oak Street and Arbutus Street to the east and west. The neighbourhood is characterized by large single family homes surrounded by established gardens, along tree-lined streets.

It was recognized by the City of Vancouver as having particular heritage value as long ago as 1982, when the FSODP was put in place. Today, over half the homes in First Shaughnessy date from before 1940. A one-year moratorium on demolition of pre-1940 homes has been in place since June 2014 to enable a full review of heritage protection in the neighbourhood.

First Shaughnessy Official Development Plan (FSODP): 1982, including the First Shaughnessy Design Guidelines

Vancouver Heritage Register listings: Check the VHF Heritage Site Finder

Heritage Vancouver Society has also created a public conversation series on topics related to the HAP.

February 27 2015, 7-9pm “Are Heritage Conservation Areas Right for Vancouver?”
April 16 2015,  7-9pm “What is Vancouver’s Heritage?”
May 27 2015,  7-9pm “What is Neighbourhood Character?”
June 12 2015,  7-9pm “Our Main Streets”


In June 2014, the City of Vancouver Council approved interim policies to discourage demolition of pre-1940 character homes in Vancouver. This followed approval of the Heritage Action Plan in December 2013. The policies provide interim measures while the full review of the City’s Heritage Conservation Program is undertaken. The two policies are:

Heritage Control Period for Temporary Protection in First Shaughnessy:

A one-year moratorium on demolitions of pre-1940 homes in First Shaughnessy while a comprehensive review of the area is completed. During this time retention and rehabilitation proposals continue to proceed.

Potential Heritage or Character Buildings – Interim Procedure:

For several neighbourhoods where the zoning does not already encourage retention of character homes, this policy encourages homeowners to discuss retention options with City staff rather than replace a sound pre-1940 character home. This applies to approximately 23% of the one and two-family zoning areas.

Both policies are temporary. They were a response to significant public pressure to do something to stem the rapid rate of demolition of homes that contribute to the individual character of neighbourhoods and to the particularly distinctive heritage character of the First Shaughnessy neighbourhood.

Concerns have been raised that these policies may have devalued property where a pre-1940 character home exists. However, it is important to note that both are interim policies. They have not been presented as permanent solutions. The heritage control on First Shaughnessy is currently set to expire in June 2015. It should also be noted that retaining a character home enables negotiation of conditional zoning provisions, and incentives, providing additional value, not less. This is the same zoning principle currently in place in neighbourhoods such as Strathcona, Mount Pleasant and Kitsilano which encourages the retention of character houses.

A full review of how the City supports heritage and character house retention has begun and will complete approximately a year from now. It will include extensive public consultation. Part of the process will include identifying the best approach to encourage retention of character homes, including appropriate incentives.

VHF challenges recent assertions that have been made that a renovation and/or addition is much more expensive, or even as expensive, as demolishing and building from scratch. For 12 years, VHF house tours have shown houses that have been successfully renovated and modernized while maintaining character. The cost of the renovation can most certainly be less than the cost of building a similar quality home from scratch. Renovation of an older home can retain high quality materials such as wood floors, first growth timber, wood moldings and paneling, stained glass windows, leaded glass, brass fittings, and tiles or masonry from significant early Vancouver companies that are rarely matched in new construction.

For more information on the policies, please refer to the City of Vancouver website or contact the City of Vancouver.