With just six Saanich buildings earning official heritage designation in the past two years, it leaves the planning department wondering if misconceptions are leading potential homeowners away from the process.
To date, there are 86 buildings protected under the heritage designation in Saanich, mostly homes, dating from 1859 to the 1960s.
“The rumour is you can’t do anything with your home or building once it’s designated and that’s not true,” said Jane Evans of Saanich Planning.
Evans said the best form of protection is to make sure the building is used and occupied, even if it needs to be enlarged with an addition.
Yes, the addition will have to be done with Saanich’s approval, but it’s not unreasonable, she said.
“The heritage foundation works with owners to make sure the character value of the building isn’t changed but we understand there must be room for alteration. Rather than the message that you can’t do anything – you definitely want to work with people to create the most comfortable environment.”
Generally, the bigger sticking points for maintaining character value are on the exterior, which, in fact, is also the area of upgrading or renovating for which owners can receive a grant.
“Funding is for up to 35 per cent of the [upgrade] quote, that’s for homes only, though commercial [buildings] will be looked at down the road,” Evans said.
Another area of challenge is the insurance industry, as not all companies are willing to insure heritage buildings. Evans has also read incorrect statement’s from insurance companies about the repair for heritage buildings.
“[Some insurers] say they don’t insure heritage homes because if something goes wrong, municipalities will require them to replace it with original type of material. But in no way do we expect people to go to old-growth forest to find wood from the late 1800s to replace a part of the house. It’s more about what is available and reasonable.”
There are companies who insure heritage homes, it’s just a matter of shopping around, Evans added.
Information on insurance and heritage homes is available at victoriaheritagefoundation.ca/Misc/insurance.html.
Aside from earning the heritage designation, which means the building is permanently protected by bylaws, homes can simply be added to the registry. It means only that the history of the home, its purpose, architect, builder or former owners, are catalogued, but there are no restrictions placed on the building.
To inquire about registering a building in Saanich or to view the Saanich Heritage Registry book visit Saanich.ca.