A city's heritage should be a sense of pride. It honours the past, while allowing the future to evolve. But many people complain that a heritage designation lowers a property's value because it limits what a new owner can do with it.
I believe that's a myth and here's why.
Ontario's Heritage Act guides municipalities in supporting heritage efforts. Most city heritage staff work with a committee of citizens and local politicians who advise city council and act as a resource on heritage issues. The city clerk keeps a register of all heritage properties.
About 4,500 homes in Toronto and 280 in Mississauga are designated heritage properties while there are many others that are "listed". Listed means the property appears in the city's heritage register, but it has not yet been fully researched or documented so it is not yet protected by the Heritage Act.
Here is what the heritage committee looks for in deciding whether a property should be designated:
- It has significant architectural value.
- It relates to a significant person or event in the history of a city or helps us understand the character of our community or area.
- It displays a high degree of craftsmanship, artistic merit or scientific or technical achievement.
- It is a landmark.
- It does not have to be old. Roy Thomson Hall and the CN Tower are parts of our modern heritage and are symbols that define Toronto to the world
- It preserves the valuable legacy of the past.
As an example, the Adamson Estate on Enola Ave. in Mississauga was built in 1920. Mabel Cawthra and Agar Adamson commissioned the Flemish gabled mansion, inspired by their World War I experience in Belgium and the Toronto firm Sproatt and Rolph designed it. The Cawthra family, one of the oldest in modern Mississauga, traces their roots back almost 500 years to Yorkshire, England.
The main criticism of a heritage designation is the myth that it will reduce the value of a property. Here are some of the benefits:
- Studies have shown that heritage properties increase in value at the same rate as non-designated properties. The Flatiron building located where Front, Wellington and Church streets meet in Toronto can charge the same rent as Triple A buildings nearby. It is also cool to be there.
- You may have access to heritage grant programs to improve your property.
- Heritage staff can help with advice on renovations.
- There may be rebates on property taxes.
- There is an increased sense of pride of ownership and civic responsibility.
There are also points to remember whether you're buying or selling a heritage home. If you're selling one, be sure to market the heritage designation as a positive feature.
Although there are added steps to demolish or alter a heritage home, if you work with city heritage staff and understand how to make your application, it should not take much more time than a regular building permit. Interiors of the home are usually not included in the designation, so you can do almost any interior renovation, similar to a non-designated home.
Remember that you are selling something special - a piece of our history.
If you are making an application to change or renovate a heritage home, be sure to tell the story of your home, with detailed photographs of what it looks like today and what it will look like.
Use the committee members for advice and guidance before you make your application, whether it is about building materials, style or even land elevations. The committee members may include architects and historians, who can give valuable input based on their own years of experience. This is likely to assist you in increasing the value of your heritage home.
Would you change the shape of the piece of sculpture on your mantle? How about painting a different colour on that original piece of art you own? Think of the external architecture of a heritage home the same way and increase your sense of pride with your own home ownership.
Mark Weisleder is a real estate lawyer. Contact Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org