Concern Victoria character homes disappearing as land values rise

A citizens' group in Victoria is worried rising prices and demand in the real estate market are endangering some of the character homes the city is known for.

Campaign says demolitions in Vancouver a 'canary in the coal mine' for Victoria

Chris Grieve started a petition to save Victoria's character homes after a Craftsman home on his street was left to deteriorate and is now set to be demolished. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

A citizens' group in Victoria is worried rising prices and demand in the real estate market are endangering some of the character homes the city is known for.

The housing market in B.C.'s capital has taken off in part due to foreign investment and a flood of people driven out of Vancouver by high prices.

"The canary in the coal mine, I think, is Vancouver for us," said Chris Grieve, a resident of Victoria's Fernwood neighbourhood. "Our market here I don't think is immune to similar market forces that are occurring there."

Grieve is the organizer behind a campaign to save character homes in Victoria from demolition.

In 2015, 69 demolition permits were issued in the city — up from just 20 the year before. According to numbers available so far, the pace this year could meet or exceed that figure.

"It is incredibly important for the city to take this issue seriously and be proactive about it," he said.

"Our area and our city are internationally renowned for the heritage home stock. It's what makes us unique. It's a huge driver for our tourist economy."

Incentives to prevent demolition

Grieve's campaign calls on Victoria's city council to create a multi-step process for demolition permits on homes built before 1955, allowing time to consider preserving the home.

It also suggests the city create minimum upkeep standards so homes can't be neglected to the point of needing demolition, and if a home is to be torn down, require owners to recycle building materials.

The proposal draws on ideas that are being tried in other jurisdictions and is likely to find some support at city hall, said Victoria city councillor Pamela Madoff.

"It's certainly a red flag that we need to consider what our issues are in terms of urban planning and housing in Victoria." she said.

About 500 people have signed the petition to save Victoria's character homes.

Grieve said the group hopes to bring ideas on how to tackle the issue to city council next month.