Demolition Season in Vancouver

dumbarCastleMany people in the Vancouver area may not be familiar with the term “Dunbar castle.” This refers to small homes in the west side of Vancouver from the 1930s and 40s that look like miniature fairy tale castles replete with turrets and arched windows. But many don’t realize that some of these older homes, along with many others are in the process of being demolished to make way for new construction.

Vancouver has put into place new directives that call for the demolition of pre-1940 “character homes” like the Dunbar castles. Following their demolition, ninety percent of the materials remaining from the home will be recycled, repurposed and reused. The plan for these new regulations is to actually slow the rash of demolitions and protect homes that should be on the historic/heritage register. This register was put together in the almost thirty years ago and many of the homes needing protection were left off initially.

By the Numbers—In just the past few months, 210 permits have been given in Vancouver to demolish houses. At that rate, the city will see at least 750 buildings demolished this year, and the number could rise when the weather warms up. Certain neighborhoods, such as Dunbar-Southlands, have been particularly targeted with more than 100 buildings demolished each year for the past four years.

Shifting Real Estate Market—One of the consequences of these demolitions is a shift in the real estate market and the relative value of the homes. Dunbar-Southlands, which has lost over 400 homes in four years, was considered one of Vancouver’s most affordable markets for middle-class families. Now, these older affordable homes are gone and being replaced by larger, new houses that are well above the city’s already high average price.

Reasons for the Shift—Older homes are not moving in the current housing market as easily as new homes are. Many homeowners see the work that is necessary to update and maintain an older home and are not willing to do this. Foreign investors, particularly those from China, have already driven the average cost of a home in Vancouver to over $1 million. These investors are not interested in an older, fixer-upper house. One market analyst actually predicts that some older neighborhoods could eventually see as much as 95 percent of their homes demolished in order to make way for newer construction. The potential to make more money with the higher real estate prices is driving many away from holding onto homes for sentimental reasons.

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