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Heritage conservation incentives and programs

Incentive programs are available to owners of properties listed on The City’s Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources to encourage the conservation of heritage buildings and sites. In exchange, the property owner agrees to designate (legally protect) their property.

Project update

The project team will be presenting their recommendations to the SPC on Planning and Urban Development on July 15. The report that was presented to the SPC on PUD on April 1 has been updated to reflect the work that has been done since then. 

On Wednesday the following recommendations will be presented:

  • A two-year phased program (2021-2023) to implement the heritage area policy tools, using the recommended thresholds, through the local area planning process, Land Use Bylaw amendments, or associated land use designations.
  • Approval of a $2 million increase to the City-wide Historic Resource Conservation Grant. Increasing the grant from $500,000 to $2.5 million, with $2 million reserved for non-residential conservation projects and $500,000 reserved for residential conservation projects.
  • Consider a residential tax credit as part of the 2023-2026 budget deliberations. 

For more information please read the full report, it is now available online.  

Due to the evolving COVID-19 emergency, physical distancing procedures have been put in place to ensure the public’s health and safety. The committee meeting will be facilitated through a combination of online and call-in tools. While it is possible for stakeholders to participate through these means (more information below), Administration acknowledges that COVID-19 is confronting Calgarians with significant challenges and concerns.

The committee meeting will be webcast live, beginning at 9:30AM on Wednesday, July 15. Anyone wishing to speak remotely at the meeting is invited to contact the City Clerk’s Office at to register and receive further information. You may also provide written submissions regarding the report using the online Public Submission Form​.

Since the Calgary Heritage Strategy​ was implemented in 2008, Heritage Planning has worked collaboratively to implement a majority of the strategy’s 30+ action items. This includes creation of the online Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources, establishment of the current Historic Resource Conservation Grant Program and the legal protection of over 100 identified heritage sites.

In March 2019, Council directed Heritage Planning to review potential new policy tools and financial incentives to further increase the conservation of heritage resources, – supporting Calgary’s Next Generation Planning projects and responding to the loss of the Enoch Sales Residence to fire in early 2019.

Heritage Planning is developing a range of options through research, consultant analysis and targeted stakeholder engagement.  Recommendations in-concept will be presented for Council’s consideration and approval in Spring 2020. For more information please review the project summary report​

After receiving Council’s direction on which options to pursue further, Heritage Planning will work on implementing the supported tools, including further stakeholder input.

Heritage grant programs

Heritage grants are programs offered under a variety of terms to help property owners sustain the costs associated with restoration, preservation and rehabilitation of historic properties.

Municipal grants

To be eligible for a City of Calgary Historic Resource Conservation Grant, a property must be listed on The City’s Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources and be municipally designated (legally protected) or be in the process of designation.

Applicants are eligible every 15 years for up to 50 per cent of approved conservation costs up to a maximum of 15 per cent of a property’s assessed value to a maximum amount of $125,000. Applicants are considered on a first-come, first-serve basis.

For more information on eligibility and the application process, please review the ​ter​ms and conditions​.

Provincial grants

The Alberta Historical Resources Foundation maintains the Heritage Preservation Partnership Program to assist owners of designated (legally protected) heritage properties with the costs associated with restoration and maintenance. These programs must be applied for through the province.​​

Planning & Development incentives

Planning incentives are policy-based tools to help make conservation of Historic Resources a viable option for property owners in the context of redevelopment. These incentives draw from the Municipal Development Plan, the Developed Areas Guidebook, Area Redevelopment Plans for specific communities and the Land Use Bylaw.

Depending on the location and guiding policy, owners may be able to sell unused density through a Density Transfer Program, gain additional saleable density through re-zoning, or receive support for projects involving relaxations or alternative solutions that include the protection of a Historic Resource.​​

Density Transfer Programs

Density transfer is one of the tools used by The City to help achieve the Municipal Development Plan (MDP) goal of protecting Calgary’s heritage assets. In areas that have both a high potential for redevelopment and existing sites of heritage significance, allowing the transfer of development rights between properties in exchange for legal protection of the heritage asset can effectively balance city-planning objectives. Specifics of a transfer will vary depending on the location, but density transfers are intended to allow for financial support of heritage buildings, while allowing the target densities in an area to be achieved. In doing so, these programs provide a mutual benefit for heritage and non-heritage property owners.


How does heritage density transfer work?

In areas with density transfer policies, if the owner of a heritage asset agrees to legally protect it as a Municipal Historic Resource, they gain the ability to sell and transfer the unused development rights of the property to another site. These development rights are described as density (measured in Floor Area Ratio), and comprise the difference between how large the existing heritage asset is, and the maximum allowable size for a building on that property per the Land Use District (zoning). If they choose to perform City-approved conservation work on their historic building, owners can also generate additional density that can be transferred and sold from the site.

Once a heritage asset is legally protected and the amount of transferrable density is determined, the owner can sell all or a portion of that density to a new development site. In that transaction, the heritage asset is called the "source" site, and the new development site is called the "receiver" site.

Where in the city can heritage density transfers occur?

For details on Heritage Density Transfer Policies in a particular area, consult the Area Redevelopment Plan for your community or appropriate district in the Land Use Bylaw 1P2007. Currently, Beltline, Downtown, Hillhurst/Sunnyside, Sunalta and East Village allow for density transfer between a source (Municipal Historic Resource) and a receiver site within the same community/plan area boundary.

How much density does a Heritage asset have to transfer?

This will vary depending on the building area of the existing heritage asset and the allowable maximum developable area permitted by the local area plan and/or land use district.

When is the density transferred?

Density transfer is facilitated and formally tracked through a Land Use Amendment on both the source and receiving sites using a Direct Control District Bylaw. Where a receiving parcel does not require a Land Use Amendment for any other policy or bylaw reasons, their amendment to track the transfer of heritage density only is processed at no cost by The City.

When the Direct Control Bylaw is approved (the bylaw receives third reading) by City Council), the density is formally transferred to the receiving parcel and can be accounted for in a development permit. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the source parcel owner and receiving site owner to ensure their agreements consider this fact.

Where a receiving site is not owned by the intended developer of the lands at the time the Direct Control District Bylaw is passed, it is important to understand that the transferred density comes into effect as soon as the Direct Control District Bylaw is approved. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the source parcel owner, receiving site owner and party optioning to purchase the site for future development to ensure their agreements consider this fact.

How does one buy/sell heritage density?

The City establishes the policy and procedure for density transfer, which requires a Land Use Amendment for both source and receiver properties. The transaction for density is a market agreement between property owners, and The City is not involved in pricing or negotiations as to the payment terms and timeline(s) for the density.

Groups looking to acquire additional density engage directly with the owner of a heritage asset in the same plan area as their project site, and the two parties will reach a private agreement. The City has no responsibility to ensure payment or fulfillment of the conditions of the private agreement between the parties.  Furthermore, Land Use Amendments or other required development approvals may be refused or approved at the discretion of Council, Calgary Planning Commission or Administration. Parties that negotiate transfers before obtaining the necessary approvals do so at their own risk.

Other conservation incentives

There are a variety of additional planning incentives offered for retaining heritage buildings, including but not limited to:

For information about available incentives, please first consult the Area Redevelopment Plan, the rules of the Land Use District, and guiding policy documents including the Municipal Development Plan and Developed Areas Guidebook.

Please contact the Planning Services Centre​ for site-specific questions.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​