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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.

Available incentives currently include a matching conservation grant program, as well as planning and development tools through the Land Use Bylaw and certain Local Area Plans. This page contains information about these existing programs, as well as updates on new tools and incentives we are exploring for future implementation.

2019-2020 Conservation Tools and Incentives Work

On July 28, Council approved the following recommendations from the Heritage Conservation Tools and Incentives report

  • 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 re-designations.
  • Preparation of a mid-cycle budget request for a $2 million increase to the City-wide Historic Resource Conservation Grant. This would increase 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.
  • Presentation of the proposed residential tax credit program to the Priorities and Finance Committee in 2022, for consideration in the 2023-2026 budget deliberations.

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

Next steps

Heritage Planning will begin implementing the recommendations by:

  • Advancing the approved policy tool direction:
    • Preparing Land Use Bylaw amendments for Council’s approval (2020-2021)
    • Delivering heritage area policies through the proposed Guidebook for Great Communities, and Local Area Planning initiatives (2021-2023)
    • Collaborating with internal and external stakeholders in identified high-concentration heritage areas to develop “Layer 3” policies (2020-2023)
  • Bringing forward the recommended increase to the City-wide Historic Resource Conservation Grant at the November 2020 mid-cycle budget adjustment for Council’s consideration. If approved by Council, it will come into effect January 2021.
  • Continuing development and refinement of the residential tax credit financial incentive package in preparation to return to the Priorities and Finance Committee (2020-2022)

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.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​