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.
2019 - 2020 Conservation Tools and Incentives Work
At the direction of Council, The City is currently working to implement new policy tools and financial incentives to support heritage conservation approved in July 2020. This includes additional grant funding for designated non-residential heritage resources, continued development of a proposed residential heritage tax credit program, and phased implementation of residential heritage area policies throughout 2021-2023.
On July 28, 2020, 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.
- 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 available online.
As part of the mid-cycle budget adjustments, Council approved a $1 million increase to the Historic Resource Conservation Grant on November 26, 2020. For 2021 and 2022, the grant will be $1.5 million, with $1 million reserved to support non-residential heritage conservation projects. More information about this increase in funding can be found at Heritage grant programs.
As part of the project, a visual ‘windshield’ survey was undertaken across 26 communities, to identify where new heritage area tools may be appropriate. The 2019-2020 Heritage Asset Windshield Survey identified houses generally constructed before 1945 that substantially retain the identifiable historic architectural style, design, and details. A summary of the survey results is available for review.
The survey data will continue to be monitored, to account for changes resulting from demolition or redevelopment. In late 2020, volunteers with Calgarians for Heritage Districts coordinated an independent community audit of the survey data. Their results have been shared with The City and will be reviewed by planning staff to help inform and strengthen our existing data.
Heritage area tools
The three Heritage Area Tools being developed are the Incentive Area, Discretionary Guideline Area and Direct Control Heritage Area.
Together, these tools are designed to encourage the conservation of heritage-rich areas in Calgary. They make it more desirable to retain identified heritage assets and create guidelines for new development in specific areas where heritage assets are most concentrated. The Heritage Area tools do not prohibit new development or restrict demolition of any buildings, including heritage assets.
The heritage area tools are intended to build upon each other. As the concentration and integrity of heritage assets increase within a defined area, the tools become more specific and detailed.
- Privately-owned building constructed before 1945 (this pilot is focused on historic houses)
- Retains most of its original style, design, details and construction materials (determined through a visual assessment)
Alongside existing heritage tools and financial incentives like grants, The City has developed a new approach to conserving Calgary’s heritage areas. These Heritage Area Policies are a set of three related tools, including Direct Control Heritage Areas, designed to increase the conservation of groups of related heritage assets. Individually, heritage assets may not qualify for Calgary’s Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources. However, they have collective significance as heritage places that are valued by many Calgarians.
During 2019 and 2020, a visual survey of historic properties in 26 inner-city communities was completed. This resulted in over 4,000 homes from the pre-1945 period being identified as heritage assets.
Many of these properties are not listed on Calgary’s existing listing of places with assessed heritage value (the Inventory of Evaluated Historic Resources) by Heritage Calgary. However, they are considered to have significance when they exist in proximity to other heritage assets from a similar development period.
To understand the concentration of heritage assets in Calgary, this survey data was analyzed by each (block face). In 2020, multiple scenarios were presented to City Council to balance the conservation of historic areas with other development factors.
The approach approved by Council allows Heritage Guideline Areas to be applied to block faces with at least 25% heritage assets. Block faces with at least 50% heritage assets qualify for a Direct Control Heritage Area, if requested by the impacted property owners.
Heritage Incentive Area
The Heritage Incentives Area is a set of new development options, referred to as Heritage Incentives. They will be available to owners of low-density character homes (built pre-1945) within a defined area. The new development options will encourage owners to consider keeping and/or reusing these buildings when exploring redevelopment options.
Heritage Guideline Area
Heritage Guideline Areas are locations where major new development follows the discretionary approval process outlined in the Land Use Bylaw. They are created as part of Local Area Plans. Development applications in these areas must follow the general heritage compatibility guidelines to obtain City approval.
Direct Control Heritage Areas
A Direct Control Heritage Area is a unique set of Land Use District (zoning) rules for all properties in a defined area. These special Direct Control districts will preserve the heritage character of blocks. This will enable property owners to conserve the heritage character of their block as growth and change occurs.
Planning & Development incentives
Planning incentives are policy-based tools to help make conservation of Heritage Resources and/or assets 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 and the Land Use Bylaw. Additional planning policies or publications can be found in the online Planning & Development Resource Library.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Land Use District (zoning) applied to a defined area.
- Has a specific, unique set of allowable activities and development rules.
- Each one has its own bylaw number that identifies a district.
A Direct Control Heritage Area is a Land Use District (zoning) for all properties in a defined area that includes a concentration of identified heritage assets.
The minimum size for a Direct Control Heritage Area is one side of a city block (block face). They must have the following attributes:
- support the conservation of the heritage context of a block through specific architectural controls.
- support conservation of individual heritage assets through some limits on redevelopment potential, without preventing demolition or compatible redevelopment.
- consider the form, scale, and design of existing historic (pre-1945) houses.
- protect a snapshot in time of the historic context of an area.
- have at least 50 percent of the buildings on each block face identified as heritage assets
- have the support of most property owners on each block face
If most property owners on a block face do not support a Direct Control Heritage Area, they will not be included in the pilot program or required to create a district in the future. They will still qualify for the Heritage Discretionary Guideline Area Policy that will be created through a Local Area Planning process.
A Direct Control Heritage Area can be initiated where most property owners along a block face want to pursue this opportunity.
This project is currently in a pilot phase prior to wider implementation and is not yet available to all areas with the applicable concentration of heritage assets.
Please refer to the included letter for instructions on how to participate in the pilot program. There is no fee for property owners to participate, or to create a Direct Control Heritage Area.
Yes, there are examples of Direct Control Heritage Areas in other cities across Canada. Each province has its own regulatory system for land use, so the rules are different across provinces. The closest example to what we are trying to achieve is the Westmount Architectural Heritage Area in Edmonton.
Some examples of Direct Control Heritage Areas are:
- Westmount Architectural Heritage Area, Edmonton
- Cabbagetown Heritage Conservation District, Toronto
- Schmidtville Heritage Conservation District, Halifax
Other conservation incentives
There are a variety of additional planning incentives offered for retaining heritage buildings, including but not limited to:
- Beltline Area Density Bonusing (Part 11 of the Land Use Bylaw.)
- Downtown Historic Resource Retention Incentive (Part 13 of the Land Use Bylaw.)
- Policy direction for secondary suites in Historic properties
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 the Guide to Local Areal Planning.
Please contact the Planning Services Centre for site-specific questions.