Calgary could incentivize homeowners to seek heritage designation with new tax break

·2 min read
Calgary's city council will make a final decision on the plan in June. (Monty Kruger/CBC - image credit)
Calgary's city council will make a final decision on the plan in June. (Monty Kruger/CBC - image credit)

The City of Calgary plans to offer owners of old homes thousands of dollars off their tax bill to encourage them to seek heritage designation.

The Residential Heritage Tax Incentive program, which was guided by feedback from city council last year, aims to offer a municipal property tax credit of up to 80 per cent to owners of residential properties with identified heritage value.

Qualified properties may be able to receive the tax credit for up to a maximum period of 15 years or a maximum amount of $50,000, whichever comes first.

On Tuesday, city council's executive committee received an update on the plan. City administration is preparing a $5-million budget request to pilot the program in association with the 2023-2026 budget.

Council will decide whether to approve the program as part of the four-year budget deliberations this fall.

If the four-year pilot phase of the plan goes well, the city said that up to 250 properties could be designated as Municipal Heritage Resources in as little as 10 years.

Properties unprotected

Dale Calkins, a senior planner with the city, said that much of Calgary's local heritage remains unprotected.

"Since the 1978 passing of the provincial historic resources act, just 44 Calgary residential properties [have been] designated out of hundreds of already evaluated properties and hundreds more with heritage potential," said Calkins.

"In the meantime, properties with heritage value continue to be lost each year due to the economic pressures to sell and redevelop."

Calkins said that by offering a sizeable tax incentive, attaining a heritage designation will become a more financially feasible alternative to redevelopment for homeowners.

"Designation means a property is retained in perpetuity for the benefit of future generations," said Calkins.

Councillor Courtney Walcott said he hopes the plan can help to ease some pressures that owners of heritage homes face — including maintenance costs, development forces and land cost increases — while lowering the barriers to designations in the first place.

"There's a lot of reasons why heritage designations are prohibitive, but that doesn't change how important they actually are," said Walcott.

"We've left [designation] up to property owners and [we] run a risk of losing a huge part of our story if we don't actually step in to protect it ourselves."

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