The Victoria Civic Heritage Trust Fund is asking for its annual city budget to double to accommodate rising construction costs. (File contributed/City of Victoria)

Victoria heritage committee requests $500,000 annual increase for restoration, seismic upgrade grants

The Victoria Civic Heritage Trust says rising construction costs belittle grant incentives

The Victoria Civic HeritageTrust Fund (VCHT) is asking for a significant annual increase from the City of Victoria.

In a request put forward to council at a committee of the whole meeting on Thursday, the group requested a 2020 capital increase from $420,000 to $1 million, something it would receive annually.

The VCHT was established in 1989 to help incentivize the conservation and restoration of heritage buildings through city. It has done so through its Building Incentive Program (BIP) and its newer Seismic Parapet Incentive Program (PIP), which allows applicants to have a majority of upgrade or restoration costs covered.

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In recent months, however, these grants changed to accommodate rising construction costs.

“The incentives didn’t have the same appeal as they once had,” said Catherine Umland, executive director of the VCHT. “Between 1990 and 2019 construction costs went up 94 per cent.”

To meet this difference, as of July 2019 the BIP and PIP grant maximums doubled from $50,000 to $100,000. In addition to an increase in costs, the VCHT also has many applications in queue waiting for funding.

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“When we start looking at the amount of projects, that money will be depleted in 2020,” Umland said. “Increases keep coming and there will be a deficit by the end of the year.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps called the argument “compelling,” but full discussion of the decision won’t occur until Friday.

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In the meantime, city staff recommended that council transfer a total of $218,080.20 from the city’s Downtown Heritage Buildings Seismic Upgrade Fund to the VCHT for its PIP program. The city received this funding from density bonus incentives from five major downtown developers under the density bonus system. In July 2019 that program was replaced with the Inclusionary Housing Policy, so the former fund will no longer be active.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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