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Pricier home rebuilds targeted at start of Victoria deconstruction bylaw

Owners will be refunded a fee based on the amount of building materials salvaged
Workers de-construct a building in the 800-block of Fort Street. De-construction involves taking an existing building apart and salvaging the materials it was built with. Victoria has mandated deconstruction for pricier single-family and duplex homes. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)

Owners looking to tear down their homes and rebuild at the top of the market price will need to put more care into demolition come mid-September.

That’s when Victoria’s newly adopted reconstruction bylaw’s first phase comes into effect as the city tries to cut down on construction waste – which currently accounts for one-fifth of everything the capital sends to the landfill.

The bylaw was rubber-stamped by council on June 23. Its first phase will see owners have to salvage materials for reuse when they demolish existing single-family homes and duplexes and replace them with a new version of one of those models.

Projects impacted in phase one will be ones with an assessed value that lands in the top three per cent of Victoria’s residential properties, representing estimated current values above $2 million. Based on current figures, the city expects the program to capture 20 housing projects each year and divert up to 3,000 tonnes of material from the landfill annually.

The bylaw will see owners pay a refundable $19,500 “waste management fee” to receive their demolition permit. No fees will need to be paid for the first year of the program in order to give industry time to adapt and for the city to make any needed tweaks.

Phase two, launching in May 2025, applies to single-family homes and duplexes that are replaced with any housing type. The bylaw will only apply to homes built before 1960.

READ: CRD to keep exploring options for construction waste as officials stress reuse

Over the last few years, the city says 75 per cent of all the demolition permits were for single-family homes and duplexes and almost all were built before 1960. The 1960 date was chosen due to those homes containing a consistent amount of old-growth wood that remains valuable in today’s market, according to the city.

The bylaw will refund owners on a sliding scale based on how much material can be salvaged. The bylaw requires at least 40 kilograms of wood per above-ground square metre of floor area to be salvaged for reuse in order for owners to get all of the $19,500 refunded.

That fee was chosen based on industry stakeholders telling the city the amount would motivate wood salvage and waste reduction. Anything lower would see owners ignore the requirement and see the fees and penalties as a cost of doing business, stakeholders said.

The city said it worked with the construction, waste and recycling industry to inform the bylaw and will work with applicants and the industry as it rolls out to provide support.

The city will also monitor innovation in the deconstruction industry. Staff told council that while local storage for salvaged building materials is limited, more facilities located close to Greater Victoria are on the way and ones from up-Island have said they would come pick up materials as they can’t keep salvaged wood on their shelves. Follow us on Instagram. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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