Heritage Designation Process
The Ontario Heritage Act, 1975, enables local municipalities to protect and manage Ontario’s cultural heritage resources. Part IV of the Act, entitled Conservation of Property of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest, provides for municipal designation of individual properties identified as having cultural heritage value. Both public and privately-owned properties may be designated under the Act.
Properties are designated by a municipal by-law, which contains the location of the property and defines its cultural heritage value, or significance, through a list of heritage attributes. Heritage attributes are those features of the land, building(s), and/or structures that contribute to the property’s cultural heritage value or interest and must be retained to conserve that value.
Frequently Asked Questions
Heritage property designation serves to:
- Recognize the importance of a property to the community;
- Identify and protect the property’s cultural heritage value;
- Encourage good stewardship and conservation; and,
- Promote knowledge and understanding about the property and the development of the community.
The Act allows municipalities to manage physical changes that will affect, or are likely to affect, the identified heritage attributes of a designated property through the Heritage Permit process. The Act also enables the control of demolition of buildings or structures on designated property. The goal of these management provisions is to protect the designated heritage attributes of the property from:
- Displacement effects (those changes that result in the damage, loss, or removal of valued heritage features); or,
- Disruption effects (those actions that result in detrimental changes to the setting or character of the heritage feature).
Examples of heritage attributes include:
- Building style, massing, scale, or composition;
- Features of a property related to its function or design;
- Features related to a property’s historical associations;
- Materials and craftsmanship; and / or,
- The relationship between a property and its broader setting.
Once a property is designated, these attributes are listed in the “Reasons for Designation” (properties designated between 1975 and 2005) or the “Description of Heritage Attributes” (properties designated after 2005).
View more information on the Heritage Permit process.
Within the City of Hamilton, there are approximately 281 individual properties designated under Part IV of the Act (statistics from 2021).
The City also has 7 Heritage Conservation Districts, which include another 349 properties, designated under Part V of the Act.
A property may be designated under Part IV, Section 29 of the Act if it meets one or more criteria defined by the Province in Ontario Regulation 9/06, which determines whether the property is of cultural heritage value or interest.
The criteria are:
- The property has design value or physical value because it:
- is a rare, unique, representative, or early example of a style, type, expression, material, or construction method;
- displays a high degree of craftsmanship or artistic merit; or,
- demonstrates a high degree of technical or scientific achievement.
- The property has historical value or associative value because it:
- has direct associations with a theme, event, belief, person, activity, organization, or institution that is significant to a community;
- yields, or has the potential to yield, information that contributes to an understanding of a community or culture; or,
- demonstrates or reflects the work or ideas of an architect, artist, builder, designer, or theorist who is significant to a community.
- The property has contextual value because it:
- is important in defining, maintaining, or supporting the character of an area;
- is physically, functionally, visually, or historically linked to its surroundings; or,
- is a landmark.
A Cultural Heritage Assessment report shall be prepared as part of a standard process that assists in determining the cultural heritage value of properties and their prospective merit for designation under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.
The report shall include 9 sections:
- Section 1 - Introduction, comprises an introduction to the report.
- Section 2 - Property Location, briefly describes the physical location, legal description, and dimensions of the property.
- Section 3 - Physiographic Context, contains a description of the physiographic region in which the subject property is located.
- Section 4 - Settlement Context, contains a description of the broad historical development of the settlement in which the subject property is located as well as the development of the subject property itself. A range of secondary sources such as local histories and a variety of historical and topographical maps are used to describe settlement history and the subject property’s key heritage characteristics.
- Section 5 - Property Description, describes the subject property including its heritage characteristics (attributes) providing the base information to be used in Section 6.
- Section 6 - Cultural Heritage Evaluation, comprises a detailed evaluation of the subject property using the three evaluation categories: archaeology; built heritage; and, cultural heritage landscapes. The Cultural Heritage Evaluation shall be completed in accordance with the City of Hamilton’s criteria and the criteria outlined in Ontario Regulation 9/06.
- Section 7 - Cultural Heritage Value: Conclusions and Recommendations, comprises a brief summary of the Cultural Heritage Evaluation and provides a list of those criteria that have been satisfied in determining cultural heritage value. This section shall contain a recommendation as to whether or not the subject property should be designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. If the property is recommended for designation, this section shall also include the accompanying statement of cultural heritage value or interest and list of heritage attributes.
- Section 8 - Bibliography, comprises a list of sources used in the compilation of this report.
- Section 9 - Qualifications, comprises a CV outlining the qualifications of the author of the report.
The published Notice of Intention to Designate (NOID) includes a description of the property and a Statement of Cultural Heritage Value or Interest. The owner, or a third party, then has 30 days after the date of publication to serve a notice of objection to the municipality.
The municipality, on receipt of an objection, must decide whether to withdraw the NOID or to pass a by-law to designate. Objectors then have the opportunity to appeal the designation by-law to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) by serving their objection on the Tribunal and the municipality. The OLT does not hear matters on costs of physical maintenance, repairs, or any proposed work related to the actual condition of the property (or structure), as these are outside the scope of the evaluation of cultural heritage value or interest.
The City offers a variety of incentives to help facilitate the conservation and redevelopment of designated heritage properties, including three targeted heritage funding programs and development charge exemption for the adaptive reuse of heritage properties.
The City’s grant and loan programs are available to assist with the conservation, rehabilitation, and / or restoration of the heritage attributes of properties designated under the Act. Examples of projects that may be eligible for funding include: structural repairs; restoration of original materials; the repair or reconstruction of original elements, such as doors, windows and decorative trim; and, masonry repairs.
Each program has specific terms that guide the type of work that is eligible for funding on a designated property.
These funding programs are available for designated properties:
- Hamilton Community Heritage Fund: an interest-free loan for up to $50,000 and repayable over 10 years for eligible conservation work on designated properties.
- Hamilton Heritage Property Grant Program: a grant program for designated properties located in Community Improvement Project Areas that pays for 25% of total cost of an eligible conservation project up to a maximum of $150,000 or an eligible study of up to $20,000. (e.g. structural assessments, adaptive reuse study).
- Hamilton Heritage Conservation Grant Program: a matching grant program to assist with the on-going conservation of designated heritage properties not covered by the Hamilton Heritage Property Grant Program, covering between $1,000 to $5,000.
Designation requires a property owner to seek approval to make any alterations or changes that may impact the designated heritage attributes or the Reasons for Designation.
Designation requires the property owner to seek the permission of Council to demolish a designated structure.
In the event of change of ownership, the new owner of a designated property must give notice of the change of ownership to the Clerk within 30 days after becoming owner of the property.
Owners of designated properties shall maintain the heritage property and its heritage features in a safe and secure condition.
- Designation does not legally restrict the use of a property.
- Designation does not prohibit alterations or additions. Rather, designation ensures changes are appropriately managed through the Heritage Permit process to ensure the long-term protection of significant cultural heritage resources.
- Although designation is registered on title, it does not restrict the sale of property.
- Designation should not impact your insurance rates or coverage.
- Studies have shown that designation does not negatively impact price and may actually be correlated with increases in property values. (see Report PED20030)
- Designation does not require property owners to open their property to the public.
- Designation is not arbitrary or frivolous. Designation criteria are specific; the principle requirements are that a property possess design/physical, historical/associative and/or contextual value.