Heritage Properties

Heritage Designation Process

The Ontario Heritage Act, in effect since 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.

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).

For more information on the Heritage Permit process, visit www.hamilton.ca/heritagepermits.

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.

To learn more about where designated heritage properties are located across the City of Hamilton’s communities (Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Glanbrook, Hamilton and Stoney Creek), visit www.hamilton.ca/heritageresources

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.

Designation of a property may be initiated at the request of City Council, the Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee, City staff, the owner of the property or a third party (e.g. community member or organization). Designation may also be initiated as the result of a prescribed event under the Planning Act, including an application for an Official Plan Amendment, Zoning By-law Amendment or Plan of Subdivision. 

Request to Designate

A request to designate from a property owner or a third party must be initiated in writing (by letter or email) and submitted to Heritage Planning staff.

This request must include:

  • address of the subject property
  • contact information of the owner or initiating party
  • it is helpful to include research or documentation that could aid in staff’s preliminary assessment and initial processing of the request

There is no fee for a designation request.

On receipt of a designation request, staff will conduct a preliminary evaluation of the property using the criteria outlined in Ontario Regulation 9/06, and prepare a staff report. The staff report is forwarded to the Planning Committee and Council for further direction to staff regarding the priority for further research and evaluation on staff’s work plan for designation, including the preparation of a comprehensive Cultural Heritage Assessment. Properties added to staff’s designation work plan are typically also listed on the City’s Municipal Heritage Register to provide interim protection from demolition (for up to 60 days), as allowed under the Ontario Heritage Act.

For more information on staff’s designation work plan, contact Heritage Planning staff.

Once staff have undertaken research and evaluation, the Cultural Heritage Assessment, a draft designating by-law, and a staff report are reviewed by the Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee (HMHC). These documents are then forwarded, with advice from staff and the HMHC, to the Planning Committee (PC) and Council for consideration and approval. If a property owner objects to a prospective designation, the owner will have the opportunity to delegate publicly at HMHC and/or PC. The owner may wish to bring forward new information to present with their advice on the matter. If Council concurs that the property should be designated, a Notice of Intent to Designate is served on the owner and published in the local newspaper and on the City’s website, as required by the Act.

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. 

More information on each of these financial incentive programs can be found online at: www.investinhamilton.ca.

  • 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.

If you are interested in a heritage plaque for your designated property, please visit: www.hamilton.ca/attractions/culture/plaques-and-markers

  • 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.

This information guide is intended only as an aid to prospective requests for designation under Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act in the City of Hamilton. It has been prepared for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. The City does not warrant or certify the contents and accepts no liability on the part of itself, its elected officials and staff with respect to the provision of this information. In all cases, the provisions of the Ontario Heritage Act apply and applicants should consult a lawyer when required.

Contact us

For more information contact:
Planning Division
Planning and Economic Development Department
City Hall
71 Main Street West, 5th Floor
Hamilton, Ontario, L8P 4Y5
Email: [email protected]