Changes coming to heritage registers across Ontario

5 minute read
13 November 2023

Major changes to heritage registers across the Province of Ontario are coming in the next 14 months, with significant implications for any properties listed on those registers.

Amendments to the Ontario Heritage Act as a result of Bill 23, the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022, will change the way that municipalities across the province approach listing properties on their heritage registers, and whether properties remain on the registers or are designated under Part IV of the Act.

How heritage registers across Ontario are changing

Under the Act, municipalities are empowered to add properties of cultural heritage value or interest to their heritage registers.

Listing on the register is one step short of designation under the Act, but is still a constraint on the rights of property owners. The municipality is not required to consult with the owner before listing the property on the register, and once the property is listed, the owner must give the municipality 60 days' notice before demolishing the property. This allows the municipality enough time to determine if it wants to fully designate the property under Part IV of the Act.

Municipalities across the province often maintain vast heritage registers, listing far more properties than those that are actually designated. A few examples: The City of Ottawa has the largest heritage register in Ontario, with more than 4,600 properties listed. Toronto lists nearly 4,000; London's register has almost 2,000 properties; Hamilton lists more than 1,400 and Guelph lists more than 700.

However, amendments to the Ontario Heritage Act implemented by Bill 23 are likely to both significantly shrink the size of these registers over the next two years, and to prompt municipalities to begin designating more properties under Part IV of the Act. The key changes include the following:

  1. If a property was listed on the heritage register before January 1, 2023, Council must, before January 1, 2025, either: (a) issue a notice of intention to designate the property; or (b) remove the property from the register.
  2. If a property was listed on the heritage register after January 1, 2023, Council must, within two years of the listing date, either: (a) issue a notice of intention to designate the property; or (b) remove the property from the register.
  3. If a non-designated property is removed from the register because it has not been designated before the applicable deadline, it cannot be re-listed for five years.

To see if and when your property has been listed, check with your local municipality. Municipalities are required to maintain a publicly accessible heritage register on their website.

New requirements for properties listed on heritage registers

New listings of properties on the register must now satisfy certain requirements that were previously recommended by the Ministry, but seldom fulfilled. These are:

  1. A statement explaining why the Council of the municipality believes the property to be of cultural heritage value or interest.
  2. A description of the property that is sufficient to readily ascertain the property.
  3. A statement that if the owner of the property objects to the property being included in the register, the owner may object to the property's inclusion by serving on the clerk of the municipality a notice of objection setting out the reasons for the objection and all the relevant facts.
  4. An explanation of the restriction concerning the demolition or removal, or the permitting of the demolition or removal, of a building or structure on the property.

While the amendments to the Act may be welcomed by owners of register-listed properties, they will likely prompt a flurry of Part IV designations by municipalities, particularly over the next 14 months.

Designation under Part IV of the Act significantly constrains the rights of a property owner, preventing them from altering or demolishing the property without the municipality's consent. A designation under Part IV of the Act can be appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal, but only if the property owner complies with the deadlines for objection and appeal set out in the Act.

If you wish to discuss how the Ontario Heritage Act might impact your property rights or development, please don't hesitate to contact our team at Gowling WLG.

NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. Gowling WLG professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.

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