What is Bill 23 and what were the changes to the Ontario Heritage Act?

    On November 28, 2022, the Ontario government passed the More Homes Built Faster Act, 2022 (Bill 23), a bill that proposed extensive changes to various pieces of legislation, including the Ontario Heritage Act which came into effect on January 1, 2023. The most notable changes to the Ontario Heritage Act include:

    • How municipalities can use their Municipal Heritage Register as a tool for heritage conservation, effectively making it a placeholder for individual (Part IV) or district (Part V) designations only and will result in the automatic de-listing of any non-designated properties currently listed on a Register on January 1, 2025.  These properties are prohibited to be re-listed until January 1, 2030 (5-year moratorium). 
    • Additional criteria for new heritage designations and for the identification of heritage conservation districts, through Bill 23 and revisions to O. Reg. 9/06: Criteria for Determining Cultural Heritage Value or Interest. Refer to the FAQ below re: 'What are the criteria for evaluating the heritage value or significance of a property?'
    • Restrictions on a municipal council’s ability to designate a property that is subject to a development application if the property is not listed on the City's Heritage Register before the development application is filed. 

    Refer to the Helpful Links section on this page for more information about Bill 23 and the Ontario Heritage Act

    What is heritage designation and why?

    The Ontario Heritage Act (OHA) provides a framework for the conservation of properties or areas that are valued for their contribution to our understanding and appreciation of the history of a place, an event or people. The OHA allows municipalities to designate individual properties (under Part IV of the OHA) and/or a larger area as a heritage conservation district (under Part V of the OHA) through a municipal by-law. This project contemplates only individual property designations at this time. 

    Purpose and benefits of heritage designation: 

    • Designation is a policy tool that recognizes and protects properties of cultural heritage value to a community and helps guide change. 
    • Designation helps prevent unwarranted demolition or unsympathetic alterations to important heritage elements (e.g. preserving or restoring unique architectural details) through the Heritage Permit process
    • Any form of real property can be identified and protected in a designation by-law, including buildings, structures, open space, and landscape features.
    • Existing buildings, structures and landscapes often define a community’s unique identity and give it character and a sense of place. Heritage tells us who we are, where we have come from and what we have accomplished.
    • Combined with local commemorative, interpretive and educational programs, designation can encourage walking tours, Doors Open Ontario festivals, and cultural tourism initiatives. 

    What is a “listed” (non-designated) property and why are they listed?

    The city has a list of non-designated properties on the Municipal Heritage Register (often referred to as listed properties) that are not regulated by a municipal by-law, but which Council has determined to have potential cultural heritage value. Listing these properties on the Register provides them with interim protection from demolition until they are comprehensively reviewed for designation. There are currently 152 non-designated properties on Waterloo's Heritage Register, while some other municipalities have thousands of listed properties.

    What/where are the properties proposed for heritage designation?

    The list of candidate properties is under review and may be subject to change following the consultant’s evaluation. Details of this evaluation will be presented in a draft report in the coming months. 

    City staff and the Municipal Heritage Committee have preliminarily identified a short-list of 46 properties throughout the city to be prioritized for review. Majority of the properties are commercial or mixed-use (commercial + residential) and located in historic neighbourhoods in and around Uptown Waterloo. 

    Unfortunately, the City of Waterloo does not have the capacity or resources to comprehensively review all 152 listed (non-designated) properties for heritage designation before January 1, 2025 (as mandated by Bill 23). 

    What are the criteria for evaluating the heritage value or significance of a property?

    The criteria for determining the culture heritage value or interest of a property is established by the Provincial Government through Ontario Regulation 9/06 (O. Reg. 9/06), which has now been amended through Ontario Regulation 569/22 (O. Reg 569/22) via Bill 23. 

    A minimum of two (2) criterion must be met for a property to be eligible for heritage designation. The criteria are: 

    1. 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.  
    2. The property has design value or physical value because it displays a high degree of craftsmanship or artistic merit.  
    3. The property has design value or physical value because it demonstrates a high degree of technical or scientific achievement.  
    4. 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.   
    5. The property has historical or associative value because it yields, or has the potential to yield, information that contributes to an understanding of a community or culture.   
    6. The property has historical value or associative value because it demonstrates or reflects the work or ideas of an architect, artist, builder, designer or theorist who is significant to a community.   
    7. The property has contextual value because it is important in defining, maintaining or supporting the character of an area.   
    8. The property has contextual value because it is physically, functionally, visually or historically linked to its surroundings.  
    9. The property has contextual value because it is a landmark.

    Common misconceptions about heritage designation:

    • 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.
    • Several academic studies have shown that heritage designation does not negatively impact property values and may actually be correlated with increases in property values (see Robert Shipley, 2000; Paul Shaker, 2019; and Rebecca Correia et al., 2023).
    • Designation does not require property owners to open their property to the public.
    • Designation is not arbitrary or frivolous. Designation criteria are specific and set by the Province as noted above.

    Source: Heritage designation process. City of Hamilton. (n.d.). https://www.hamilton.ca/build-invest-grow/planning-development/heritage-properties/heritage-designation-process