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Grants to Restore Heritage Properties

Expert: CO Staff

J. Moczulski asked:

Why are no grants available to small-to-medium-sized businesses in southwestern Ontario that want to take advantage of government loan programs for renovations on heritage properties such as an inn?

CO Staff answered:

Perhaps the reason you had little luck discovering grant programs for SMEs in the area of heritage property restoration is because you limited your search to provincial funding. You are correct that provincial grants for small business owners were cut approximately eight years ago within the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. Yet a few grant programs exist at the municipal level, particularly in cities located in southwestern Ontario such as London and Windsor.

For example, in the City of London, Christine Nelson, Heritage Planner, outlined several programs SMEs can take advantage of:

  1. The Endowment Fund – This grant program was started five years ago to help homeowners whose properties are designated under the Ontario Heritage Act as heritage or historical sites to maintain and restore their buildings. Last year, a total of $22,000 was made available to 21 property owners and two not-for-profits through the fund to assist with roof and window repairs, painting and restoration of outer trim. Applicants received from $500 to a few thousand dollars for renovation purposes.
  2. Upgrade to Building Code Loan – This is a downtown community improvement program designed to upgrade buildings to meet building code standards. Under the program, business owners are given long-term, interest-free loans up to 50 per cent of the cost of the work, up to $50,000 per building. The loan is amortized over 10 years, which means it can be repaid within a ten-year time span.
  3. Faзade Restoration Loan – This loan is given to small businesses to cover up to 50 per cent of work done, up to $25,000. It is an interest-free loan amortized over a maximum of 10 years.
  4. "About Face" Program – The City of London has partnered with downtown businesspeople and has made available in excess of $150,000 so that property owners in the downtown core can restore and maintain historic building faзades – to renovate old buildings.

In the City of Windsor, Heritage Planner Nancy Morand explained that a loan-grant program called the Community Heritage Fund allots a portion of funds to the restoration of heritage features.

The fund was established in 1985 to assist owners of properties under the Ontario Heritage Act in restoring architectural features and to assist in the purchase of designated properties. The City and the Province of Ontario established the fund on a cost-sharing basis, and its use is limited to designated properties. As of summer 2000, the fund had a balance of $639,000, with about $272,000 available for awards. In 2000, the city council of Windsor agreed to contribute $25,000 to the fund.

Morand said the city accepts applications on a yearly basis, which are analyzed by the local architectural conservation advisory committee to determine the portion of funds allotted for a restoration project within the city. Although she said that most applications are from single-family owners, it is open to anyone who owns a building designated as a heritage property under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The City of Stratford is also in the throes of creating a fund to assist business owners in the downtown core, recently protected under s.5 of the Ontario Heritage Act. "We don't have anything yet, but our department should have a draft plan by October 2001 to help businesses offset costs of renovation," said Bernie Webber, Heritage planner with the City of Stratford.

"The big issue is that now that we are telling people they have their building protected under the Heritage Act and what they can and can't do to renovate their building … but we can't tell people that they have to keep an element on their building and not offer them money to buy that item," he said.

Despite the absence of provincial grants to assist business owners, Paul King, an advisor with the Ministry of Tourism said that the 2001 Ontario Budget sets out property tax provisions designed to assist small businesses in this area. King said that by January 2002, a sub-class taxation system at the municipal level will be in place to provide tax incentives for small businesses.

What follows is the relevant portion of the budget text:

"To encourage the restoration and preservation of heritage buildings, the government proposes to give municipalities the ability to provide property tax relief to owners of buildings that are designated under the Ontario Heritage Act as being of architectural or historical value. The government will consult with stakeholders to develop eligibility criteria and a relief mechanism that is equitable for property owners and administratively feasible for municipalities. It is proposed that this relief mechanism would take effect on January 1, 2002, p. 100."
Also noteworthy: on May 2, 2001, the federal government announced it would invest $24 million over the next three years to support the preservation of historic Canadian places, 21 per cent of which have been destroyed because of economic pressures, social and technological changes and lack of public awareness. Although the Department has been reluctant to discuss how it intends to distribute the money, interested individuals can obtain more information on the topic by contacting Louise Guertin at 819-997-7782.

Additional contact information:
Paul King, Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Recreation
Tel: 416-314-7134

Christine Nelson, City of London
Tel: 519-661-4500 ext.5102

Nancy Morand, City of Windsor
Tel: 519-255-6281 ext. 6336

Bernie Webber, City of Stratford
Tel: 519-271-0250 ext. 218

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