Skip to content

Demolish or relocate? Burnaby eyes incentives to move homes slated for the wrecking ball

A Vancouver-based developer wants Burnaby’s single-family homes up for demolition to get a new lease on life.
This single-family home in Burnaby was perfectly suitable for relocation, according to relocation developer Glyn Lewis, but was demolished instead.

A Vancouver-based developer wants Burnaby’s single-family homes up for demolition to get a new lease on life.

The owner and CEO of Renewal Home Development, Glyn Lewis, asked Burnaby city council to create incentives for developers to relocate homes instead of demolishing them, Lewis told city councillors at a meeting on March 13.

His business has a mission to save and repurpose high-value homes slated for demolition in the Pacific Northwest, relocating the homes to ex-urban and First Nations communities.

Lewis said about 2,800 single-family homes are torn down in the region every year, with the average 2,000 square-foot home sending about 100 tonnes of waste material to the landfill.

“There’s an incredible environmental impact associated with all this,” Lewis told council.

There’s also a financial advantage to relocation: relocation costs about half of what it would cost to build new, according to Lewis.

He said a ballpark cost of relocation is about $100 per square foot, depending on the community, but a new build in Powell River, for example, is about $300 to $350 per square foot.

But developers are more concerned about time, Lewis said.

“Developers don’t have enough strong incentives to want to do this (relocation) … The easy and fast thing for them is demolition, which is why our landfills are filling up,” Lewis said, noting 40 per cent of local landfills are made up of construction and demolition waste.

In one recent case, a Burnaby home on 16th Avenue was demolished. Lewis said his company contacted the developer pre-demolition, but the developer didn’t want to risk delaying construction.

He suggested council create an “early green removal permit” which he said would “decouple” the demolition permit from the development or building permit. It would allow the home to be removed and relocated from the lot before the building permit is issued, saving the developer about four to eight weeks time.

Lewis added it’s “very challenging” to identify homes slated for demolition and said making that building permit information public would be helpful.

He said Richmond’s demolition permit application includes a box asking if the person is willing to be contacted by relocation, but he said there also needs to be incentives to check the box. 

About 10,000 single-family homes will be demolished in next five years across region, Lewis said referencing Metro Vancouver data.

“And it’s tragic, while facing a housing crisis, especially in ex-urban communities and First Nations communities.”

Renewal Home Development is also working on a “donation model” in which homes are donated to First Nations communities for a charitable tax receipt, leveraging the value of the building.

Coun. Daniel Tetrault motioned for staff to report back on the potential of Renewal Home’s measures “for the purpose of saving, repurposing and relocating Burnaby homes.”

The motion was carried unanimously.