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Heritage First

The National Trust promotes "Heritage First" policies because they increase market demand for older buildings and create a powerful incentive for the property industry to rehabilitate rather than demolish. How? By giving preference to heritage buildings and districts when leasing short or long-term space be it for offices, conferences or accommodation.

The United States is a “heritage first” leader. In 1976, the federal government enacted the Public Buildings Cooperative Use Act, requiring that its real property agency give preference to historic buildings for space needs. The federal government has since led by example, leveraging downtown economic development and neighbourhood revitalization through their preferential use of historic buildings. A growing number of State governments have enacted similar legislation.

Presently, no level of Canadian government has embraced “heritage first.” Federal leasing standards, for example, do not encourage the sustainable reuse of historic buildings. Worse, they include requirements that are all but impossible for historic buildings to meet resulting in unnecessary new construction. The National Trust believes “heritage first” is a key component of community sustainability.

  • US Federal Government:
    • Section 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires that “Prior to acquiring, constructing, or leasing buildings for purposes of carrying out agency responsibilities, each Federal agency shall use, to the maximum extent feasible, historic properties available to the agency”
    • The Legacy Vision Policy requires the General Services Administration (GSA) – manager of the federal property portfolio – to take a second look at historic buildings that are not performing well and to make every effort to make them financially viable.