Heritage Survey from ACO North Waterloo Region

 Our 1950’s splitback in Ward 5, Waterloo.

Our 1950’s splitback in Ward 5, Waterloo.

Below are my responses to ACO’s North Waterloo Region’s questions for municipal candidates, which you can also see on their website, along with other candidates who have responded.


WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE COUNCIL TO PROVIDE YOUR MUNICIPAL HERITAGE COMMITTEE WITH THE SUPPORT AND RESOURCES IT NEEDS TO THESE OLDER DESIGNATION BY-LAWS, WHERE REQUIRED?

Yes. Intensification and development are key issues facing Waterloo as the city continues to grow and innovate in the tech, business, and social sectors. My position overall is that we need to balance this urban growth, with environmentally, socially, and culturally conscious development. In relation to older heritage by-laws, my position means that these older designation by-laws must be reviewed and updated, in consultation with residents, to ensure new developments consider how, as a city, we want to move forward in ways that help us to understand, celebrate, and preserve our history.

WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE COUNCIL TO SUPPORT YOUR MUNICIPAL COUNCIL HERITAGE COMMITTEE’S REQUESTS FOR LISTING NON-DESIGNATED PROPERTIES ON THE MUNICIPAL HERITAGE REGISTER?

Yes. Committees of council are made up of elected representatives, staff, as well as passionate and informed citizens who give their time, attention, and expertise to provide input into our community’s key issues. Council must work closely with these experienced committees, asking relevant questions in order to make informed decisions that will create a community all residents can enjoy and celebrate visually, as well as one in which all residents can live comfortably and safely. The cultural heritage landscapes study, currently in its first phase, is an important opportunity to bring even more voices into this conversation about which properties and landscapes to consider for both designated and non-designated status.

WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE COUNCIL TO ENSURE YOUR MUNICIPALITY HAS A HERITAGE PROPERTY GRANT PROGRAM, OR, IF IT ALREADY HAS ONE TO ENSURE THE GRANT LEVELS ARE ADEQUATE?

I am dedicating my career to working towards getting rid of income inequality. As affordable housing becomes increasingly difficult to find, we risk having a community in which not everyone has a stable, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing place to live. I would encourage that grant levels, including heritage grant programs, allow households to access funds that would ensure homes are plentiful, safe, affordable, and beautiful. In addition, I would push for grants that support sustainable and environmentally conscious practices, as well as purchasing services and goods from local businesses.

WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE COUNCIL TO ENSURE YOUR MUNICIPALITY HAS A HERITAGE PROPERTY TAX REFUND PROGRAM AND THAT FUNDING LEVELS ARE ADEQUATE?

Like my response to the above question, I am dedicating my career to working towards getting rid of income inequality. This means that I want to use our hard earned tax dollars responsibly, making investments into our community and in our individual homes in ways that ensure each member of our city is able to live comfortably, safely, and can thrive. In relation to heritage property tax refunds, or other rebate programs, I want to balance individual household rebates and refunds with creating a socially, culturally, and environmentally responsible community. To do this, I will engage in public consultation with different communities (e.g., heritage, income equality advocates, etc.) about appropriate opportunities for tax refunds.

WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE COUNCIL TO ENSURE YOUR MUNICIPALITY IS USING ALL OF THE TOOLS AT ITS DISPOSAL TO SUPPORT THE CONVERSATION OF OUR BUILT HERITAGE RESOURCES?

Yes. The City of Waterloo is in the process of taking an inventory of cultural heritage landscapes. The City has already begun to invest resources in identifying heritage properties to inform a technical study and ultimate plan for celebrating, conserving, and managing heritage landscapes and properties. Given this commitment and initial investment, it is important that we use all the tools at our disposal to engage in this process efficiently and effectively. We must especially use tools that would allow us to get a broader range of perspectives on heritage by consulting with stakeholders from different communities with varied interests and concerns (e.g., environment and sustainability, affordable housing, LGBTQ+, tourism and local business etc.).

WOULD YOU ENCOURAGE YOUR COUNCIL TO GIVE PRIORITY TO THE CONTINUING USE OR RE-USE OF EXISTING BUILDINGS (IDENTIFIED AS HERITAGE OR NOT) IN THEIR FACILITY AND CAPITAL PLANNING; AND WHERE BUILDINGS ARE DETERMINED TO BE SURPLUS TO NEEDS, USE BEST EFFORTS TO DISPOSE OF THE BUILDING/FACILITY TO OTHER PUBLIC OR PRIVATE SECTOR OWNERS FOR RE-USE OR SENSITIVE REDEVELOPMENT?

Yes. I believe this would be environmentally sound and would also support beautification efforts in our community that will bolster tourism and the local economy. Prioritizing the re-use of existing buildings also provides opportunities to address unmet community needs, including exploring possibilities to re-use existing buildings to create more affordable housing units; use by the arts and culture sector; affordable rental spaces for local business.

WOULD YOU SUPPORT YOUR COUNCIL IN URGING THE PROVINCE TO WORK WITH MUNICIPALITIES TO ENSURE THAT PROPERTY TAXES AND OTHER PROVINCIAL POLICIES ARE NOT CREATING DEMOLITION PRESSURES ON HERITAGE PROPERTIES?

I believe in taxation that supports a strong social safety net. I also believe taxation must be fair, regardless of whether one lives in a heritage home or not. Property taxes must make sense for the current value of our homes and our ability to pay. When necessary, I will advocate to the provincial government over various matters. Advocacy has been a part of my work in the non-profit sector, and as a researcher in this community for more than 10 years.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR EXAMPLES OF HERITAGE ENGAGEMENT THUS FAR, AND IF ELECTED, WHAT ARE THE FIRST FEW LOCAL HERITAGE ISSUES YOU WOULD LIKE TO ADDRESS?

Heritage properties and landscapes contribute to the overall aesthetic of our community, and also provide a context for understanding, celebrating, and learning from our city’s history. As someone who is newer to issues of heritage, I have immersed myself in learning about heritage and culture in this community. One of the ways I have done this is by connecting with advocates in the heritage community, both in my ward and outside of it, by starting an email list which I have used to reach out to ask questions or provide information about current topics relating to heritage.

If election, I will do encourage consultation and involvement with the cultural heritage landscapes study. Ward 5 is an up and coming area in terms of heritage conservation, so this study is timely for our area. In addition, I will advocate for better connections between ward 5 to heritage properties and landscapes.

HAVE YOU HAD ANY EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH/FOR YOUR LOCAL HERITAGE COMMUNITY? IF SO, EXPLAIN.

In addition to the email list I have started and that I mention above, I am also the Chair of the Public Art Advisory Committee, where I am connected with members of the broader arts, culture, and heritage in the Region.

TELL US ABOUT A SUCCESSFUL HERITAGE PROJECT IN YOUR COMMUNITY.

As a researcher, I am particularly excited about the cultural heritage landscapes study because it provides an opportunity to take stock of what is most important in the city and more specifically in ward 5, which has been noted to be an up and coming neighbourhood in terms of heritage. Furthermore, it provides a foundation for better understanding our local heritage, so that we can best understand, preserve, conserve, celebrate, and learn from this community’s history.

WHAT OPPORTUNITIES EXIST TO BETTER SUPPORT HERITAGE IN YOUR LOCAL COMMUNITY? 

As with all matters relating to and about government broadly, and to land and water specifically, we must work better with and alongside Indigenous persons and Nations to better understand this community’s history as we move into the future. This is why I think the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action must be kept front of mind in municipal politics.

Jen VasicComment