New grant program helps preserve and protect heritage and housing in Chinese Society buildings

July 10, 2014 | Arts and Culture

A new grant program supporting critical upgrades to preserve and protect buildings owned by Chinese Family Clan and Benevolent Societies has been approved by Vancouver City Council.

The Chinese Society Buildings Matching Grant Program will provide matching grants for maintenance and upgrades to buildings owned by the societies. Heritage buildings and those with affordable and social housing units will get priority consideration.

“This grant program recognizes the importance of maintaining these buildings as cultural anchors in our city, and shows how we can use new development to support and strengthen local heritage,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson. “The society buildings play a key role in preserving Chinatown’s unique heritage and identity, providing affordable housing, and contributing to the revitalization of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside.”
Two main grant streams
The program has two main grant streams:

  • Buildings located inside Chinatown
  • Buildings outside Chinatown but in the Downtown Eastside

A third stream of funding may be available for buildings in the Downtown Eastside without heritage or housing, subject to available funds and the nature of projects proposed. Grant applicants will be required to cost share 50 per cent of any proposed work.
Budget of $2.5 million
The three-year matching grant program will have a budget of $2.5 million, with $1.2 million of funding from a developer community amenity contribution in Chinatown, and the remaining funds from the City’s capital budget.
Helping buildings in need of major building upgrades
There are 12 society-owned heritage buildings in Chinatown over 100 years old and in need of major building upgrades. The program will help address critical upgrades and retain a consultant. The consultant will update and conduct technical studies, identify funding gaps, and find ways to pursue innovative tools and partnerships for major upgrades to these 12 heritage buildings.
About the Chinese Family Clan and Benevolent Societies
The societies are non-profit organizations established by Chinese immigrants in the early 1900s to provide social support and general welfare services to their members. Today in Vancouver there are approximately 100 Chinese societies, most located in and around Chinatown. More than 50 societies own properties in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside.

The societies remain social hubs for the Chinese-Canadian community, particularly for seniors and youth. They also continue to provide about 600 units of affordable housing, office, and retail space, as well as host cultural activities and traditional festival celebrations.

The continued presence of the societies in Chinatown was a key reason why Chinatown was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2011.