Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

The property at 985 Duchess Ave., West Vancouver, known as the Boyd House, built in 1952 by architect Ron Thom.

Livingspace Homes

A Vancouver developer has tapped into a novel way to save one of the district’s mid-century modern heritage houses, and still make a profit from his investment.

As part of a heritage revitalization agreement (HRA) with the district of West Vancouver, developer Ross Bonetti is using the short-term rental service Airbnb to save the 1952 Ron Thom house – known as the Boyd House, at 985 Duchess Ave., West Vancouver. The plan is to subdivide the property into two lots, build a new house on the lower portion and sell it off, says Mr. Bonetti, who is the long-time owner of Livingspace furniture store and more recently, the president of Livingspace Homes, a residential construction and renovation company. He will then hold onto and rent out the entire Boyd House as an Airbnb rental.

“It’s something that just came up, and was presented to us. We knew it was for sale, and when we looked at the property we thought, ‘wow this is worth saving,’” Mr. Bonetti says. “We ran some numbers and thought we could do this. It’s probably more profitable to tear it down, but we were able to get through [the process] and we were able to save the house. I would say it’s almost 100-per-cent certain it would have been torn down with another buyer.”

Story continues below advertisement

The developer plans to do some updates and fully furnish the Thom house and create a unique experience for guests of the four-bedroom, 1,900-square-foot home. He will rent it on Airbnb for around $500 a night, he says, and will also use it as accommodation for business contacts, such as suppliers from Italy.

In Palm Springs, Calif., the short-term rental of fully furnished mid-century homes decorated in their full populuxe glory is a well-established little industry.

“Not only have we had great success working with the district, but also the community was on board, through the council meetings, to save these houses,” Mr. Bonetti says. “What the district wants is they want it as a nightly rental that they have granted us for this house, because they want people to stay in it and experience it.”

The house has been operating as a short-term rental for the last year, although business has slowed throughout the pandemic. The Boyd House is positioned on a steep lot with Lion’s Gate Bridge views, and because the new house will sit low enough on the property, its view won’t be obstructed. Two years ago, Mr. Bonetti’s company paid $2.6-million for the entire 9,000-square-foot property.

Developer Ross Bonetti plans to subdivide the property into two lots, build a new house on the lower portion and sell it off. He will then hold onto and rent out the entire Boyd House on Airbnb.

Livingspace Homes

He will soon list the newly divided lot on the market. The price tag of $3.8-million includes construction of the architect-designed, three-storey 3,800-square-foot house. Ideally, the buyer will hire his company to build it.

Most municipalities have clamped down on short-term rentals, which remove long-term rental housing from the market and contribute to a low vacancy rate.

Short-term rental is not permitted in West Vancouver, but in order to save the architecturally important houses, the district’s economic development plan makes an exception for houses of historical importance. It’s a way of making the numbers work for developers, because the mid-century homes are usually too small by today’s standards.

Story continues below advertisement

“Even if it’s fixed up and in good shape it’s not as saleable sometimes because you have a smaller market than what you would have if you tore down that Ron Thom house and built a 6,000-square-foot house,” Mr. Bonetti says. “And there’s more profit for a developer if he builds a bigger house. That’s the way most developers look at it.

“And even though our site by code wouldn’t be large enough to subdivide, they worked with us on the square footage to make everything work, because they do want to save these houses. And they are looking for developers like us that have the insight and the passion to work on that.”

West Vancouver doesn't allow short-term rentals but makes exceptions for homes of architectural importance such as this one.

Livingspace Homes

The Boyd House is one of six Ron Thom houses that remain after the demolition of many mid-century houses in West Vancouver. The exact loss of such homes across the region is nearly impossible to estimate, says heritage consultant Don Luxton.

“The erosion has been immense,” he said. “Just looking at heritage inventories is scary.”

Mr. Luxton gives the idea of saving a heritage home by allowing it to be used as a short-term rental a thumbs-up.

“As far as I know, this is a unique solution – and highly supportable.”

Story continues below advertisement

Short-term rental is defined as accommodation rented for less than 30 days. In Vancouver, short-term rental is illegal for an entire home. The rental unit must be part of a principal residence where the host lives.

“We do not have any plans to allow heritage homes that are not principal residences to be operated as short-term rentals,” Kathryn Holm, chief licence inspector, said in an email.

Victoria, which has a lot of heritage houses, does not allow them to be rented short-term. However, the city incentivizes owners to preserve the historic houses by allowing multi-family rental and condo conversions, and subdivisions of properties.

The District of West Vancouver has been “pretty creative” in adopting the heritage revitalization agreements to protect homes, says Jim Bailey, director of planning, land development and permits. Because the house had been placed on the community heritage register in 2012, it qualified for municipal heritage conservation incentives. The HRA is a conservation agreement between property owner and the district to protect the house.

“Council is really supportive of providing those incentives that make sense to protect what is seen as an important asset in the community,” says Jim Bailey, director of planning, land development and permits for the District of West Vancouver. “And this is a really cool house,” he adds, originally built for Bruce and Joan Boyd, who were students of Ron Thom’s.

The provision to allow short-term rental as an incentive for heritage preservation is part of the district’s economic development plan. Otherwise, short-term rental is illegal in West Vancouver, Mr. Bailey says.

Story continues below advertisement

“West Vancouver clearly has an affordability problem, and I think short-term rental does create some challenges for providing a healthy rental stock. So a lot of the issues Vancouver was facing, we have similar concerns that have been expressed.

“We are always mindful of making sure that homes are there for people to live in, and to provide more affordability.”

Understandably, there were also conversations involving the neighbours, concerned about potential noise from a house full of people on vacation. The developer had to enter into an agreement that had many stipulations around the rental property.

“As the director of planning, I have the discretion to act reasonably to safeguard the peace of the surrounding neighbourhood, so if there are parties and whatnot I can basically shut down the rental accommodation,” Mr. Bailey says. “There are a number of rules, not overly onerous, but he agreed to a number of things with regard to the guests and rental accommodation, that they respect the house.”

Council also relaxed a number of zoning bylaw provisions to allow for the new house on the property, which is the biggest economic incentive. The fact that the house is available to the public, either as a vacation rental or for a heritage tour, makes it a community asset.

“You see it in places like Palm Springs, where you can go and rent these cool west coast modern houses, and provide for people to have that experience in these homes,” Mr. Bailey says. “It raises the profile of heritage, and I think it raises the appreciation of it.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for people to experience the house. And hopefully, you engender a broader understanding and appreciation for heritage in the community. It’s a great tool, I think.”

Your house is your most valuable asset. We have a weekly Real Estate newsletter to help you stay on top of news on the housing market, mortgages, the latest closings and more. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies