October 3, 2023


Taste the Home & Environment

Widow’s fight to resell burial room underscores Metro Vancouver’s true estate crunch

A small more than 25 many years in the past, John Douglas Carnahan acquired the rights to two burial plots in the northeast corner of a hilly cemetery in a dense place of Burnaby, B.C. 

Again then, they value $750 just about every. 

As a long time handed and space grew scarce, the price tag of a one plot in the identical cemetery surged to far more than $10,000. 

Immediately after Carnahan’s loss of life at 91, his widow determined not to use the plots. Her struggle for the right to provide the plots privately to any buyer at industry worth has now spilled in excess of into B.C. Supreme Courtroom in a situation experts say once more proves the region’s serious estate crunch is also squeezing its graveyards.

“We are working out of space, notably in the Reduced Mainland,” stated architect Bill Pechet, who’s worked in cemetery design and style for roughly 30 years.

“Just like we have a housing disaster for the residing, we are also encountering a housing disaster for all those who want to be buried.”

Cemetery blocking resale, widow says

Carnahan bought both of those plots at Pacific Heritage Cemetery in March 1998. At the time, there was a clause in the purchase agreement saying cemetery administrators “may possibly” buy back owner’s plots at the authentic invest in price tag.

Carnahan’s widow, Sheila Carnahan, contacted the cemetery after her husband’s dying in 2021 to ask how she could go about privately providing the plots she no for a longer time wanted to a 3rd-social gathering customer.

Her claim said staff advised her in an e-mail last Oct that, in accordance to its bylaws, she could only offer her plots back again to the cemetery for the primary order selling price of $750 each.

Burial plots in section G of the Pacific Heritage Cemetery in Burnaby, B.C., pictured on March 20. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Sheila Carnahan has argued the cemetery “misinterpreted” its possess bylaws simply because the clause claimed cemetery directors “may possibly purchase” plots back — not “have to order.”

“The claimants say that the place taken by the [cemetery], whilst invalid in law, proficiently helps prevent a sale to 3rd events due to the fact the [cemetery] controls the ownership history and the operation of the cemetery, which include the preparing of the grave for use,” the lawsuit explained.

“The [cemetery] could efficiently avert the new proprietor from working with the plot.”

The cemetery has not responded to her declare in courtroom.

In B.C., legal rights to interment offered in perpetuity

In B.C., buying a plot is just acquiring the right to interment, meaning a buyer is paying for the ideal to be buried in the room but not paying for the land by itself. All those legal rights are sold in perpetuity, so buyers can keep plots for on the other hand long they choose — except a plot has been empty for far more than 50 many years and the rightsholder is a lot more than 90 many years previous, in which scenario a cemetery can start the intricate process of implementing to get the room back again.

Every single cemetery sets its very own regulations all around resales. Some bylaws enable private profits, others don’t. 

Most cemeteries in Metro Vancouver are total or almost whole. As the worth of real estate has skyrocketed more than the final ten years, so has the price of that scarce burial space — particularly in city spots. Personal plots in Metro Vancouver have been mentioned on Craigslist or Kijiji for anyplace from $5,000 to $50,000.

Resales are popular more than enough to warrant warning from Customer Protection B.C., urging buyers to verify on the net adverts very carefully to assure whether cemeteries honour non-public profits. 

Restricted room, weak planning part of the problem

You can find a scarcity of standard cemetery space in B.C. for the exact same explanation there’s a shortage of space for new homes — builders have nowhere else to go.

“The housing disaster that we’re encountering is a final result of our incapability to extend horizontally since we encounter the mountains on 1 aspect and the ocean on the other,” mentioned Pechet.

“We have a land shortage for housing, and cemetery areas are a type of housing.”

City planning was also an issue.

“For some cause, the Metro Vancouver region appears to be to have drastically considerably less cemetery area through some preparing than most other municipalities,” claimed Glen Hodges, who manages Mountain Perspective Cemetery, the only graveyard in Vancouver.

“It can be some magical secret as to why.”

Some European international locations, like Switzerland, Sweden, Italy, France and Germany, restrict cemetery leases to wherever between 3 and 30 many years to cost-free up additional plots.

In Spain and the United Kingdom, bones can be moved soon after a particular time period so the plot can be recycled to be marketed all over again. The City of London Cemetery, for instance, reuses graves left untouched soon after 75 many years.

In 2019, the City of Vancouver handed a series of bylaws to help you save space at its only cemetery. Gravesites at Mountain Watch Cemetery are now allowed to be shared by multiple households, and the cemetery can decide when supplemental remains can be included to an current area.

Pechet mentioned B.C. might have to take into consideration vertical cemeteries, like individuals in Japan, or discover a way to tactfully incorporate gravesites into existing community parks. Recycling could also be an selection. 

“I imagine it will inevitably have to lead to a good deal of invention,” he mentioned.