B.C. clears path for more townhomes, laneway houses, secondary suites

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The B.C. government is introducing legislation Wednesday that it says fixes “outdated zoning rules” and will deliver more small-scale housing units, like townhomes, triplexes, and laneway homes across the province.

The government says that historical zoning rules in any of B.C.’s communities have led to most new housing being built in the form of condos or single-family homes “that are out of reach for many people.”

It says the gap in zoning has left a shortage of options — the “missing middle” — and zoning barriers and regulations have also slowed down the delivery of much-needed housing developments.

“Anyone looking for a place to live in a community they love knows how hard it is, and outdated zoning rules are making that even harder,” said Premier David Eby.

“Constructing mostly high-rise condo towers or single-family homes means B.C. isn’t building enough small-scale multi-unit homes that fit into existing neighbourhoods and give people more housing options that are within reach. That’s why we’re taking action to fix zoning problems and deliver
more homes for people, faster.”

The forthcoming legislation will permit one secondary suite or one laneway home in all B.C. communities.

For municipalities that have more than 5,000 people, the changes will also require bylaws to allow for three or four units (depending on lot size) on lots currently zoned for single-family or duplexes. It will also require bylaws to allow for six units on large lots that are close to transit stops with what is classified as “frequent service.”

“Municipalities covered by the legislation may permit additional density if desired, but cannot have bylaws that allow for fewer permitted units than the provincial legislation,” the housing ministry said in a statement.

The province says the new changes will also phase out one-off public hearings for rezoning applications for housing projects that are “aligned with official community plans.”

In looking to other jurisdictions with similar zoning and development bylaws, the province says the city of Auckland, New Zealand, made similar changes in 2016 and has since seen the creation of more than 20,000 additional new homes over the following five years.

With files from Martin MacMahon

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