British Columbia's New Legislation Aims to Transform Housing Landscape

Cherry blossom trees line a residential street in Vancouver, on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

In response to the ongoing housing crisis, the British Columbia government is taking a bold step forward with legislation designed to stimulate the development of small-scale and multi-unit homes. This initiative seeks to address the challenges faced by residents in finding affordable housing in their communities.

Key Points of the Legislation:

1. Zoning Bylaw Updates:
The proposed law mandates local governments to revise zoning bylaws, allowing for the construction of multi-unit buildings on lots traditionally designated for single-family detached homes.

2. Density Requirements:
Cities are required to permit a minimum of three units on lots up to 3013 square feet, four units on larger lots, and at least six units on larger lots located near transit stops with frequent service.

3. Applicability:
These changes are set to apply within urban containment boundaries and in municipalities with populations exceeding 5,000.

4. Secondary Suites or Laneway Homes:
The legislation stipulates that at least one secondary suite or laneway home must be allowed on lots zoned for single-family or duplex use throughout British Columbia.

Premier David Eby's Perspective:
Premier David Eby highlights the challenge posed by "outdated zoning rules," emphasizing that the prevalent construction of high-rise condo towers or single-family homes isn't sufficient to meet the housing demand. The legislation aims to encourage the development of small-scale multi-unit homes that seamlessly integrate into existing neighbourhoods.

Implementation Support:
To facilitate the enforcement of these changes, the government is set to release $51 million, along with a policy manual. Local governments are expected to update their bylaws to align with the new zoning requirements by June of next year.

Impact and Projections:
A preliminary analysis suggests that British Columbia could witness the creation of over 130,000 new small-scale homes over the next decade. However, the government acknowledges that unforeseen circumstances and evolving real estate markets may impact these projections.

Community Engagement:
The legislation also mandates official community plans to be updated every five years with public engagement, ensuring a dynamic and community-driven approach to urban planning.

Upcoming Provincial Pilot Project:
This legislative move precedes an upcoming provincial pilot project, set to provide forgivable loans of up to $40,000 for homeowners willing to build secondary suites and rent them out below market rates.

As British Columbia takes a proactive stance toward transforming its housing landscape, these legislative changes aim to pave the way for more inclusive, diverse, and affordable housing options for residents across the province. The government's commitment to supporting these changes financially underscores the importance of this initiative in addressing the pressing housing needs of the community.