New legislation aims to create more small-scale and multi-unit housing in B.C.

The province is introducing legislation to add more small-scale, multi-unit housing.  (Christina Jung/CBC - image credit)
The province is introducing legislation to add more small-scale, multi-unit housing. (Christina Jung/CBC - image credit)

B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon has introduced legislation aimed at increasing small-scale, multi-unit housing in the province by forcing municipalities to change zoning rules to make it easier to build town homes, multiplexes and laneway houses.

Generally, the requirements will allow a minimum of one secondary suite or one laneway home in all single-family or duplex residential zones.

Within municipalities of more than 5,000 people, zoning will allow for three to four units in select areas on single-family or duplex lots, depending on lot size.

A minimum of six units will be allowed in select areas zoned for larger single-family or duplex residential located close to transit stops with 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," reads a release from the Ministry of Housing.

New legislation will also will compel municipalities to update community plans and zoning bylaws every five years. A deadline of June 30, 2024, has been set for local governments to bring current bylaws into compliance with the province.

As well, public hearings will be phased out for rezoning applications that fall within official community plans (OCP).

The province estimates the initiatives could create 130,000 new, small-scale multi-unit homes over the next decade.

Kahlon said he doesn't expect province-wide upzoning will create a significant spike in land values, as often happens when more units per property are allowed.

"When you rezone a large area, the land lift is actually very small," he said. "We don't expect a major lift in land values."

To help with implementation, the province previously announced $52 million to support local governments in meeting new density zoning requirements and $10 million to help with the new development approval process.

A statement from Premier David Eby said "outdated zoning rules'' are making it harder for people in B.C. to find a place to live in their own communities.

"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.''

Vancouver and Victoria have already changed zoning bylaws to permit multi-unit dwellings in previously single-family zoned neighbourhoods.