Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Rental zoning gives BC municipalities a new tool to support affordable housing

Langley City’s has a significant amount of rental housing in our community. Around 38% of households in Langley City are renters. This is the highest percentage of any community in the South of Fraser, including White Rock where 32% of households are renters according to census data. Rental housing is an important part of the housing continuum.

Housing continuum diagram which also shows BC Housing's annual contribution across the housing spectrum.

In Langley City, policies are in place to ensure that current rental buildings are not converted into strata units, but most of our rental housing stock is nearing its end-of-life. While some purpose-built rental is being built in Langley, communities throughout BC did not have any tools in place to require that new purpose-built rental units are created, or where those rental units should be located.

Metro Vancouver has done extensive research on affordability, and has found that it is ideal to encourage the construction of purpose-built rental housing near high-quality public transit.

As I posted about earlier this year, the provincial government was considering giving municipalities the ability to create rental zones. The provincial government moved forward with this idea, updating legislation to give municipalities the ability to create rental zones.

Representatives from the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing recently presented to the Metro Vancouver Regional District’s Housing Committee on what this new tool allows municipalities to do.

Fundamental, rental zoning will allow communities to ensure that existing areas of rental housing are preserved, and require that some new housing units be rental.

The zoning can only be applied in areas where apartments, townhouses, or rowhouses are allowed. The zoning can also be applied at different scales such as by neighborhood, street, or building. For example, lots abutting a transit corridor such as Fraser Highway could be placed in a rental zone.

The rental zone doesn't need to be all or nothing, municipalities can specify the percentage or number of units in a building that must be rental.

If a municipality chooses to move forward with creating rental zones, the provincial legislation has measures in place to ensure that existing units occupied by the owners, and strata corporation bylaws or housing co-op rules that restrict rental are not impacted.

The new rental zoning enabled by the provincial government gives municipalities in BC a powerful tool to ensure that there is a health supply of rental units in our communities.

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