Wednesday, April 5, 2023

With the province allowing up to four units of housing per lot in all neighbourhoods, the devil will be in the details

The provincial government recently signalled that they would require municipalities to allow people to build three or four housing units on lots that municipalities zone for single-detached housing. I support this concept. We must create more housing options for people; single-detached zoned areas are the largest areas of most municipalities, so it opens up more areas of a community for a diversity of housing options.

What the province proposes is similar to Langley City’s new Urban Residental land use, which allows a primary single-detached residence with one attached secondary suite and one detached garden suite/coach home.

Langley City’s Land-Use Map. Select the map to enlarge.

The province’s proposed changes mean that instead of this land use only applying to the areas in solid brighter yellow. It would also apply to the lighter yellow areas of the map, effectively eliminating the Suburban land use in Langley City.

The province had not provided details on how local government should implement allowing up to four units of housing in all zone. Like all new policies, the devil is in the details.

There are a few things I’d like to see the province address to make this proposed land change a win-win without causing negative financial impacts to local governments, neighbourhood character or, ironically, affordable housing.

Local governments can apply Development Permits to regulate a building’s form and character, except for single-detached housing buildings.

Form and character include, as per Langely City’s Advisory Design Panel’s Terms of Reference:

  • Overall design quality, appeal and character
  • Relationship and design of interfaces of buildings and open spaces to each other and neighbouring properties, the public realm (sidewalks and streets, public parks and plazas and natural open spaces) in terms of building location, massing and shadowing of open spaces, and existing and future land uses
  • Building and site design, in terms of architectural features, fa├žade treatments, landscaping, usable open and amenity spaces, parking layout, pedestrian, vehicular and fire-fighting access, loading and solid waste collection
  • Building and open space materials and finishes, in terms of form, quality, quantity, durability, colours and safety
  • Livability and human needs, in terms of building entrances, circulation, quality of views from habitable rooms, user and public safety, privacy, noise and storage
  • Accessibility considerations
  • Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Local governments can control a single-detach residential building’s height, lot coverage, water, sewer, drainage, and parking.

For all building types, including single-detaching housing, local governments can use Development Permits to regulate energy conservation, environmental protection, hazardous conditions, water conservation, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.

The provincial government should make it explicit that with four housing units on a lot, Development Permits to regulate form and character would apply.

Development puts pressure on existing local government services and infrastructure. One way to address this is through Development Cost Charges, which allows “growth to pay for growth.” Unfortunately, these Charges in BC are too prescriptive, so local governments must negotiate additional amenities through the rezoning process.

If rezoning is no longer required to build up to four units of housing in all residential zones in BC, the province must also expand what amenities are eligible to be paid for by Development Cost Charges.

Finally, local governments can use zoning to ensure affordable housing units are built via a housing agreements. Again, the provincial government should explicitly state that local governments can apply housing agreements to secure affordable housing no matter the zone and without requiring rezoning.

With a few clarifications and changes, introducing gentle into traditional single-detached neighbourhoods will be a win-win.


Anonymous said...


S. Ploss said...

While I am in agreement that the province and then local governments need to solve the housing crisis. I hope yourself and the other council members use other developed areas to think long and hard about how they implement new zoning policies. Using Clayton Heights as an example. Using Yorkson as an example. Having the infrastructure in place after development doesn't work. Langley City will need sewer upgrades, Electrical etc. The list is long. You also need to make room in our schools to handle the influx. More people, more cars, more use of water, more garbage collection etc etc. More destruction of Greenspaces. Clayton and Yorkson are wastelands. Langley City, Brookswood and Fernridge are our Green canopy and urban forests. Langley City still doesn't have a tree cutting policy in place on personal residential lots. All I hear is chainsaws. It must be Spring. Finally. I understand that single family lots are the way of the past. I would like to add that people who own those homes are not against affordable housing. And they should be consulted the same as someone who lives in a Condo and Townhome. Just because they own a single family home. Doesn't mean they can afford additional taxes to allow for expansions of services and they also should be compensated if any change affects their property values. I worked hard as you are now to build my life. Saying that a single family home is out of reach for a 25 year old. Isn't the same as a 50 year old who has worked his whole life to be where he is at.

Anonymous said...

I’ve worked hard all my life, I’m 51 and I will never own a home big enough for my family. I currently own a three bedroom townhouse for five people. We do not have enough space nor can I afford to buy anything bigger.