Thursday, November 9, 2023

Provincial Changes to Encourage More Housing: Enabling Growth to Pay for Growth, Eliminating Minimum Parking Requirements

An apartment building under construction in Langley City

The provincial government is reforming zoning and how municipalities pay for infrastructure to support development. Last week, the provincial government put forward legislation allowing, by right, people to build 4 units of housing on residential lots in urban areas, increasing to 6 units near frequent transit. In my previous post, you can read about how this may impact Langley City.

Local governments can charge a fee for each new housing unit or commercial/industrial space. It's called a Development Cost Charge. The idea behind these charges is that builders should pay for the local government infrastructure required to support their projects. Local governments can use these fees for sewage, water, drainage, and road infrastructure and for providing and improving parkland. The provincial government is expanding these charges to allow local governments to use them for fire protection, police, and solid waste and recycling facilities. For example, due to redevelopment, Langley City could start collecting a Development Cost Charge to expand our fire hall.

Because these Development Cost Charges have limitations on how they can be used, local governments introduced Community Amenity Contributions. These contributions were a negotiated part of the rezoning process. Because the provincial government is increasing density by right and other legislation introduced yesterday will prescribe density around rapid transit stations, fewer rezonings will happen. The provincial government is also actively encouraging local governments to prezone land to be consistent with Official Community Plans.

For example, Langley City's Official Community Plan allows apartments on 55A Avenue, west of 198th Street. There is land still zoned for single-detached housing in that area. A builder must apply for a rezoning today, which can add processing time. The province doesn't want this to happen. They would rather Langley City already have the land prezoned for apartments.

The province is codifying these Community Amenity Contributions into legalization with the new name Amenity Cost Charges. Local governments can use these charges for a "facility or feature that provides social, cultural, heritage, recreational or environmental benefits to a community." These uses are broad. Like Development Cost Charges, local government can only use Amenity Cost Charges to support infrastructure required due to development or redevelopment. These Amenity Cost Charges are required, meaning no negotiation during rezoning is required.

As I mentioned, the provincial government also introduced legislation to provide a framework for the province to set up transit-oriented development areas and prescribe land use and zoning for these areas that local governments must follow. I could imagine this is to prevent situations like at 22nd Street Station, where there is only single-detached housing around a SkyTrain station. As Langley City already allows the highest density possible, considering the height limitations due to the Langley Regional Airport, this won't impact us except that the province will not allow local governments to set off-street parking space requirements for residential use in those areas. This elimination of parking minimums is something that I support as parking does add a considerable cost to housing (at least $60,000 per spot), and most people within walking distance of SkyTrain will take it. Builders can still include parking spaces, responding to market demand.

The provincial government has been busy reforming land-use and zoning. I can see the goal of these changes is to make it impossible for localized pushback to prevent housing from being built and to lower the cost and time it takes to build housing.


Anonymous said...

With these new changes, will it change the cities plans to the new OCP ? Meaning will they push for more densification on industrial land or is that a separate issue ?

Nathan Pachal said...

This doesn’t impact our industrial lands.

Anonymous said...

The parking would be a huge concern for me and as a condo owner. I would never consider purchasing a condo unit in a building without adequate parking when living in an Urban area. There will also be concern the residents of a building with inadequate parking will be forced to use street parking causing further congestion.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious that this City Council is pushing for densification and not concerned about how it affects the current homeowners in the City of Langley.The Province stepping in to regulate municipal growth and development is also not something I am comfortable with. If you use Willoughby and Clayton Village as an example.People still own and will continue to buy cars. Be it an EV, Hybrid or a gas powered one. These people expect to have adequate parking when they pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a residential property. Not all people will work near a transit zone and will still have to drive to their place of employment. They will need parking. If you agree with the province that 4 Residential Properties can be built on a single Langley Suburban lot. Where will their cars go? It has nothing to do with keeping the cost of home ownership down. I have lived in Yorkson and owned single detached residence. We had parking for our cars. But do you know who didn't? The houses with suites or secondary residences. They parked in the 1 spot provided or weren't given any place to park. These residents would spend countless minutes searching on our block to find a spot. They paid a lot of money to live where they lived and had no adequate parking. Yorkson for many years had no transit options as well. Again. It's obvious your council affiliated members have an agenda. I am all for a greener and more eco friendly city. But look around and don't make the same mistakes as other areas of the Lower Mainland. Thank you.