Thursday, November 2, 2023

Provincial legislation allows a minimum of four units of housing on every lot in Langley City

Yesterday, the provincial Minister of Housing introduced the most significant piece of legislation that will impact local governments and the form of communities in BC since the Community Charter was introduced in 2004.

The Housing Statutes (Residential Development) Amendment Act, 2023 will, among other things, allow up to 4 units of housing on every lot within urban areas of BC. This legislation will double or quadruple the number of housing units allowed in traditional single-detached housing areas. This change is significant because most urban residential land in BC is currently zoned for single-detached housing.

I'm sure there will be much commentary about this change, but I want to dive deeper into what this means for Langley City.

The following is Langley City's currently approved land-use map.

Langley City land-use map. Select the map to enlarge.

The light yellow "Suburban" zone allows for two housing units today (primary unit and secondary suite.) The new provincial legislation and regulations will allow four housing units for lots larger than 280m2. Langley City's minimum lot size is 350m2.

The dark yellow "Urban Residential" zone allows for up to three housing units today. Again, the new provincial legislation and regulations allow four housing units.

Now, this four housing units per lot is the upper limit. The provincial government will introduce regulation later this year, which will dictate the maximum height of buildings, how far they must be set back from lots lines, and how much of a lot can be taken up by buildings. This regulation may reduce the number of units that can be practically built on a lot.

Further, some lots in Langley City are in environmentally sensitive areas, which may further limit the number of units that can be built.

The provincial government will also regulate parking requirements to enable 4-units per lot. I would expect the parking per unit to be less than our current townhouse/rowhouse requirements in Langley City, which has two parking spots per unit.

Langley City is already working on an on-street parking study, which will have recommendations on how to manage on-street parking.

Based on the current density allowed in the remaining areas of Langley City, I don't expect significant changes in the number of housing units that can be built in those areas.

While these changes may cause concern for some folks, I don't foresee large-scale redevelopment within our current Suburban and Urban Residential zones. It will happen slowly over time. Also, given the type of redevelopment we are already seeing in these areas with new construction of sizeable single-detached homes, this four-unit change may result in buildings with less "massing" than we see today when new single-detached houses are built.

Another significant change is that the provincial government will prohibit municipalities like Langley City from holding public hearings for rezoning. Public hearings will be required when a community's Official Community Plan is updated or for rezoning inconsistent with an Official Community Plan.

The provincial government will also require that we update our Official Community Plans every five years, including strengthing requirements around the number of housing units and types of housing units a community needs to meet population growth projections. Given that Langley City recently updated our Official Community Plan, including being realistic about how we can accommodate our growing population, I don't expect much change due to this provincial legislation.

Local governments are created by provincial legislation. We must follow whatever the province tells us to do. While I look forward to seeing the regulations on how local governments like Langley City should implement these changes, on the whole, I think allowing missing middle housing by default is a good thing.

Of course, the provincial and federal governments will still need to provide financial incentives to build this type of housing while ensuring it remains affordable for the average person in BC.


Anonymous said...

Hi there any definition as to what the provincial "housing unit" means. For example does this mean a basement suite, garden suite, laneway home or a "plex" unit such as a triplex/fourplex? Would all these be considered a housing unit?

Nathan Pachal said...

We don’t have the regulations yet, but my understanding is all of the above will count.