Multi-unit housing is coming to Vancouver's single-home neighbourhoods
Council amends zoning, development bylaws to allow up to 6 units — 8 if they're rentals — on single-house lots
City councillors in Vancouver have approved sweeping changes to zoning and development bylaws that will permit multi-unit dwellings in neighbourhoods where only single homes have previously been allowed.
The change to encourage so-called multiplexes, homes with multiple units, is aimed at increasing density in areas of the city with "missing middle" housing, to help solve Vancouver's lack of appropriate, affordable housing while maintaining the character of neighbourhoods.
The changes approved at Vancouver City Hall on Thursday will allow for three to six units on residential lots, depending on their size, at a maximum height of three storeys.
Multiplexes will be allowed to have seven or eight units only if they are purpose-built rentals, allowing for one unit to be occupied by the registered owner of the site.
"Missing middle" housing is generally defined as duplexes to fourplexes, townhomes and low-rise apartment buildings.
"I think that it's overdue for the city," said Coun. Sarah Kirby-Yung during Thursday's deliberations.
"This is about building the vibrancy of family neighbourhoods for the future. Because the reality is the majority of people simply cannot afford the traditional construct of the single-family home."
Just passed! Adding Missing Middle <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/housing?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#housing</a> options to every residential neighbourhood in city. This will help ensure vibrancy of neighbourhoods, more choices for families & more options for attainable, ground oriented homes. See Housing Block Fly Over:<a href="https://t.co/5m57I7XoKM">https://t.co/5m57I7XoKM</a> <a href="https://t.co/Fh5keDLTAv">pic.twitter.com/Fh5keDLTAv</a>—@sarahkirby_yung
Councillors heard from public speakers over the change and also considered more than 500 letters, of which 348 were supportive of the changes.
The approved changes also consolidated nine different low-density residential zones into one to bring uniformity and also smooth the introduction of multiplexes to single-home neighbourhoods.
In order to mitigate possible land speculation over developing multiplexes, the new rules include "density bonus provisions," which require builders to either pay fees to contribute to public amenities and infrastructure; provide one below-market home ownership unit; or secure all units as purpose-built rentals in perpetuity.
New developments of multiplexes will most likely pop up in Vancouver's southwestern neighbourhoods such as Oakridge, Kerrisdale and Point Grey. The new rules don't apply to Shaughnessy because it received a heritage conservation area designation in 2015.
Coun. Christine Boyle said while the initiative is the biggest land-use change in the city in decades, she is worried the number of multiplexes projected to be introduced to these neighbourhoods — around 200 a year — will not be enough.
"With only 200 multiplexes per year projected to stem from this policy — perhaps even fewer if borrowing and building costs continue to rise — this is not the serious response that our housing crisis requires," she said in a statement.
'Stand up for real change'
Peter Waldkirch with Abundant Housing Vancouver says the bylaw, while useful, doesn't "meaningfully address'' the city's housing crisis.
He terms the policy "timid." The city needs thousands of multiplexes annually to restore affordability, he wrote in an emailed statement.
Boyle said the changes approved Thursday should have come 10 years ago. She wants Mayor Ken Sim's ABC slate to eliminate floorspace limits on multiplexes and increase their allowable height.
She passed a motion last term that directed staff to explore allowing four- to six-storey rental housing in every residential neighbourhood in the city. The report on that work is expected this fall.
Abundant Housing Vancouver is also advocating for apartment buildings in single-family home neighbourhoods.
"Until our politicians and planners are willing to stand up for real change and end the ban on apartments in low-density areas, the housing crisis will continue to push out our friends, family, and neighbours,'' Waldkirch wrote.
With files from The Canadian Press