Nestled near the Elders Centre in the Tl’etinqox Community, six cabin-like homes are placed to form a circle to represent the four sacred directions, the cycle of the seasons, the cycle of life and more, and to encourage community gathering.

Tl’etinqox began to develop Elders Cabins in 2019 to honour the intentions, prayers, and needs of their Elders by providing safe and affordable living spaces for them to age in place, at the heart of the community. Elder tenancy applications opened for the cabins in September 2020.

Supporting the evolution of our single-detached neighbourhoods can be daunting, so Small Housing created the Gentle Density Network as a space where local government planners can tackle these collective challenges together.

Through the Gentle Density Webinar library, you can dive deep into the world of gentle density housing with insights from top experts from government, industry, and community sectors.

Explore cutting-edge practices, unpack emerging trends, and stay ahead of the curve with the latest gentle density insights. You can access the full library of webinars here, and can sign up to the Gentle Density Network here so as to stay informed on upcoming events.

This Guide aims to provide local governments with a roadmap for changing their zoning bylaws to allow gentle density housing, based on experiences from jurisdictions leading the way.

Drawing from the experiences of local governments in British Columbia mandated to enable gentle density housing, and sharing the wide range of approaches that could be taken, the Guide provides technical and procedural insight from basic zoning bylaw amendments through to a suite of regulatory changes to make it easier to produce gentle density housing.

Key features:

  • An example work plan for the zoning bylaw update; 
  • Discussion and critical questions to ask around key zoning parameters such as setbacks and parking; 
  • Insight into other bylaws and policies that should also be updated to achieve a cohesive framework; and
  • Example precedent gentle density housing zones from Kelowna, Victoria, Coquitlam, Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver.

Key insights:

Single-family zones – which cover three-quarters of residential areas in many Northern American cities – can produce harmful side effects such as inflated land values, racial and economic segregation, and urban sprawl. In response, many communities are looking at ways to introduce “missing middle” housing into existing single-family neighbourhoods.

One of the most notable reforms in recent years was the Minneapolis 2040 Plan, implemented at the beginning of 2020. Housing policies in the plan made headlines as it meant Minneapolis became the first major city in the US or Canada to abolish single family- zoning, allowing duplexes and triplexes to be built on most residential blocks. The Plan also included several provisions related to denser housing, including eliminating parking requirements and upzoning transit corridors and downtown areas.

This Small Housing Case Study shares key details of the Plan, its impact to date, and what other communities can learn from it.

Key insights:

This guide paper addresses the ownership and operations of gentle density housing in British Columbia. It was created in collaboration with industry experts and includes key recommendations to remove barriers that reduce the viability and uptake of gentle density housing.

The actionable recommendations contained in this guide paper provide specific and clear direction to the responsible parties on how they can support the removal of barriers and enhance the viability of gentle density projects for the homeowner-developer in British Columbia.

Supporting and incentivizing homeowner-developer-led projects is, in the opinion of the roundtable, the most likely model to succeed at implementation at scale, while putting community and affordability first.

Key insights:

By prohibiting single egress designs at scale, the National Building Code limits the feasibility of “missing middle” buildings. The two-egress requirement made sense when the NBC was first developed in the 1940s when wood frame buildings were highly combustible and fire safety features were primitive.

Today, modern firefighting practices, advanced fire alarms, automated sprinklers, fire resistant separations (walls, doors, ceilings) and other innovations have rendered the two-egress model obsolete in low-rise settings. It is now technically possible to create multi-unit wood frame buildings with a single egress that are as – or even more – fire safe than a two egress building of yesteryear.

This case study explores an emerging movement across Canada to change the NBC to allow for single-egress residential buildings. At the forefront of the movement is LGA Architectural Partners and David Hine Engineering, who have submitted an application to the Canadian Commission on Building and Fire Codes to amend the NBC so as to allow single-egress buildings of up to six storeys above grade.

Key insights:

When redevelopment of older Edmonton neighbourhood areas occurred, it was assumed that it would require infrastructure upgrades to meet current standards. However, infrastructure upgrades are costly, and may be a significant barrier to developing infill homes. Furthermore, evidence is proving that density and fire flows are not linearly correlated.

As this Case Study outlines, Edmonton has developed a mechanism to assess the existing fire flows on a site by site basis to determine if additional fire flow infrastructure is actually needed for an infill development. This site by site assessment has proven to be effective in understanding that there is not a requirement for additional, costly infrastructure in many cases, thereby resulting in significant avoided costs.

Key insights:

The City of New Westminster has allowed secondary suites in all single-family residential zones since 1998.

Between 2015-2017 during updates to the city’s OCP, what emerged through demographic and statistical analysis demonstrated a huge gap in ground-oriented multi-family housing in the community; conversations in neighbourhoods has revealed that people were moving away to find ground-oriented, family-friendly housing.

The housing forms that generated the highest level of support were laneway houses, townhouses and rowhouses. While the OCP update was still underway, the City launched Phase One of the Infill Housing Program, which allowed laneway houses and carriage houses in almost all single-family zones.

This Small Housing Case Study explores New Westminster’s Infill Housing Program, the key actors driving it, the lessons learned, and anticipated next steps.

Key insights:

The City of Kelowna is one of Canada’s fastest growing cities. Infill housing has emerged as a significant piece of City’s overall growth strategy and supports many of the housing goals established in the 2040 Official Community Plan.

Historically, zoning has been the biggest barrier to building much needed housing supply. To address this barrier, the City is focusing on expanding permissions, unlocking land for building infill, and streamlining development processes to create more homes more quickly.

Focusing on promoting and encouraging new forms of infill development, City staff hosted the Infill Design Challenge Competition (IDC 1.0) in 2015-16 and Infill Design Challenge Competition 2.0 in 2021. This Small Housing Case Study explores Kelowna’s Infill Housing Program, the key actors driving it, the lessons learned, and anticipated next steps.

Key insights:

In the Town of Gibsons, secondary suites have been permitted in all single-family dwellings since 2008, showcasing a forward-thinking housing policy.

In 2020, the Town of Gibsons expanded these provisions to include duplexes, townhouses, and lock-off suites in apartments. Garden suite regulations, introduced in 2015, are currently under review for potential expansion through community engagement and planning.

This Small Housing Case Study unveils the evolution of Gibsons’ housing policies, spotlighting key decisions, outcomes, and the ongoing planning process.