Case Studies & Stories of Practice

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.

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.

Key insights:

The City of South Bend recognized that the community needed to have more housing, and at the same time, bring neighbourhoods back to life. There were around 400 vacant lots in one of the city’s neighbourhoods (Near Northwest Neighbourhood) alone.

In June, 2022, Mayor James Mueller announced the New Neighborhood Homes Initiative. The main goal of this initiative is to build more homes that South Benders can afford and to ensure well-designed infill housing on vacant land that will increase the marketability of those neighbourhoods. Furthermore, housing market studies also revealed a growing mismatch between the available housing stock of large single-family homes and a shift in demographic trends towards smaller households that prefer walkable neighborhoods.

This Small Housing Case study explores how the City recognized that fostering more diverse housing options could play an important role in meeting those needs and creating a high quality of life for residents.

California’s housing supply shortage is among the worst in the USA. One strategy that has been consistently promoted by housing advocates to address this challenges is to increase the supply of accessory dwelling units (ADUs).

Key insights:

California grapples with one of the most acute housing shortages in the USA. Advocates propose a solution: boosting the supply of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). These standalone residences, either attached or detached from the main dwelling, reside on the same lot. Despite state law granting ADU permission since 1982, cities constrained their development, citing concerns about parking, neighborhood dynamics, and property values.

This Small Housing Case Study explores the work undertaken by the Casita Coalition – a state-wide, multi-sector organization committed to increasing the supply of small-scale, affordable housing options – in their advocacy for a bill to eliminate barriers to ADU development, enabling cities to decide on ADU sales. Passed in fall 2023, the law takes effect in 2024, allowing California cities and counties to “opt in” for ADU sales.

    Key insights:

    Like many other cities in California, Encinitas has been challenged to meet the demand for diverse and affordable housing. Very little undeveloped land remains in the city, so it is difficult for new construction to keep pace with increasing housing needs. Housing prices are high, as are rents. Infill housing, including accessory dwelling units (ADUs), is a crucial element in the City’s plan to boost supply and provide a diverse range of housing types.

    This Small Housing Case study explores how the state and city have responded to the housing crisis by passing new laws and ordinances to encourage the construction of ADUs.

    Key insights:

    The City of North Vancouver is steadily growing, with a population increase between 2016 and 2021 of 10%, and with this comes housing supply challenges.

    In recent years, as part of a broader suite of measures, the City has allowed for secondary suites in single-family and duplex zones and also allows coach houses in virtually all single-family zones. Amidst increasing property values in recent years, so too has the demand for gentle density and one off rezonings grown.

    This Small Housing Case Study explores how the level of resources for managing applications of this scale is an issue that both staff and Council are interested in addressing through a Zoning Bylaw overhaul in 2023. The report details how solutions may involve creating better base zones (to allow for quicker rezonings) or pre-zoning for gentle density.