Policies and Regulations

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:

In November of 2023, the province of British Columbia released their “Homes for People Plan” that drastically reduced zoning and municipal barriers to the creation of gentle density homes. In summary, new legislation requires all local governments in British Columbia to update their zoning bylaws to allow up to three to four units in all single-family zones and up to six units for properties with frequent bus service.

This resource, developed by the province, is intended to help local governments and their community members understand the legislative changes introduced related to small-scale, multi-unit housing (SSMUH).

Note: The information in this tool kit is for guidance only and is not a substitute for provincial
legislation. It is not legal advice and should not be relied on for that purpose.

Key insights:

This report investigates the potential for infill development in Mississauga to accommodate the region’s population growth projections and ensure that new development does not infringe on the urban greenbelt.

The report outlines:

  • Mississauga could add approximately 174,000 new residential units (at an average unit size of over 1,000 sq.ft.) via low- and medium-density intensification.
  • Through this approach, Mississauga could accommodate 435,000 new residents.
  • This is enough housing to support Mississauga’s growth projects, and to also accommodate approximately 85% of Peel Region’s assigned growththrough to 2041.
  • This housing can be delivered without the consumption of new greenfield land, reducing the need to encroach into the Greenbelt

This report is authored by Graham Haines and Brianna Aird of Toronto Metropolitan University.

Key insights: Explore a comprehensive overview of details and technical resources to support the implementation of Bill 35 – Short-Term Rental Accommodations Act, Bill 44 – Housing Statutes (Residential Development) Amendment Act and Bill 47 – Housing Statutes (Transit-Oriented Areas) Amendment Act that have been provided to local governments by the Provincial Government of BC Housing.

Resources include:

  • Key timelines for local planners
  • What to know about the regulations and policy manuals, including details on Small-Scale Multi-Unit Housing Provincial Policy Manual and Site Standards
  • Summary slides about the regulations and policy manuals

On this useful resource page from the City of San Jose, users can explore a comprehensive resource library to support research and insights into the city’s promotion of ADUs as a means of addressing housing challenges.

Key insights:

  • ADUs are an affordable type of home to construct in California because they do not require paying for land, major new infrastructure, structured parking, or elevators.
  • ADUs can provide a source of income for homeowners.
  • ADUs are built with cost-effective wood frame construction, which is significantly less costly than homes in new multifamily infill buildings.
  • ADUs allow extended families to be near one another while maintaining privacy.
  • ADUs can provide as much living space as many newly-built apartments and condominiums, and they’re suited well for couples, small families, friends, young people, and seniors.
  • ADUs give homeowners the flexibility to share independent living areas with family members and others, allowing seniors to age in place as they require more care.

This webinar from January 2024, hosted by the Congress of New Urbanism, provides a useful overview of some of the key challenges posed by pre-approved designs for gentle density homes, but also detailed the many benefits that these can bring to a community.

Featuring insights from Edward Erfurt, Director of Community Action at Strong Towns, Jennifer Krouse of Liberty House Plans, & Allison Thurmond Quinlan, principal architect and landscape architect with Flintlock LAB (who also presented at the Small Housing Gentle Density Leaders Summit 2024).

As this accompanying CNU article outlines, the panel described the many benefits of pre-approved plans, including:

  • Increasing community familiarity and understanding of missing middle housing types, like small apartment buildings, duplexes, and accessory dwelling units
  • Encouraging higher quality design so that small developers proposing similar projects will have an easier time. If housing is expedited, there is a risk that low-quality design will boost opposition. A collection of context-sensitive building plans offers greater predictability because the architectural review is complete, Krouse says.
  • The programs are designed to reduce regulatory friction in a housing delivery system that many people recognize is overly complex. This helps to level the playing field between small and large developers, the latter of which have developed ways around bureaucratic red tape.

Discover Portland’s vision for equitable growth in its neighborhoods.

Key insights:

By 2035, the city anticipates significant household growth, necessitating a reassessment of housing regulations. Facing a housing shortage amidst rising costs, the proposed changes aim to:

  • Diversify housing options by permitting duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, while introducing size and scale limitations.
  • Promote community inclusivity and addresses evolving housing demands, emphasizing collaborative efforts for positive change.

Dive into the City of Portland’s housing project report to understand how these strategic changes align with the city’s dynamic future.

Explore the comprehensive “Missing Middle Housing Study” in Sacramento, a data-driven citywide effort addressing housing choices, walkable living, and attainable housing needs at all income levels.

Key insights:

The report puts suggested steps need to be taken to help deliver more attainable housing.

  • A critical step is to increase the delivery of housing at all income levels, but in a manner that is sustainable and feasible, and does not adversely impact existing infrastructure capacities (of roads, utilities, etc.) and the quality of life of existing residents.
  • A critical strategy is to streamline and encourage the production of smaller, simpler, less complicated and less expensive housing projects in areas that have existing infrastructure and amenities. Missing Middle Housing can fulfill this requirement, and provide an efficient way to meet this pent up demand.

This vital report informs Sacramento’s long-term planning and housing policies, prioritizing affordability, equity, and access while addressing displacement risks and proposing measures to preserve the unique character of established neighborhoods.

Further to the report, you can stay up to date with all of Sacramento’s Missing Middle Housing developments by checking out their dedicated website.

Aerial shot of Auckland, NZ

The Auckland Unitary Plan is a comprehensive and city-wide rulebook that guides how land can be used and developed in the Auckland region.

The Plan essentially sets the blueprint for the city’s growth and development over the coming years. The plan covers a wide range of topics, including where different types of buildings can be located, what activities can take place in specific areas, and the rules for preserving the environment and heritage. It’s a crucial document for city planning, ensuring that Auckland develops in a coordinated and sustainable way while considering the needs and interests of its residents.

You can read a summary of the report on the Auckland City Council website, or alternatively for the full legislative breakdown, click here.