Infrastructure & Servicing

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.

Discover organizations from across Canada, and the rest of the world, who are contributing towards the gentle density movement and the delivery of homes that people want, need & deserve.

Name: Smallworks

About: For the last 16 years, Smallworks has been the heart of laneway housing in North America and we have operated with a simple mission, to empower homeowners to create housing solutions that work for them.

The organisation strongly believe in this form of housing; infill housing provides gentle density, while preserving the neighbourhoods we’ve come to know and love.

Having built nearly 400 homes, they take pride in being able to use experience to accurately project both cost and timeline, ensuring that their homes are built on time, on budget, and with no surprises.

For more information: Head to their dedicated website.

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.

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.

Key insights:

The fast-growing District of Squamish (22% increase since 2016) has allowed duplexes in a large portion of the community for many years now. Starting in 2015, the District began to change single family zoning to allow for accessory dwelling units and secondary suites.

As this Small Housing Case Study details, recent years has seen the District of Squamish’s gentle density approaches has expanded into triplexes and cottage clusters, while past and current neighbourhood planning process are expanding missing middle housing options in established areas through infill. Looking forward, the District will consider additional opportunities for increased housing diversity and infill housing, potentially across broader areas through density bonus structures.

Key insights:

The City of Burnaby is steadily growing, with a population increase between 2016 and 2021 of 7%. The City allows for in-law suites and secondary suites in single family dwellings, secondary suites in duplexes, and laneway homes. Demand for secondary suites has been quite strong in Burnaby due to the strong family ties within resident families and other housing factors.

This demand resulted in up to 5,000 unauthorized secondary suites being created to 2014.

As this Small Housing Case Study details, a policy to support authorized secondary suites was adopted in 2014 in order to start keeping track of the units and ensure compliant construction for safety. Now there are close to 1,800 permitted suites and an estimated additional 4,000+ suites unpermitted as tracked by the declaration form.

More recently the City has introduced a program called Housing Choices, to explore and encourage housing options in the city to bridge the gap between single family homes and apartments/condos.

Older central Montreal neighborhoods, developed in the early 20th century, are among Canada’s densest urban areas. This is achieved through the iconic Montreal “plex” design, stacking two or three apartments on narrow lots without sacrificing livability or relying on high-rise buildings.

Key insights:

The older neighbourhoods in central Montreal – developed in the first half of the 20th century – comprise some of the densest urban areas in Canada, something that is achieved without sacrificing livability or frequent recourse to high-rise buildings.

As this Small Housing Case Study outlines, the key to this puzzling success is the iconic Montreal “plex”, i.e., the stacking of two (“duplex”) or three (“triplex”) apartments on narrow (20-25 feet) lots with each apartment having its own front and back door and civic address.

This convivial solution that nicely combines density, livability, affordability, and conservation, iconic to Montreal, flourished in the first half of the 20th century but then fell victim to changing building regulations in the post-war period. A demand for this traditional housing solution eventually led to a relaxation of building regulations and return of the plex as an acceptable housing solution.

This Small Housing Guidance Paper examines the viability of redeveloping houses in single family neighbourhoods with more homes on the same property, presenting recommendations that will assist various actors involved in setting financial and cost recovery policies as it relates to new gentle density development.

Key policy considerations explored include:

Enabling Tenure Options (Rental & Ownership)

Allowing individual ownership, or strata-titling, for each home on a lot will encourage more new units to
be constructed versus requiring that a property have a single owner (i.e. the owner rents out the additional units, or all residents share a single mortgage).

Leveling the cost playing field and reducing risk

Constructing multi-unit buildings is more complex and costly than single family homes; by offering standardized designs and simplifying approval processes it is possible to reduce the uncertainty and costs involved.

Building in affordability

Given the small number of units involved in these projects, it is administratively simpler and more financially viable to take any affordability requirements or financial contribution (if required) and combine them for affordable housing on a larger site.

For the comprehensive suite of Small Housing Guidance Papers, check them out in the Toolbox Resource Library. Simply search for “Guidance Paper”.

This Small Housing Guidance Paper presents recommendations that will assist various actors involved in planning for and financing growth related infrastructure, especially as it relates to new gentle density development.

With Provincial policy set to increase development potential as-of-right in many residential areas, Small Housing – with support from consulting firms Urban Systems and ECONorthwest – convened a roundtable discussion to explore the relationship between gentle density housing types and local infrastructure.

This Guidance Paper presents recommendations that will assist various actors involved in planning for and financing growth related infrastructure, especially as it relates to new gentle density development. It provides background information and identifies challenges and recommendations in seven key areas:

  1. Development finance tools
  2. Local government capacity and understanding
  3. Other order of government funding
  4. Water and fire protection
  5. Sewer system capacity
  6. Stormwater management, and
  7. Electrification

Key insights:

  • The Province may consider a phased implementation of the Homes for People legislation. The first phase may be applied to areas of the community that have known infrastructure sufficiency, access to transit, and are not located in sensitive or hillside areas, until infrastructure impacts are better understood and regulations can be put in place.
  • Local governments have expressed a desire to “speak a common language” when it comes to implementing the new legislation. It is recommended that the Province provide guidance for infrastructure and development planning with consistent definitions for communities throughout; including land use definitions, development standards, road standards, etc.
  • Throughout the roundtable discussion, it became clear that additional planning and consultation needs to occur between government and other sectors who will be involved in implementing Homes for People.

This Metro Vancouver study investigates the cost of providing infrastructure and services to neighbourhoods with varying residential densities, with the goal of informing municipal planning and regional growth policies for Metro Vancouver.

Key insights:

  • The study emphasizes a complex relationship between residential densities and infrastructure costs influenced by factors like infrastructure age, existing capacity, and the physical landscape of the serviced area.
  • Evidence presented suggests that infrastructure and servicing costs per capita and per unit are significantly higher for houses compared to apartment developments.
  • Increasing density is identified as a potential contributor to lowering housing development and municipal operating costs over time.
  • The study includes a literature review on municipal infrastructure and associated costs.
  • Cost calculations are provided for various factors, including development cost charges, municipal operating costs, property taxes/utility fees, and infrastructure servicing, categorized by housing type.