Policy Studies

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.

The below is an extract from Small Housing’s Gentle Density Housing Bylaw Guide: A pathway for local governments, a guide that 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. It was developed with support from CHMC.

Key insights:

Zoning bylaws across Canada vary widely in structure and content, reflecting applicable legislation and calibrated to the local conditions of the communities they serve to regulate. This diversity of bylaw formats makes adopting a ‘one-size fits- all’ Gentle Density Housing zone inappropriate in most circumstances.

Rather, as the below charts outline, bylaw changes must reflect local conditions, while allowing more flexibility in the housing options that are permitted in residential neighbourhoods. Some communities will have the resources to do extensive research and background work as part of a detailed approach to zoning reform, and others may choose to take a simpler path in adopting basic zoning parameters that will support gentle density housing.

There is value in learning from the approaches already in use by leading communities, and the table below provides precedent infill zones in select larger municipalities in British Columbia and Alberta.

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
The famous “Painted Ladies of San Francisco", otherwise known as “Postcard Row" or the “Seven Sisters", are a row of colorful Victorian houses located at 710–720 Steiner Street, across from Alamo Square.

Navigate the complex landscape of America’s housing crisis with insights from The Pew Charitable Trusts’ housing policy initiative.

As housing costs soar and millions struggle, Pew sheds light on how regulations and statutes contribute to the shortage and rising prices.

Key insights:

  • Discover how Pew’s research guides policymakers in reimagining housing approaches, creating pathways for more Americans to access affordable and secure housing solutions.
  • Pew analyses outdated financial regulations, focusing on expanding access to small mortgages and ensuring safer non-mortgage financing.
  • From videos, to fact sheets, to policy briefings, this is an excellent resource hub for anyone interested in learning more about policies to address the generational housing crisis we face.

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.