British Columbia

When it comes to managing space, less isn’t always more.

“Kelowna has lots of lots with just one aging home and empty space that could be used differently – like a swimming pool, restaurant or stadium that is far under capacity, these large lots could accommodate more people than they do now.”

As part of its Infill Housing initiatives, the City of Kelowna produced a number of visual resources to capture how existing single family zonings were leading to significant inefficiencies that were undermining the wellbeing of the broader community.

These resources, available to view on their dedicated homepage to infill development, are a simple but effective example of public engagement materials that can help local planners in their efforts to win support for gentle density housing initiatives.

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

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 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.

Explore the City of Surrey’s innovative policy on Fee-Simple Rowhouses, a pivotal component of their gentle density strategy.

Key insights:

Fee-simple rowhouses stand apart from strata townhouses, offering full ownership of both building and land. This ownership model eliminates strata fees and rules, allowing property changes without strata approval, while individual owners manage their properties.

In 2012, Land Title Act amendments from the Province mandated Party Wall Agreements for fee-simple rowhouses, outlining responsibilities for shared components.

This Small Housing Case Study outlines how, despite initial concerns such as perceived drawbacks from this style of home including shared walls impacting noise and privacy, Surrey’s fee-simple rowhouses have thrived. They have provided an alternative in a transitioning market from detached homes to townhomes, and have been a central catalyst in inspiring similar projects in Surrey neighborhoods.

Key insights:

The Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) is one of 27 regional districts in BC and has been exploring means to further support gentle density infill forms through the reduction of as many barriers as possible to support the development of additional housing units.

The Regional Housing Needs Assessment for the North Okanagan identified that housing affordability and supply across the housing spectrum (non-market to market) is one of the most significant challenges for communities within the region and is predicted to worsen.

This Small Housing Case Study explores how the Regional Housing Strategy identified several actions to help lessen the costs and increase the supply of affordable housing units, including the concept of pre-approved plans for Secondary Dwellings.