Unlocking Attainable Housing: Understanding Small-Scale, Multi-Unit Housing

In a bid to address the pressing need for affordable housing, particularly for middle-income families, British Columbia has introduced measures to enable the development of small-scale, multi-unit housing. These changes, while significant, aim to create housing options that are both attainable and compatible within established single-family neighborhoods.

What is Small-Scale, Multi-Unit Housing?

Small-scale, multi-unit housing encompasses a variety of building types and housing units designed to cater to middle-income families. Examples include secondary suites in single-family dwellings, detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs) like garden suites or laneway homes, triplexes, townhomes, and house-plexes. These housing forms offer a balance between the scale and affordability of multi-family housing and the familiarity of single-family dwellings.

Enabling Accessible Housing Options

The legislation establishes a framework for the new rules surrounding small-scale, multi-unit housing. However, the specifics of how these changes will be implemented on the ground are outlined in regulation and detailed in a Provincial policy manual. This manual provides guidance on site standards and expectations for development.

Key Changes and Requirements

Local governments are mandated to update their bylaws by June 30, 2024, to accommodate the requirements for small-scale, multi-unit housing. Here are some of the key changes:

  1. Secondary Suites: Secondary suites and/or accessory dwelling units are permitted province-wide in all single-family residential zones, across municipalities and regional district electoral areas.
  2. 3-4 Units in Single-Family Zones: In areas designated for single-family or duplex residential use, three to four units of small-scale, multi-unit housing must be allowed per parcel of land. This requirement applies to areas within urban containment boundaries established by regional growth strategies or official community plans, as well as in municipalities with populations exceeding 5,000.
  3. Minimum Number of Dwelling Units: The minimum number of dwelling units that must be permitted varies based on parcel size:
    • A minimum of 3 housing units on parcels 280 m2 or smaller.
    • A minimum of 4 units on parcels larger than 280 m2.
  4. 6 Units Near Frequent Bus Service: Single-family and duplex residential lots exceeding 280 m2 within municipalities or regional districts with populations over 5,000 must allow for six units of small-scale, multi-unit housing near frequent bus service stops. Frequent transit bus stops are defined by specific service criteria on weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Staying Informed

This page will be regularly updated with additional information, resources, and guidance as they become available. To stay informed about the latest developments, you can subscribe to updates by entering your email address in the “Subscribe” box at the bottom of the page.

In conclusion, the introduction of small-scale, multi-unit housing represents a significant step towards providing more attainable housing options for families across British Columbia. By embracing these changes, we can work towards building more inclusive and sustainable communities for all residents.

For more details, you can view the regulations for the Housing Statutes (Residential Development) Amendment Act and read the Provincial policy manual provided on the Province’s website. Let’s continue to work together towards a brighter future for housing in our province.

Gary Gao, licensed Realtor® with Grand Central Realty, a licensed real estate brokerage in BC. Gary is also the principal of CitiDesign Build Inc., which is not affiliated with Grand Central Realty. CitiDesign and Gary are licensed builders in BC. Contact Gary.

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