How Zoning Changes Could Transform the BC Real Estate Market?

For many British Columbians, the dream of homeownership feels increasingly out of reach. Soaring prices and limited options have painted a frustrating picture for those looking to enter the market or find more suitable housing. But all hopes are not yet lost The provincial government is set to implement  historic zoning changes, and these amendments have the potential to dramatically transform B.C.'s housing landscape.    
This blog post dives deep into the details of these upcoming changes. We'll explore what exactly is meant by zoning, why the current system is considered outdated, and how these new regulations aim to address the housing crisis. We'll also unpack the potential impacts, both positive and negative, that these changes could bring. 

The new zoning laws aim to address the housing crisis by permitting multi-unit buildings on lots for single-family homes, introducing diverse housing options, and streamlining the planning process.

What Is Zoning and Why Does It Matter?

Have you ever wondered why your neighborhood is filled with single-family homes while another area boasts towering apartment buildings? The answer lies in a concept called zoning. Zoning regulations are like invisible lines drawn across a city or town, dictating what kind of buildings can be constructed in specific areas.

Zoning 101: Carving Up the City

Imagine a city as a giant puzzle. Zoning regulations act like the instructions, dividing the city into zones, each with its own set of rules. These zones determine what types of structures can be built (residential, commercial, industrial) and how those structures can be used.

Here's a breakdown of some common zoning types:

  • Residential zones: These zones are designated for housing, with different categories allowing for single-family homes, duplexes, townhouses, or apartments.
  • Commercial zones: These zones cater to businesses, allowing for the construction of shops, restaurants, offices, and other commercial establishments.
  • Industrial zones: These zones are designated for factories, warehouses, and other industrial uses.

The Impact of Zoning: Beyond Building Types

Zoning regulations don't just dictate building types; they also influence factors like:

  • Building size and density: Zoning regulations often specify the maximum height and footprint of buildings allowed in a zone, impacting building density (number of units per area).
  • Setbacks: These are the minimum distances buildings must be set back from property lines, affecting factors like privacy and light access.
  • Parking requirements: Zoning regulations often dictate the amount of parking that must be provided for new developments.

BC Zoning Background 

Finding affordable housing in British Columbia can feel like searching for a unicorn. Zoning regulations, which dictate what kind of housing can be built in an area, are a major contributor to this challenge. Traditionally, single-family homes have been heavily favored, limiting options for townhouses, duplexes, and apartments.   
This has led to some big problems:

  • Affordability Crisis: Many British Columbians, especially young families, seniors, and first-time buyers, are struggling to find a place they can afford to live. 
  • Limited Housing Choices: Single-family homes dominate many neighborhoods, leaving little variety for those seeking different housing options.
  • Outdated Rules:  Zoning restrictions simply haven't kept pace with the growing demand for housing in the province.

But change is on the horizon! The Province of British Columbia is introducing historic new zoning legislation that could reshape the housing landscape.

Breakdown of the Zoning Amendments

The new legislation focuses on increasing density and creating more diverse housing options. Here are the key aspects:

More Units on Existing Lots

Municipalities with over 5,000 people will be required to allow for 3-4 units on lots currently zoned for single-family homes or duplexes, with the possibility of up to 6 units on larger lots near frequent transit. This opens the door for the construction of townhomes, triplexes, and potentially even low-rise apartment buildings.

Secondary Suites & Laneway Homes Get a Boost

The legislation also streamlines the process for building secondary suites and laneway houses, creating additional rental options within existing properties.   
These changes aim to address the critical shortage of "missing middle" housing – options that fall between single-family homes and high-rise condos. 

Potential Benefits: More Options, More Affordability?

Experts and developers see a bright side to these reforms. Bill Laidler, a local developer, highlights the potential for young families: "This will provide a significant opportunity for residents in our community to access homes with backyards and more bedrooms, offering them a stepping stone between condos and single-family homes"    
According to peliminary estimates these changes will probably cause over 130,000 new small-scale, multi-unit properties in the province over the coming decade. This significant increase in housing supply has the potential to make housing more affordable for a wider range of residents. 

Potential Drawbacks and Navigating Challenges

However, not everyone is singing praises just yet. Some critics have raised concerns about the implementation of these changes:

Infrastructure Strain

Karin Kirkpatrick, BC's housing critic, expressed concerns that "densification without proper infrastructure upgrades in areas lacking transit could be problematic". Increased density could put a strain on existing electrical, sewer, and other essential services.

Uncertain Impact on Character and Ownership

Questions remain about the size and design of the new buildings, and whether they will be geared towards rentals or ownership. Additionally, there are concerns about how these changes might impact the character of existing neighborhoods. 

Municipal Capacity

The rapid pace of implementation may also place a burden on municipalities' ability to keep pace with the growth in population and ensure adequate service levels.

The Road Ahead: A Hopeful Transformation

The new zoning changes in British Columbia have a tight deadline, with municipalities required to update their bylaws by June 30, 2024. If they fail to meet this deadline, the province will step in and directly implement the changes. This puts pressure on municipalities to adapt quickly, but it also presents an opportunity to create a more inclusive and diverse housing landscape.   
The success of these historic reforms will depend on how municipalities choose to apply them. While some challenges lie ahead, these changes have the potential to transform single-family neighborhoods and dramatically increase the supply of affordable housing options. With careful navigation by both provincial and municipal governments, British Columbia could be on the cusp of a housing revolution.

Final Words 

The historic zoning changes sweeping British Columbia have the potential to be a game-changer for the province's real estate market and nordel homes. With the promise of increased housing supply, more diverse options, and a potential path towards greater affordability, these reforms offer a glimmer of hope for many residents struggling to find a place to call home. However, one thing is for sure, the journey will be a challenging one. Careful planning, infrastructure upgrades, and collaboration between municipalities and the provincial government will be crucial to ensuring a smooth transition.    
Whether these changes will truly revolutionize BC's housing market remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: the next few years will be a period of significant transformation, with the potential to make housing more accessible and create a more vibrant and inclusive housing landscape for British Columbians.  


1.  Will zoning changes make housing more affordable?

There's a good chance! The increased housing supply due to more multi-unit dwellings could lead to lower housing prices, especially for entry-level and middle-income buyers. However, the exact impact on affordability will depend on various factors like construction costs and rental vacancy rates.

2.  What kind of housing will be built under the new zoning rules?

Expect to see more townhomes, triplexes, and potentially low-rise apartment buildings. These options will fill the gap between single-family homes and high-rise condos, providing more diverse housing choices.

3.  Will these changes affect the value of single-family homes?

The impact on single-family home values is uncertain. Increased density could lead to concerns about noise and traffic, potentially affecting some neighborhoods. However, improved access to amenities and a more vibrant community atmosphere could also be seen as positives, impacting values in other areas.

4.  How quickly will we see the effects of these zoning changes?

The timeline is tight. Municipalities have until June 2024 to update their bylaws. However, the actual construction of new housing units will take time, so the most significant impact on the market might take a few years to fully materialize.    

2024/04/02 | 2 Months Ago