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Unlocking housing potential: New West preparing for B.C.’s new zoning rules

B.C.’s new legislation to pave the way for small-scale, multi-unit homes in New Westminster
The province of BC is introducing legislation aimed at creating more housing across British Columbia.

New Westminster is awaiting further details from the province about new legislation aimed at creating more housing across the province.

On Wednesday, the provincial government announced it is introducing new housing legislation to deliver more small-scale, multi-unit housing for people, including townhomes, triplexes and laneway homes, and fix “outdated” zoning rules to help build more homes faster.

"Anyone looking for a place to live in a community they love knows how hard it is — and outdated zoning rules are making that even harder," Premier David Eby said in a news release. "Constructing mostly highrise condo towers or single-family homes means B.C. isn't building enough small-scale multi-unit homes that fit into existing neighbourhoods and give people more housing options that are within reach. That's why we're taking action to fix zoning problems and deliver more homes for people, faster."

According to the province, in most areas within municipalities of more than 5,000 people, these changes will also require bylaws to allow for: three to four units permitted on lots currently zoned for single-family or duplex use, depending on lot size; and six units permitted on larger lots currently zoned for single-family or duplex use and close to transit stops with frequent service. Municipalities covered by the legislation may permit additional density if desired, but cannot have bylaws that allow for fewer permitted units than the provincial legislation.

Jackie Teed, the city’s director of climate action, planning and development, said her department will be the main city department responsible for responding to the new legislation, as it’s responsible for housing and land-use policy, and development approvals. She expects this will be a component of upcoming budgeting discussions with city council.

“The province has been signalling to municipalities for some time that new legislation is coming to facilitate creating more housing faster,” Teed said in a statement to The Record. “The city has been considering potential implications to our work plans and resource levels, and continues to do so in anticipation of learning more details from the province about the new legislation.”

The Record had reached out to the city for comment about what the new legislation means for New Westminster in terms of creation of additional housing, projection on the number of homes this could potentially created in New West and whether it applies to all neighbourhoods, including the Queen’s Park heritage conservation area. More to come.

In a news release, the province stated that historical zoning rules in many B.C. communities have led most new housing to be built mostly in the form of condos, or single-family homes that are out of reach for many people, leaving a shortage of options for the types of housing in between. The province said zoning barriers and layers of regulations have also slowed down the delivery of housing, making people go through long, complicated processes to build much-needed housing in communities.

According to the province, the proposed legislation and forthcoming regulations will permit one secondary suite or one laneway home (accessory dwelling unit) in all communities throughout B.C.

The legislation aims to speed up local housing development approvals, by shifting local planning and zoning processes to happen up front. It will require municipalities throughout B.C. to expedite and streamline permitting by updating community plans and zoning bylaws on a regular basis, to ensure they have enough housing to meet the needs of both their current and future residents.

New proposed changes will also phase out one-off public hearings for rezonings for housing projects that are consistent and aligned with the official community plans.

According to the province, preliminary analysis indicates the province could see more than 130,000 new small-scale multi-unit homes in B.C. during the next 10 years.

“Other jurisdictions have had great success using similar policies to deliver more small-scale multi-unit homes faster,” said the news release. “Auckland, New Zealand made similar changes in 2016. Research has shown these actions have led to the creation of more than 20,000 additional new homes over five years.”

To support implementation, the province said it will continue to provide local governments with resources to speed up approval processes.

In the coming weeks, the province intends to announce additional legislation to support delivery of housing, support transit-oriented development, and help communities provide much-needed infrastructure, amenities and more certainty for projects will be introduced.