Vancouver proposes new zoning laws

Much like baggy clothes and country music, zoning laws are having a moment. 

What happened: Vancouver city council is voting on a policy that would allow developers to build up to six units on just over half of land reserved for single-detached housing. If approved, the policy could come into force by January. 

Why it matters: Zoning is one part of solving the housing affordability puzzle (though high interest rates, material costs, and labour shortages persist). Cities hope that lower barriers to multi-unit housing development will increase supply.

  • Vancouver projects that a single home that sells for $2.8 million could be turned into four smaller homes that sell for $1.1 million each.

Yes, but: Some say it’s too little, too late for zoning laws to rescue affordability. “These changes … are far more modest than they may appear,” developer Chris Spoke told The Peak. “And certainly fall far short of what is needed to put a dent in the city's housing crisis.” 

  • Plus, a recent CMHC study notes that density restrictions had the weakest association with lower housing affordability compared to other factors. 

Zoom out: Toronto has led the charge by passing a law allowing multiplexes (up to four units) to be built anywhere in the city. Victoria passed a similar law for six-unit dwellings, and Edmonton is weighing changes to its zoning laws.—QH