Unless you live in Vancouver or Victoria, you can't automatically build several homes on your single family lot today. The government of BC's recently announced legislation that "permits up to six dwelling units" on a single family lot is not yet law as of November 7. I'll explain some of the basics of this new legislation, why you need to be just a little more patient if it opens up new opportunities for you, and what you should look for.
Some people own single-family properties or are considering buying as an investment opportunity. The tone of the media articles leads some to think that the new rules are in effect - that the city is forced to allow you to construct a single-family building. This isn't currently the case.
The city's authority is largely spelled out in a provincial act called the Local Government Act, originally enacted in 1998 and overhauled in 2015. Bill No. 44 is a proposal to create an act called Housing Statutes (Residential Development) Amendment Act, 2023 to make changes to the Local Government Act. The most relevant piece of the bill is section 481.3 which introduces "small-scale multi-family housing". Section 481.6 is also important; it basically says that the province will have the authority to determine the specifics of the additional dwelling units.
The bill was presented and explained during its "first reading" on November 1 and now is being debated in its "second reading" by the Legislative Assembly ("the House"). After being debated all day today (November 7, 2023), it's being pushed to tomorrow's sitting. If debate continues, sittings are scheduled for November 9, 20, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28, 29, and 30.
Once the House agrees that they've debated the bill enough, it is sent to the Committee of the Whole House for discussion and potential amendment. The Committee debates it and votes on any changes proposed. Once the Committee's satisfied, the bill goes back to the Legislative Assembly for follow-up discussion and debate ("third reading") before a final vote. If the House passes the bill, it will become law... after Royal Assent by Lieutenant Governor... and after Proclamation which puts a date when it will come into effect.
When will this all happen? If it happens, it will be either before the end of the day on November 30, or you'll have to wait until next year for further developments. But... when the Housing Statutes Amendment Act is eventually passed, you'll be able to building the extra units, right? Sorry, but not likely.
If it is passed, this new act forces the municipal governments (of cities over 5000 residents) to establish by June 30, 2024 new zoning rules to permit the additional dwelling units.
Here's the synopsis:
Presentation and explanation (first reading)
→ debate (second reading)
→ debate and potential revisions (Committee reading)
→ discussion and final vote (third reading)
→ provincial stamp of approval (royal assent)
→ date that it comes into effect (proclamation)
Assuming the bill is passed, does this mean that you have to wait until June of next year before you can do anything? Not necessarily. Any city has the authority to implement new zoning regulations that it develops from scratch or that is bases on Vancouver's and Victoria's new policies. Until the Housing Statutes Amendment Act is passed, those zoning changes will require public hearings.
This clarification isn't actually bad news. It's hopefully just a bit of fresh air to clear any euphoria or temper the excitement that some people might be feeling.
Are you stuck sitting on your hands in the meantime? No, not at all. You could use this valuable time to do more research and to explore your own needs, desired objectives, and assess the available resources. I'm not a lawyer, but I regularly have to investigate provincial and municipal laws to determine the various requirements for projects. The new legislation isn't a foregone conclusion; it's still a proposal albeit one with arguably a great chance of being approved.
My Pre-Design Diagnostic Scan™ was developed to scout out some basic factors in how your project should move forward. My subsequent R.A.D. Study™ further explores your needs once you've established that the project is feasible.
If you're interested in either the R.A.D. Study™ or the Pre-Design Diagnostic Scan™, you can find them from the RESOURCES link at the top of this page. If you'd like to speak with me to learn how best to move forward with your project once the regulations for multifamily homes are in place (or if you happen to live in Vancouver or Victoria), please book a free, 30-minute Diagnostic Session with me using the link below.