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Vancouver Policy Changes to Impact New Housing Developments

By Christina Newberry2016-07-18

Vancouver City Council last week approved a new housing mix policy for rezoning projects and the Zero Emissions Building Plan, both of which will usher in changes to new housing development in the city.

New Housing Mix Policy for Rezoning Projects

The housing mix policy increases the required minimum supply of family units to be included in all new strata and rental buildings created through rezoning. Previous policy typically targeted a minimum of 25 per cent two- and three-bedroom units in new strata and rental buildings. The new policy, approved July 13, requires a minimum 35 per cent family units (25% two-bedroom and 10% three-bedroom units or larger) in residential strata projects, and stipulates a minimum target of 35 per cent two- and three-bedroom family units in secured market rental buildings.

“Vancouver is growing and we need more housing built for families – historically the city didn't ensure enough was built to meet demand,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson in advance of the council meeting at which the policy was approved. “This important policy will help make our neighbourhoods more family friendly and vibrant, and ensure that as Vancouver grows, families can find housing options that work for them.”

City staff’s presentation to council noted that 8,000 families in Vancouver were living in studio and one-bedroom homes in 2011, and that since 1991, only five per cent of net additional housing has had three bedrooms.

The new policy applies to all new rezoning projects, but the director of planning may relax the requirements in certain exceptional cases. 

Zero Emissions Building Plan

Council also approved a phased approach to reduce carbon emission from newly permitted buildings by 70 per cent by 2020, 90 per cent by 2025 and 100 per cent by 2030.

The plan mandates all new buildings to be built to a zero-emission standard like the Passive House standard or to connect to a neighbourhood energy utility to increase renewable energy supply.

Council also approved building all new city facilities to a zero-emissions standard and developing tools to support the public sector to do the same.

City staff will work with community and industry stakeholders to create a Zero Emissions Building Centre of Excellence to allow builders, developers, designers and homeowners to share information and lessons learned.

The plan, which city manager Sadhu Johnston called “ambitious yet achievable,” is the first major policy change following the city’s adoption of the Renewable City Strategy in November 2015. The strategy commits the city to derive 100 per cent of its energy from renewable sources before 2050.

Christina Newberry
Christina Newberry is a Vancouver-based writer and editor who writes lifestyle and travel stories for publications both online and in print. When she's not travelling, Christina can be found exploring Vancouver's unique neighbourhoods or puttering in her community garden plot.
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