Housing planning for local governments
Local governments are empowered to use planning and development tools to implement housing policies and influence the location and type of housing built in their communities. For example, a local government could zone land near transit and service hubs for more dense forms of housing such as condos or townhouses.
Official community plans
Local government official community plans must include statements and map designations for the residential development required to meet anticipated housing needs for at least the next five years.
Local governments can also include policies that address their community's social needs and well-being, which are often linked to housing affordability and accessibility.
To help guide the housing policies in their official community plans local governments are required to develop housing needs reports on a regular basis. Many local governments also develop housing strategies or action plans to outline how they will respond to their community's unique housing needs. Zoning bylaws are key to helping local governments implement their housing policies and strategies.
- Official Community Plans for Local Government
- Official Community Plans & Housing Policies
- Social Planning for Local Governments
- Housing Needs Reports
- Housing Strategies & Action Plans
- Local Government Act, section 473 - Content and process requirements
Development finance and approvals
Local governments have a number of development finance tools available to them to support the development of new housing in their communities. These tools include:
To ensure needed new housing reaches the market efficiently, local governments can review their development approval processes and look to each other for guidance on effective streamlining practices.
Local governments play a key role in supporting affordable housing in B.C. and have several tools and resources available to them including policies included in official community plans, zoning, development cost charge and property tax exemptions, and party wall agreements for row housing.
Official community plan affordability policies
An official community plan must include policies about:
- Affordable housing
- Rental housing
- Special needs housing
Learn more about the content and process requirements:
Through their zoning bylaws, local governments can encourage the development of affordable and special needs housing. For example, they could allow secondary suites or garden suites as a permitted use.
They can also grant bonus density in exchange for the provision of a certain number, kind and extent of affordable and special needs housing units included in the development.
- Zoning as a Tool for Housing Affordability
- Zoning Bylaws
- Local Government Act, section 482 - Density benefits for amenities, affordable housing and special needs housing
- Local Government Act, section 483 - Housing agreements for affordable housing and special needs housing
Development cost charge exemptions, waivers and reductions
Specific types of property development are exempt from development cost charges including certain types of affordable housing and low environmental impact developments. Local governments can also choose to waive or reduce development cost charges for certain types of developments including:
- Not-for-profit rental housing, including supportive living housing
- For-profit affordable rental housing
Learn more about development for which charges may be exempted, waived or reduced:
- Development Cost Charge Exemptions
- Local Government Act, section 563 - Development for which charges may be waived or reduced
Property tax exemptions
Municipalities have the authority to exempt property from property value taxes. This authority can be used to help achieve housing objectives, such as encouraging affordable housing or constructing and preserving affordable rental housing.
- Property Tax Exemptions
- Local Government Permissive Tax Exemptions
- Community Charter, section 226 - Revitalization tax exemptions
Party wall agreements for freehold row housing
The B.C. government has taken action to remove barriers to freehold row housing through binding party wall (shared wall) agreements.
Local government housing affordability guidance and resources
Local governments play a key role in supporting affordable housing in B.C.. All sizes of local governments are using an array of tools including regional growth strategies, housing action plans, and zoning to support housing affordability.
Local governments can incorporate accessibility provisions into their official community plans, as discussed in the Age-Friendly and Disability-Friendly Official Community Plans Guide.