Infill housing

Last updated on January 21, 2021

One way local governments can make housing affordable and more accessible is by having policies to support infill housing – housing that "fits within" an existing neighbourhood without significantly altering its character or appearance.

Infill housing has been around for a long time. Communities see the value of supporting infill housing because:

  • it increases rental and homeownership options in neighbourhoods;
  • it makes efficient use of existing municipal infrastructure; and
  • policies and bylaws can help maintain the scale and character of a neighbourhood.

Infill housing could include:

  • building a new home on an empty lot;
  • adding secondary suites, carriage homes and laneway homes (garden suite or "granny flat");
  • replacing a single-detached home with a duplex or a fourplex; or
  • subdividing an existing lot to allow the construction of additional units.

Small community examples

Nelson: permits secondary suite use within a single detached residential dwelling in specific zones.

Terrace: allows secondary suites in the R1 – One Family Residential zone. The City has produced a Secondary Suites Information Brochure (PDF) to help residents learn more installing and/or legalizing this form of housing.

Mid-size community examples

New Westminster: allows secondary suites in single-detached dwellings in areas zoned for single detached or duplex dwellings. The City recognizes that authorized secondary suites provide affordable ground-oriented housing that increases density but still allows the preservation of single detached dwelling neighbourhood character. Their website offers many resources on this topic including a secondary suites guide (PDF) and several technical and design documents.

City of North Vancouver: permits secondary suites in all new and existing single-family dwellings (houses) and in duplexes in an effort to increase the availability of affordable rental housing. The City also permits coach houses, subject to a Development Permit. As of 2017, lots zoned for single-family development can include both a secondary suite and coach house, provided it remains compliance with density limits. 

Large community examples

Metro Vancouver: commissioned a study on how to increase housing density and diversity (PDF) (i.e. foster infill housing) in neighbourhoods with single-detached housing. This extensive report:

  • reviews municipal planning policies for intensification;
  • provides examples of intensification and profiles numerous case studies; and
  • contains extensive photographs that convey its findings in a vivid and compelling way.

While focused on experiences in Metro Vancouver, the findings are applicable to many other communities.

Saanich: established a secondary suites policy that allows suites in properties within the District's Urban Containment Boundary that are zoned as single-family residential. Additionally, the District’s OCP contains a policy to “[r]eview existing regulations to consider the provision of a wide range of alternative housing types, such as 'flex housing' and “'granny flats.'” 

Vancouver: encourages the development of secondary suites, and to assist residents, offers a secondary suite guide (PDF). The City is also exploring options to improve the efficiency and affordability of laneway housing.

Victoria: defines a garden suite as a ground-oriented suite located in the backyard of a property with a single-family home as its primary use.

The City has removed the rezoning requirements for garden suites and delegated development permit approval to staff. Learn more about developing garden suites in Victoria.

The content on this website is periodically reviewed and updated by the Province of British Columbia as per the date noted on each page: February 20, 2018.