Increasing Housing in Existing Neighbourhoods

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 altering its character or appearance.

This style of housing has been around for a long time, but for years it wasn’t popular. Today, communities see the value of supporting infill housing:

  • It increases rental and homeownership options in neighbourhoods
  • It makes efficient use of existing municipal infrastructure
  • Policies and bylaws ensure that the scale and character of a neighbourhood is maintained

Infill housing could include:

  • Replacing an old house with a new one on an existing lot
  • Building a new home on an empty lot
  • Replacing a single-detached home with a duplex or a fourplex
  • Adding secondary suites, carriage homes and laneway homes (garden suite or "granny flat")

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, 1.9 MB) 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, 5 MB) (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
  • 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.'” The District also published a guide (PDF, 1.3 MB) to assist property owners looking to establish a secondary suite. 

Vancouver: Encourages the development of secondary suites, and to assist residents, offers a secondary suite guide (PDF). The City is also exploring options to promote and enhance 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. Establishing garden suites requires rezoning and applications considered on a site-by-site basis. The City's Garden Suite Policy (PDF, 2.1 MB) provides guidance on garden suite requirements.