New Zealand looks to reform zoning in cities. Could a similar move help ease B.C.’s housing crisis?

Click to play video: 'Should B.C. look towards ending single-family zoning like New Zealand?'
Should B.C. look towards ending single-family zoning like New Zealand?
WATCH: Some housing advocates think B.C. should follow New Zealand's lead and put an end to single-family zoning in some expensive markets. Ted Chernecki reports – Oct 26, 2021

The government of New Zealand has moved to end single-family zoning in five of the country’s biggest cities.

In an effort to encourage more housing, New Zealand government introduced legislation that will allow property owners to build up to three housing units to a maximum height of three storeys in cities such as Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

Housing advocates in British Columbia think following New Zealand’s lead could help create density in a city like Vancouver, where owners of single-family zoned lots are allowed a primary home, a basement suite, and a laneway home.

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Vancouver housing market experiences low vulnerability rate: CMHC

“What I like about the New Zealand proposal and other similar proposals is that you might then build three smaller homes on the one lot,” planning and real estate consultant Michael Geller said.

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“In the aggregate, you’re creating now a house for a much lower price. There’s a lot of people out there who aren’t ready for an apartment, they may not even be ready for a townhouse, but they’d love to have a smaller house in an established neighbourhood and this type of proposal could offer that.”

“Now people listening to us will say ‘$1.2 [million], $1.6 [million], this isn’t cheap, this isn’t affordable.’ But it’s more affordable than the $4-million house that would’ve otherwise gone on those lots.”
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Nathanael Lauster, a University of British Columbia researcher who created the Metro Vancouver Zoning Project, says New Zealand’s approach amounts to a recognition that housing is “not just a concern for municipalities, despite the fact that right now they’re the ones with all the levers in terms of being able to reject housing.”
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Tom Davidoff of UBC’s Sauder School of Business says federal legislation could help cities build density.

“There’s a national and certainly a provincial interest in building more affordable homes,” he said. “But municipally and locally, there’s as much interest in preserving the leafy, quiet neighbourhood character as there is in preserving affordability.

“Everybody wants affordable housing, but they don’t want it in their backyard. That leaves local governments with lots of incentive to be slow about change and under-invest in allowing greater density. I think going around the municipalities makes a lot of sense.”

Last week Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart relaunched his ‘Making Home’ proposal, which calls for up to six homes to be allowed on a single-family lot. The plan was turned down by council last year.

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