New legislation decreases barriers to building small-scale multi-unit housing in the UEL

As of November 2023, new provincial legislation requires local governments to amend their zoning bylaws to allow more small-scale multi-unit housing, such as laneway houses and townhomes, to increase housing supply.

What does this mean for density and affordability in the University Endowment Land (UEL)?

The UEL is the unincorporated territory around UBC — the neighborhoods which are not student housing on campus, but also not under the jurisdiction of the City of Vancouver. It’s represented by the province, specifically the BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

Isabella Falsetti / The Ubyssey

Areas A, B and C are fully zoned for single-family housing — picture the houses and hedges along Allison Road on the north side of campus.

The 2023 Housing Statutes (Residential Development) Amendment Act (Bill 44) permitted the addition of one laneway house or accessory dwelling unit (ADU) in every lot zoned for single-family homes in BC. According to Minister of Housing Anne Kang, it aims to reduce barriers to increasing housing supply across the province.

“We know that we need more housing for people and we are in a housing crisis,” said Kang in an interview with The Ubyssey. “The housing last session passed legislation to deliver more small scale multi-unit homes for people faster.”

According to Kang, there are no secondary suites currently permitted in the UEL. To build one, property owners would need to host a public hearing to change the zoning on their property.

Bill 44 mandates that local governments change that process to “reduce delays and limitations that can hold back housing approvals,” said Kang.

It also provides guidance for local governments to amend their bylaws to streamline development.

“Local governments, such as UEL, must assess their community's housing needs and meet them through their official Community Planning and Zoning Bylaw processes,” said Kang. “So my ministry will be supporting UEL in doing this.”

The legislation is part of BC’s 2023 Homes for People Action Plan. According to the BC Ministry of Housing, small-scale multi-unit housing is a crucial ingredient towards addressing Vancouver’s housing shortage. The plan anticipates 130,000 new small-scale multi-unit homes in the province over the next decade.

In October, the City of Vancouver released new guidelines for expanding laneway house development. The 5,000 laneway houses in the city are concentrated on the east side, with few in West Vancouver and none in the UEL.

Kang said the new legislation aims to provide a pathway to change that.

Still, the number of new units developed depends on whether property owners want to develop, and on whether they fit into the UEL’s Official Community Plan (OCP). The OCP will go under review in 2024, and updates will be completed by the end of 2025.

Rather than doing community consultation on a case-by-case basis for each new upzoning request, residents will provide input during the OCP development process.

The UEL OCP currently restricts commercial activity and multi-family housing to Area D, along University Boulevard, and leləm̓, the condo development managed by the Musqueam Capital Corporation.

“There'll be lots of opportunities for residents to weigh in on … what their neighborhoods may look like,” said Kang.

For community-members interested in advocating for their priorities in the UEL, Kang recommended getting involved with the UEL OCP, which will culminate with new bylaws in December 2025.