After a fair amount of build-up, Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon finally announced the new legislation the Province would be introducing to allow up to six housing units per single-family residential lot, and the Province is coming in with force.

The legislation was tabled by Kahlon on Wednesday and is officially called Bill-44: Housing Statutes (Residential Development) Amendments Act, which would amend the Local Government Act.

The new legislation focuses on "small-scale multi-unit housing" (SSMUH), which includes secondary suites within single-family homes, laneway homes, multiplex homes, and townhouses — often referred to as "missing middle" housing.

With the new legislation, in most areas within municipalities of over 5,000 people, the Province will require municipal governments to allow three to four units on lots currently zoned for single-family or duplex use (varying with lot size) and up to six units on lots currently zoned for single-family or duplex use that are larger and also close to transit stops with frequent service.

Municipalities that are covered by the new legislation cannot have bylaws that allow for fewer units than the provincial legislation, but have the ability to permit more than the provincial legislation.

The amendments to the Local Government Act will also bring multiple changes when it comes to municipal approval processes.

"The legislation will also speed up local housing development approvals, by shifting local planning and zoning processes to happen up front," the Province said. "It will require municipalities throughout BC to expedite and streamline permitting by updating community plans and zoning bylaws on a regular basis, to ensure that they have enough housing to meet the needs of both their current and future residents. This will help create more certainty for both community members and home builders."

After those community plans are updated to reflect the provincial legislation, public hearings for housing projects that are consistent with the community plans will be phased out, including for mixed-use projects where at least 50% of the project is housing. According to a draft of the legislation, municipalities will be required to give public notice when such cases arise.

Public hearings will still be required for projects that do not align with community plans, as well as for updates to any community plans or new community plans.

Municipal governments will also be required to update their housing needs reports, which outline local housing needs for over 20 years, and will be expected to align their zoning bylaws and community plans to both account for, and pre-zone for, that same 20-year period.

A summary of the legislative changes.A summary of the legislative changes.(Province of British Columbia)

To support the implementation of these changes, the Province says it will continue provide municipal governments with funding, including the $61M that was announced in late-September. How that funding will be allocated is expected to be announced in Q1 2024.

The Province says that its preliminary analysis indicates that BC could see an influx of over 130,000 new small-scale multi-unit homes in the next 10 years as a result of this change, and points to Auckland, New Zealand as an example of the success of this kind of change. Auckland made its change in 2016 and its Auckland Unitary Plan has also been championed by the BC Real Estate Association.

According to the Province, further communication about these new changes will be provided to local governments before the end of the year, instructions regarding housing needs reports will be outlined in January, and municipalities will be expected to have updated their bylaws to allow for small-scale multi-unit housing by June 30, 2024.

Municipalities will then be expected to have completed an interim housing needs report by January 1, 2025 and a review of their zoning bylaws and community plans by December 31, 2025 — although the two dates are subject to change.

This new legislation also includes legislation to allow a secondary suite in all single-family and duplex lots, setting the stage for the Secondary Suite Incentive Program that was announced in September. Additional pieces of legislation that will support housing delivery, transit-oriented development, and more, are expected to be introduced in the coming weeks.