BRITISH COLUMBIA – Homeowners and builders will soon be able to develop new housing quicker and with less cost as the Province works to create new standardized designs for small-scale, multi-unit homes, such as townhomes, triplexes and laneway homes.
“In order to address our housing crisis, we must use innovative solutions to enable housing to be built faster,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing. “Having standardized building designs available can help streamline the permitting process. We will work to add additional designs in the coming years to ensure our communities remain vibrant and have a variety of housing options.”
Through the new Standardized Housing Design Project, the Province is creating new standardized, customizable residential designs for small-scale, multi-unit housing built on single lots. These designs can be adopted by local governments and offered to builders and homeowners at a significantly below-market cost to expedite permitting and development. The Province is seeking to engage a consultant team to provide expert advice on the development of these designs.
Standardized designs can substantially streamline the permitting process to make it easier for local governments to give building-permit approvals quickly and save builders and homeowners the costs that come from expensive design services. They also assist smaller local governments that may not have the resources to develop standardized designs to help approve developments efficiently and quickly.
The move follows the recent introduction of legislation that, when passed, will allow three to four units on land currently zoned for single-family homes and duplexes, and as many as six units near bus stops with frequent transit service. During the consultation process, local governments suggested a catalogue of design options needs to be available to support small-scale developers, builders and homeowners to build these new homes.
“We applaud the Province’s initiative to provide standard designs for infill housing, as we have witnessed the benefits of this approach in Kelowna. We initiated a similar design competition in the past that facilitated the accelerated construction of fourplexes on former single-family lots. This helped to improve the attainability, quality and affordability of housing in our existing neighbourhoods, and also boosted the local economy by creating opportunities for local builders,” said Tom Dyas, mayor of Kelowna.
A request for proposals to select a consultant was issued Nov. 15, 2023, for the first phase of the project and will close Dec. 13, 2023. The consultant’s scope of work will include collaborative engagement with industry professionals and local governments to develop the design parameters that can be used to create standardized housing designs. The consultant will also support the Province in reviewing the draft and completed designs.
The Province will work with the consultant for nine months, with the goal to procure design services by spring 2024. Standardized designs and plans are expected to be available to local governments by summer 2024.
As many as 10 different designs will be developed. The designs will comply with the BC Building Code and are expected to be as close as possible to building-permit ready, recognizing minor amendments may be required by local designers or architects to take into account specific site conditions. The designs will be created for various lot sizes and configurations to be widely applicable throughout B.C. and are expected to help builders and homeowners add increased density to their existing properties quickly and more affordably.
In addition to the housing designs, a separate project is underway to develop guidebooks that can act as a blueprint for local governments to implement a pre-approval process and provide guidance to homeowners and small-scale builders about how to add density to their lots with standardized designs.
The Standardized Housing Design Project is in line with a key strategy of the Homes for People action plan to unlock more homes quicker by creating the conditions to encourage faster housing construction while also reducing development costs and approval delays. It also builds on actions such as the Housing Supply Act that allows the Province to set housing targets for municipalities with the greatest housing needs and greatest population growth.
“Codes are advancing rapidly and it can be difficult for the construction industry to keep up with the changes. The provision of standard designs of code-compliant homes will assist in addressing affordability, while making high-quality designs of the latest high-performance standards more readily available,” said Maura Gatensby, architect, lead practice adviser and regulatory liaison, Architectural Institute of BC.
This project is part of a $19-billion housing investment by the BC government.