Giving Local Governments the Information and Tools to Address Rental Housing Shortages

On April 24, 2018, BC’s provincial government introduced two Bills intended to address the issues of housing affordability and lack of rental housing. Bill 18 will require local governments to regularly prepare “housing needs reports”, while Bill 23 will give local governments the power to zone for “residential rental tenures”. Each of these bills amends both the Local Government Act and the Vancouver Charter.

Housing needs reports are intended to inform the application of resources and investments by ensuring that governments are making decisions based on the most up-to-date housing information. All local governments in BC, unless exempted by regulation, will be required to prepare and regularly update a housing needs report. The initial reports must be completed within 3 years of the proposed amendments coming into effect, with updates to be prepared at least every 5 years going forward. Nothing in the legislation would prevent a local government from preparing or updating these reports more frequently.

In order to prepare the reports, local governments will be required to collect prescribed information including current and projected population figures, household income, housing units that are currently available and that are anticipated to become available. Relying on this information, housing needs reports must identify the number of housing units of each type required to meet both current housing demand and anticipated demand for at least the next 5 years.

Going forward, housing needs reports will have to be considered when developing or amending official community plans or regional growth strategies.

Bill 23 provides local governments with the ability to preserve or increase the amount of rental housing stock through the use of the zoning power. Under these amendments, a zoning bylaw may limit the form of residential tenure to rental for an area, or a portion of an area, where multi-use family residential use is permitted, or it may require that a specified number, portion or percentage of housing units be limited to rental tenures within all buildings within an area.

The proposed legislative amendments do provide for “non-conforming forms of tenure” to continue where buildings or approvals that are already in place would not conform with new residential rental tenure zoning that would otherwise apply.

Unlike the proposed housing needs reports, the use of residential rental tenure zoning will not be mandatory for local governments. While this new zoning power will provide BC’s local governments with a new tool to address rental housing shortages and housing affordability in their community, it obviously remains to be seen how local governments and the market will respond.

Sabrina Spencer