New Zealand has taken the move to ban single-family zoning in cities. Housing advocates think this is a move that British Columbia should consider. This would mean an end to single-family zoning. That could open up some of the housing markets to persons who previously had no hope of owning a home in some places.
Housing advocates think it is worth considering this move in the most expensive markets of British Columbia. There are those of course who think that there may be unintended consequences that come along with this move.
What the New Legislation Means
The New Zealand legislation was introduced last week. It requires the selected cities to apply “medium density residential standards” to single-family zones. the legislation needs this to be done by August of 2022. These new regulations allow homeowners the ability to build a maximum of three housing units. And they can go up as much as three storeys high. The New Zealand cities that will be affected by the change include Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch.
The idea for the changes is to urge the new construction of as many as 75,000 housing units within the first eight years. A similar change in British Columbia would have the largest impact in certain areas. These would include point Grey and Kerrisdale in Vancouver. Homeowners in these areas would have more flexibility to build larger homes and separate units that could replace single-family homes.
Does the Move Increase Costs?
Yes, the change in legislation does make single-family homes more expensive. But it also increases the availability of other housing options. This can help to make the current housing shortage in New Zealand a little better.
Lessons for British Columbia
A move like this in British Columbia could help to reform local municipal powers but with a change in the current powers, a lot of housing development could open up. But with the possible blowback, some municipalities will find this hard to do.
We have seen some steps taken towards similar measures in some municipalities. But there has been opposition from powerful constituencies. There have been attempts by Ontario and Vancouver to eliminate single-family zoning but experts note that the New Zealand move offers a lot more flexibility.
Benefits of Getting Rid of Single Family Zoning
Several reasons are getting rid of single-detached zoning could be beneficial. These include:
- Public Health
- Infrastructure Costs
- Public Interest
- Increase in value of existing lots
The problem with the latter is that the land often gets re-priced before the building starts. This was the experience of Vancouver the last time they tried to relax single-family zoning. This had effects on infrastructure and transit and these have to be factored in before an all-out change.
The experts suggest starting with research to ensure that the policy is sound if and when the changes are made.