Bill 44 – Housing Statutes (Residential Development) Amendment Act, 2023

Authors: Jennifer Williams and Anna Schlagintweit

Update: Bill 44 receives royal assent in British Columbia. Read our full update here.

On November 1, 2023, the Government of British Columbia made a significant move in its efforts to increase housing affordability by introducing Bill 44: Housing Statutes (Residential Development) Amendment Act, 2023 (“Bill 44”).

Bill 44, if passed, will amend zoning rules across British Columbia to increase permitted density in areas that are currently zoned for single-family homes or duplexes (“Single Family Lots”). In most areas with populations of over 5,000, Bill 44 will require municipal governments to allow three to four housing units on each Single Family Lot, depending on lot size. Larger Single Family Lots close to public transit will see greater increases in the permitted number of units, with Bill 44 requiring rezoning for as many as six housing units on such Single Family Lots.

For the City of Vancouver, Bill 44 proposes rezoning for either or both an additional housing unit in a separate building on the property (e.g. a laneway house), or an additional housing unit in a one-family dwelling (e.g. a basement suite). This would be permitted on Single-Family Lots and those areas currently zoned for one-family dwellings and one additional housing unit or a duplex.

Under Bill 44, zoning rules in respect of minimum parking requirements will also be relaxed, particularly for developments near public transit.

While Bill 44 prohibits municipalities from restricting the number of units on a Single Family Lot to less than that permitted under Bill 44, a municipality may permit more units on a Single Family Lot. Some municipalities may choose to go this way, given that redevelopment will likely occur anyway.

The proposed changes are intended to open the door for increased presence of laneway homes, multiplexes and townhouses, referred to in Bill 44 as “small-scale multi-unit housing”, in neighborhoods primarily comprised of single-family homes.

If Bill 44 is passed, municipalities will have until June 30, 2024 to amend their zoning bylaws to accord with the requirements. The Government of British Columbia estimates these changes may result in upwards of 130,000 new small-scale multi-unit homes in the next ten years.

Aside from the headline issue of rezoning Single Family Lots for increased density, Bill 44 also aims to reduce one-off public hearings and rework local planning and land use frameworks in British Columbia. To reduce redundancy in the public engagement process, Bill 44 will prohibit public hearings for a project that is already consistent with the current official community plan (mandated by the Local Government Act), and generally limit public hearings to situations where municipal governments are seeking to update the official community plan or effect a rezoning in a manner inconsistent with the official community plan. To balance the reduced opportunities for public engagement, Bill 44 will require municipal governments to update their official community plans every five years with input from the public. Bill 44 will also require that official community plans account for forecasted growth over 20 years, instead of five, and that municipal housing needs reports (mandated by the Local Government Act) be updated using a standardized method, with the aim of providing a better understanding of long-term housing needs to support development of official community plans. If passed, Bill 44 will require the first review and update of official community plans to be completed by December 31, 2025.

Note: Bill 44 was introduced along with Bill 47: Housing Statutes (Transit-Oriented Areas) Amendment Act, 2023. You can read more about Bill 47 on our blog post. Where Bill 47 and Bill 44 overlap, the higher minimum height and density requirements between the two will be adopted.

Note: This article is of a general nature only and is not exhaustive of all possible legal rights or remedies. In addition, laws may change over time and should be interpreted only in the context of particular circumstances such that these materials are not intended to be relied upon or taken as legal advice or opinion. Readers should consult a legal professional for specific advice in any particular situation.