Province of British Columbia introduces legislation to support building more homes near transit hubs

Nov. 9, 2023
The legislation, if passed, will build on work underway to facilitate more transit-oriented development, create more livable communities and tackle the housing crisis.

The province of British Columbia has introduced legislation that would support building more homes near transit hubs.  

“Building more homes near transit is good for people, communities and helps make the most of transit, infrastructure and services, but layers of regulations and outdated rules are stopping this kind of development from becoming a reality in too many municipalities. That’s why we are taking action to remove barriers and deliver more transit-oriented communities faster,” said British Columbia Minister of Housing Ravi Kahlon.  

The legislation, if passed, will build on work underway to facilitate more transit-oriented development, create more livable communities and tackle the housing crisis. Earlier this year, as part of budget 2023, the province of British Columbia committed approximately C$400 million (US$290.3 million) to deliver thousands of units at or near transit during the next 10 to 15 years by accessing land that is suitable to be acquired near transit hubs and transforming it into thriving communities. 

The legislation is part of the province of British Columbia’s Homes for People action plan. Announced in spring 2023, the plan builds on historic action to deliver housing since 2017 and sets out further actions to deliver the homes people need faster while creating more vibrant communities throughout the province of British Columbia. 

“We’re working to leverage public lands to build more affordable housing in connected, livable communities,” said British Columbia Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Rob Fleming. “This legislation is the next step forward to help remove roadblocks and fast-track more transit-oriented development that works for people in their communities.” 

In some cases in British Columbia, higher-density neighborhoods have been established around transit hubs, but in other cases, restrictive zoning bylaws and parking requirements, along with delayed development approvals, continue to slow down the delivery of homes and services near transit hubs.  

The proposed legislation will require municipalities to designate Transit Oriented Development (TOD) areas near transit hubs. The TOD areas are defined as land within 800 meters (2,624.67 feet) of a rapid transit station and within 400 meters (1,312.34 feet) of a bus exchange, where passengers transfer from one route to another. 

In the designated TOD areas, municipalities will be required to: 

  • Permit housing developments that meet provincial standards for allowable height and density. The minimum allowable height and density is based on tiers – at its highest in the center of the TOD area – and will differ based on the type of transit hub and a municipality’s size, population and location. 
  • Remove restrictive parking minimums and allow for parking to be determined by need and demand on a project-by-project basis. 
  • Utilize standards and details in the provincial policy manual to provide consistency in the approach to developing TOD areas. 

Municipalities will still be able to require builders and developers to add parking to accommodate people living with disabilities. Commercial parking requirements will not be affected within TOD areas. Builders and developers will be able to build as much parking as desired for a project but will not be required to meet a minimum standard of parking units. 

Modelling future scenarios cannot account for unforeseen circumstances, the changing nature of housing, real-estate markets and other factors, but preliminary analysis indicates the province of British Columbia says it could see approximately 100,000 new units in TOD areas in the area during the next 10 years. 

To support the legislation, the province of British Columbia will create a provincial policy manual to support municipalities with setting their site standards and moving forward with proposed housing projects. 

Following the release of regulations and the policy manual in December 2023, the lands that local governments have designated for transit-oriented growth in their official community plans will be immediately captured under the new minimum allowable density requirements included in the legislation. 

For the remaining TOD areas that require local government designation, municipalities will have until June 30, 2024, to designate the areas (pending regulation). It is expected that approximately 100 TOD areas will be designated in approximately 30 municipalities throughout British Columbia within the first year of the new legislation coming into effect.  

This proposed legislation will advance alongside the proposed small-scale, multi-unit housing legislation (SSMU). While SSMU will add increased density near transit stops, the province of British Columbia notes TOD areas that have higher density will take precedence over SSMU zoning should they overlap.