Burnaby’s Bold Move: Transformative Zoning Bylaw Amendments to Enable Small-Scale Multi-Unit Housing

In a significant development on April 8, 2024, the Planning and Development Committee of Burnaby, chaired by Mayor M. Hurley, adopted a groundbreaking proposal to amend the longstanding Burnaby Zoning Bylaw of 1965. This initiative is set to reshape the city’s housing landscape by facilitating small-scale multi-unit housing in traditionally single and two-family neighborhoods.

Setting the Stage for a Housing Revolution

The report, entitled “Proposed Zoning Bylaw Amendments and Rezoning of R District Properties – Small-Scale Multi-Unit Housing,” was developed in response to the new requirements under the Local Government Act as part of Bill 44-2023, the Housing Statutes (Residential Development) Amendment Act, which was enacted on December 7, 2023. This legislative change is a direct outcome of the province’s Homes for People Action Plan, aimed at accelerating residential development to meet the growing housing demands.

Strategic Rezoning to R1 Small-Scale Multi-Unit Housing District

Under the proposed changes, all R District properties, including those partially zoned, will transition to the new R1 Small-Scale Multi-Unit Housing District (R1 SSMUH). This strategic shift is designed to increase housing density and diversity by allowing up to six dwelling units on select residential lots, depending on their size and proximity to frequent transit services.

Enhancing Housing Flexibility and Diversity

The amendments aim to remove traditional barriers such as floor area ratio (FAR) and gross floor area (GFA) restrictions. Instead, the focus will shift to height, setback, and lot coverage regulations, which are expected to offer more flexibility in the design and development of housing units. This approach is in line with provincial recommendations and seeks to support various configurations and combinations of housing units to cater to a diverse population.

Community Engagement and Policy Alignment

Extensive community engagement has been part of the process, with a public survey indicating strong support for increasing the number of units per lot. The proposed bylaw amendments align with Burnaby’s Official Community Plan and are part of a broader effort to update the city’s zoning laws comprehensively.

Environmental Considerations and Design Innovations

The proposed bylaw includes environmentally conscious provisions such as allowances for solar panels and requirements for significant outdoor amenity spaces. Innovative design guidelines are also introduced to encourage the preservation of heritage assets and promote pedestrian-friendly developments.

Financial Implications and Forward Planning

With these changes, the city anticipates financial impacts, both positive and challenging. A new Development Funding Program, including updated Development Cost Charges and Amenity Cost Charges, is being formulated to support the infrastructure and services needed for the anticipated growth.

Conclusion: A Vision for Sustainable Urban Living

Scheduled for implementation by July 1, 2024, these amendments mark a pivotal shift towards sustainable urban living in Burnaby. By embracing small-scale multi-unit housing, Burnaby is setting a precedent for municipal innovation in response to pressing housing needs. The city’s comprehensive plan not only addresses immediate legislative requirements but also lays the groundwork for a more inclusive, flexible, and sustainable housing market in the decades to come.

As the Zoning Bylaw Rewrite project progresses, further phases will continue to align with citywide plans and provincial legislation, ensuring that Burnaby remains at the forefront of urban housing development.

101.1           Permitted Uses

Principal UseUse-Specific Regulations
Small-Scale Multi-Unit Housing
Rowhouse Dwellings101.5.2
Boarding, Lodging, or Rooming House101.5.3
Group Home
Supportive Housing (Category A)101.5.4
Accessory UseUse-Specific Regulations
Boarding Use (up to 2 boarders)
Home Occupations6.8, 6.8A
Urban Agriculture6.30
Accessory Buildings, Structures, and Uses101.5.5, 6.6

101.3 Subdivision Regulations

 Dwelling Type
Rowhouse .1Small-Scale Multi-Unit
Minimum Lot Width .2
Interior Lot5 m, except 6.2 m for end unit lots10 m
Corner Lot – Street8 m10 m
Corner Lot – Lane6.2 m10 m
Lot Area .3
Minimum Lot Area281 m2
Maximum Lot Area280 m2

101.4           Development Regulations

 Dwelling Type
RowhouseSmall-Scale Multi-Unit
Permitted Dwelling Units (including secondary suites)  1 to 3 Units  1 to 3 Units  4 Units5 to 6 Units Within Frequent Transit Network Area
Minimum Lot Area281 m2281 m2
Maximum Lot Area .1280 m2
Maximum Lot Coverage
All Buildings55%40%45%50%
Impervious Surfaces70%
Maximum Height
Principal Building12.0 m | 4 storeys
Accessory Buildings4.0 m | 1 storey
Minimum Lot Line Setbacks for All Buildings .2 .3
Street Yard3.0 m
Rear Yard without Lane3.0 m, except 1.2 m for accessory buildings
Rear or Side Yard with Lane1.2 m
Interior Side Yard0.0 m, except 1.2 m for end unit lots  1.2 m  1.2 m  1.2 m
Minimum Separation of Buildings on the Same Lot .4 .5
Between Front Principals2.4 m2.4 m2.4 m
Between Rear Principals2.4 m2.4 m2.4 m
Between Front & Rear Principals6.0 m
Between All Other Buildings2.4 m

The full council report can be viewed here: https://pub-burnaby.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=75285

The proposed R1 SSMUH zoning guidelines can be viewed here: https://pub-burnaby.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=75286

Gary Gao, licensed Realtor® with Grand Central Realty, a licensed real estate brokerage in BC. Gary is also the principal of CitiDesign Build Inc., which is not affiliated with Grand Central Realty. CitiDesign and Gary are licensed builders in BC. Contact Gary.
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