Addressing Vancouver's Housing Crisis: Introducing the Missing Middle Proposal
A Comprehensive Solution to Housing Affordability and Neighbourhood Preservation
In the city of Vancouver, a significant housing shortage has been observed, characterized by an abundance of high-rise developments and single-family homes, but a scarcity of options in between. Recognizing this critical issue, the City of Vancouver has introduced the "Missing Middle" proposal, aimed at adding diverse housing options and simplifying regulations in low-density neighborhoods. Led by David Eby, the 37th premier of British Columbia, this proposal is the result of extensive discussions initiated by a group of University of British Columbia professors back in 2017.
The Problem: Currently, more than 50% of land in Vancouver is zoned as single-family RS (residential) zones, with over 90% of these properties occupied by detached houses. As a consequence, numerous houses are torn down every year, only to be replaced with new, unaffordable single-family homes. This trend has pushed the dream of homeownership further out of reach for many individuals and families.
The Missing Middle Proposal: The missing middle proposal seeks to bridge the gap between high-rise developments and single-family homes by introducing ground-oriented housing options. These include side-by-side duplexes, stacked duplexes, fourplex stacked buildings, courtyard buildings, cottage courts, townhouses, medium multiplexes, stacked triplexes, and live-work units. By diversifying the housing supply, the proposal aims to provide affordable options within existing neighbourhoods.
Objectives and Benefits:
- Standardized Requirements: The proposal aims to establish consistent building setbacks, height regulations, and size standards. This would simplify the permitting process and offer greater design freedom and choice while ensuring clarity on what can be built.
- Streamlined Regulations: The proposal seeks to eliminate zoning and permit complexities, reduce or remove design guidelines, and merge the nine existing RS zones into a single RS zone with blanket rules. This streamlined approach would make it easier, faster, and cheaper to construct new housing.
- Housing Affordability: By encouraging the construction of multiple units on a single lot and discouraging the replacement of older houses with larger ones, the proposal aims to increase the number of affordable housing options. Additionally, larger laneway houses are encouraged to provide family-sized rental units with improved livability.
- Neighborhood Preservation: Unlike high-rise developments, the missing middle housing options have a less dramatic impact on the surrounding community. This means reduced strain on services, less congestion, and minimal disruption to the existing character of neighborhoods. The proposal also emphasizes the preservation of trees and mandates tree planting for new houses, duplexes, and multiplexes.
The proposal is currently in the review and response stage (Spring 2023), with a council report expected in Summer 2023. Subsequently, a public hearing and council decision are scheduled for Fall 2023. Details regarding new permits and implementation are yet to be determined.
Locations and Impact:
The missing middle proposal will be applicable throughout Vancouver. Currently, there are nine separate RS zones, leading to complexity in the building permitting process. By merging these zones into one, the proposal aims to simplify regulations and provide a consistent framework for housing development. In certain neighborhoods, housing design guidelines also dictate the type of housing allowed, which the proposal seeks to address.
The Missing Middle proposal in Vancouver is a comprehensive solution to address the city's housing affordability crisis. By introducing diverse ground-oriented housing options and streamlining regulations, this initiative aims to make it easier, faster, and cheaper to build new homes. Moreover, the proposal emphasizes the importance of neighborhood preservation and affordability, offering hope for a more balanced and accessible housing market in Vancouver.