News / Vancouver

Vancouver won’t reduce new house size to limit teardowns

Owners feared such a measure would reduce the value of their properties and would prevent higher density housing from being built.

Single family houses in Vancouver's Arbutus Ridge neighborhood on Mar. 2, 2017.

Jennifer Gauthier/Metro

Single family houses in Vancouver's Arbutus Ridge neighborhood on Mar. 2, 2017.

The City of Vancouver won’t reduce the size of a new house that can be built when an older home is torn down, but will instead look at offering incentives to homeowners who decide to keep old houses.

“We heard strong support for retention of character homes but equally strong support for incentives to provide more alternative housing types, what we might call gentle density infill on those same neighbourhoods,” said Gil Kelley, Vancouver’s chief planner.

“We also heard very strong disapproval of the so-called downzoning…to limit the size of single family homes in order to dis-incent demolition of small homes and replace them with large, big homes.”


In response to a sharp increase in the number of demolitions of older homes, city staff had drafted a suite of new regulations in an attempt to stem the rush to tear down smaller, older homes and replace them with homes that in many cases were twice the size of the original house.

Limiting the size of the new house was one tool city planners were considering to incentivize homeowners to keep pre-1940 houses. But that recommendation, first identified in 2015, got pushback from homeowners, builders and younger people who have been priced out of Vancouver’s single-family neighbourhoods, where most homes are now worth well over $1 million.

Property owners feared the measure would reduce the value of their property, and residents and builders were concerned that it would prevent denser housing types from being built. Limiting home size could also reduce the likelihood a property owner would add a secondary suite, according to an economic analysis undertaken by the city.

Instead, planning staff will likely recommend incentives, such as faster development permitting and grants, to property owners across the city who would like to preserve an older home.

Allowing homeowners to expand the floor area of their existing home in order to add more suites is also something the city is considering. Those additional suites could be rental, for family use, or the building could be stratified so those units could be owned by different owners.

“We heard that not everyone is looking at higher density forms for new home construction, and that is where we should be going as a priority,” said Tanis Knowles Yarnell, a city planner.

Planning staff will report back to council on March 28 with their final recommendations.

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