At a glance (2 minute read)

  • The BC government created 10 standardized home designs for quick, affordable construction of small-scale, multi-unit homes.
  • The legislation allows three to four units on single-family home-zoned land, six units near transit. 
  • This is based off of the historical "Vancouver Special" model used by the City of Vancouver.

To ensure affordable new homes get to the market as quickly and cheaply as possible, the BC government plans to create up to 10 standardized home designs to be used by property owners, builders, and local governments.

The off-the-shelf standardized designs will be small-scale, multi-unit homes, including townhomes, triplexes, and laneway homes on standard residential lots.

This new initiative follows the recent introduction of legislation that will allow three to four units on land currently zoned for single-family homes and duplexes, and as many as six units near bus stops with frequent transit service.

“To address our housing crisis, we must use innovative solutions to enable housing to be built faster,” said Ravi Kahlon, Minister of Housing in a government news release. “Having standardized building designs available can help streamline the permitting process,” Minister Kahlon said.

Examples of the new designs.

Request for proposals

The province issued a request for proposal on November 15, 2023 for consultants to provide expert advice on developing these designs.

A separate project is underway to develop guidebooks for local governments to implement a pre-approval process and provide guidance to home owners and small-scale builders about how to add density to their lots with standardized designs.

More missing middle housing initiatives

In November, the BC government also:

  • introduced changes to the Local Government Act to allow for missing middle housing – small scale multi-unit housing including townhomes, triplexes, fourplexes, and laneway homes.
  • will allow three to four units on land currently zoned for single-family homes and duplexes, and six units near bus stops and transit.

The government has also brought in a secondary suite incentive pilot program to help homeowners create rental secondary suites.

Vancouver already on board with ready-made designs

From 1965 to 1985, the City of Vancouver offered a standard, affordable design for a detached home, known as “the Vancouver Special” which maximized square footage on small lots.

At the July 19, 2022 council meeting, Vancouver council directed staff to report back on ways to expedite building permits and the construction process for “a new generation of Vancouver Specials (repeatable building forms) from a modular Tiny Home (ADU) to a multifamily building that would deliver diverse spaces for multigenerational living as easy as a single family home to tackle the climate and affordability crisis head-on.”

Read the government news release about the proposed missing middle housing designs.