At a glance (2 minute read)

  • The Southlands project in Tsawwassen showcases a new approach to density, integrating farming and urbanism, and challenging traditional perceptions of density.
  • Changes to local and regional plans and zoning were made to approve the project, which features a master-planned beach community with a focus on agriculture and food.
  • The development includes a mix of housing types, such as courtyard cottages, townhouses, garden flats, and small family homes, all designed to promote efficient land use and preserve greenspace for farming.

In residential areas where zoning is primarily restricted to single-family, large-lot homes, any mention of density often results in intense opposition, even in neighbourhoods facing an over-housed, aging population and rising housing costs.

This is because density is often seen as ten-storey and higher condominiums with little greenspace.

But, in the Boundary Bay neighbourhood of Tsawwassen, the Southlands project is changing the way density is designed.

Changes to local, regional plans, zoning

To get this project approved, the city of Delta altered its regional context statement, updated its official community plan, and put the zoning in place.

Metro Vancouver changed the Metro Vancouver Regional Plan to exempt this site which was outside Delta’s urban containment boundary which prescribes where development can and can’t be built.

Agriculture land successfully includes housing

Originally a 217-hectare (536 acre) farm, the property owner, Century Group, donated 80 per cent of the land or 96 hectares (237 acres) to the city of Delta. More than 132 hectares (325 acres) now form the Southlands Community Farm.

Southlands is the first project of its kind in North America. It’s a master-planned beach community, rooted in farming and food, based on the principles of agricultural urbanism – an approach that integrates farming and urbanism at the metropolitan edge.

Land use here is modelled on traditional agrarian villages, placing homes next to small organic farms that feed their communities.

The community includes a walkable, multi-family neighbourhood, currently under construction. When it’s completed there will be 950 homes, including quaint courtyard cottages, townhouses, stacked townhouses, garden flats and small family homes.

There are 13.2 homes on net acres. Take out the roadways and sidewalks and the density drops to 8.65 units on a growth acreage.  

Goodbye to sprawl

Instead of sprawl, this density uses land efficiently while saving land to be farmed for vegetables, berries, and fruit orchards. There’s plenty of greenspace and Centennial Beach and Boundary Bay Park are a quick cycle or a walk away on trails.

Already there’s a café, bicycle shop, and farmers’ market. A craft brewery and restaurant are on the horizon. 

Read about Southlands