Delta zoning bylaws updated to allow coach houses, garden suites

Changes to permit small-scale multi-unit housing in line with recent provincial legislation

Updates to Delta’s zoning bylaws to allow the development of small-scale multi-unit housing (SSMUH) in areas currently zoned for single-detached and duplex housing received third reading Monday afternoon (June 3).

B.C. municipalities have until June 30 to bring their zoning bylaws in line with Bill 44, provincial legislation requiring cities introduce regulations for the development of small-scale multi-unit housing (SSMUH) in areas currently zoned for single-detached and duplex housing.

The changes endorsed by council Monday were meant to strike a balance between meeting the new provincial requirements and “maintaining many existing zoning parameters such as height, setbacks, and lot coverage,” according to a city press release, and compliment Delta’s new Official Community Plan, which received third reading on April 22.

They will also help the city meet housing targets set by the province requiring Delta add 3,607 net new housing units by Sept. 30, 2028. A staff report to council in early May showed the city had issued 242 occupancy permits from Oct. 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024 — 47 per cent of the 514 new homes required by the end of September.

“These changes will provide homeowners options for garden suites and coach houses that will add much needed housing in our community without requiring the time and expense of rezoning,” Mayor George Harvie said in a press release. “With these new bylaws, Delta is meeting provincial requirements while taking an approach that will maintain the character of our neighbourhoods.”

Under the bylaw changes, up to three housing units will be allowed on single-detached and duplex properties with an area less than or equal to 280 square metres (3,014 square feet), and up to four units on larger parcels.

For properties over 280 square metres and withing 400 metres (1,312 feet) of bus stops servicing the R6 and 319 routes along Scott Road, the maximum number of units allowed will be six, as per provincial requirements.

In new SSMUH developments, owners will be permitted to build one principal single-detached or duplex dwelling with one secondary suite, plus up to two garden suites and/or coach houses with a total floor area of no more than 42 square metres (454 square feet) — about what the city currently allows for a two-car garage.

A minimum of one parking space will be required per dwelling unit, however they will not need to be enclosed spaces. Owners will not be required to provide parking for units smaller than 33 square metres (355 square feet) or for properties within 400 metres of frequent transit bus stops on Scott Road.

A staff report to council ahead of Monday’s vote says Delta currently has 24,124 properties zoned for single-detached homes or duplexes, plus another 90 under comprehensive development zoning that permits single detached or duplex dwellings.

But not all properties zoned for single-detached or duplex housing will be eligible for additional units.

For example, legal documents registered on a property’s title that restrict aspects of development (building form, height, density unit type, etc.) will remain in effect, and environmental or geotechnical issues such as proximity to a steep slope or a riparian area may also prevent the building of small-scale housing.

As well, current standards for lot coverage, setbacks, floor area allowances, building heights and site impermeability laid out in the bylaws will not change, further limiting the number of properties where small-scale housing will be allowed.

Rather than undertaking a comprehensive study to determine which properties may be limited in their development potential, the city plans to evaluate each property on a case-by-case basis as development applications are received.

“The proposed amendments will help Delta bring new housing units into the community quicker than larger scale development applications,” Doreann Mayhew, the city’s general manager of development, said in a press release.

“We will actively review applications to determine additional changes needed to support viable SSMUH projects while evaluating impacts on adjacent residential properties. This approach allows us to assess impacts to neighbourhoods over time.”

A city press release notes there was no public hearing regarding the changes to Delta’s zoning bylaws as Bill 44 prohibits local governments from holding public hearings for zoning bylaw or official community plan amendments specifically initiated to comply with the legislation.

Fourth reading and final adoption is scheduled to take place at the regular meeting of council on Monday, June 24.

Once passed, projects meeting the updated bylaws will be able to proceed straight to the building permit phase without the need for rezoning and without public hearings or public notification including mail-outs to nearby residents and onsite signage.

City staff will undertake a community awareness campaign to help inform the public of the SSMUH-related bylaw changes following final adoption.

City staff will also be reporting back to council in early 2025 as amendments to the province’s suite of new housing regulations work their way through the legislature, including a proposed change that would allow local governments to require developers provide infrastructure and services (for example wider sidewalks or bike lanes) as part of the development of SSMUH projects.

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