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Zoning, what is it good for?  (part two)  by Geraldine Santiago

Licensed Realtor, Published Author


Go to to read part one 


The first part of this article addressed the importance of zoning and why it is important for home owners to find out what their zoning district is on their property and its adjacent areas.  I explained where you could find this information yourself, and to do your own due diligence when it comes to knowing your property.  Zoning could be an important part of a sale of property (both buying and selling) , so it is important to know what exactly this is. 

Recently in Vancouver, BC, there have been changes to certain zoning namely for RS-1 and RS-5 single-family dwelling which were adapted by City Council in July 2009. The City of Vancouver’s Land Use and Development had certain guidelines regarding a laneway house allowing laneway housing to be built on the property of the above mentioned zoning districts. You can go on-line to see where these zoning district areas exist and if your property is affected by this change.

The laneway housing project is similar to infill housing (you probably also hear the word coach house) in that new housing stock is created within an already established neighbourhood.  By doing so it utilizes existing municipal services as opposed to the creation of new housing stock in new outlying subdivision development.  

How does this affect you as a homeowner? The face of today’s homeowner is changing in Vancouver, BC. because of many factors.  The main factor is the fact that the price of homes in Greater Vancouver far surpasses the average household income, making it very difficult for first time home buyers to enter the housing market and  purchase a home on their own.  (Please read my article posted on my site posted on May 22nd, 2010  Where Have All the First Time Home Buyers Gone?)  

Because of the decrease in first time home buyers entering into the market, we are seeing multi-generation families all living under one roof. This can either be an adult child living in the basement of their parents’ home or seniors moving back in to live with their children for various socio-economic reasons. 

The advent of laneway housing somehow addresses the problem of affordable housing, sustainability which includes ecodensity and use of eco-friendly building materials.  The cost of a new single detached laneway residential home in Vancouver albeit a small home, under the laneway program, makes it affordable because the cost of land is not part of the equation. 

For many, this is a great way to own a home in the city, without the huge burden of a mortgage, and many lenders are seeing this as a great opportunity for homeowners to reinvest in their own backyard.

Opportunity?  Vancity thinks so.  In fact, Vancity has made it easy to look at your backyard as a great opportunity by providing laneway housing mortgage bundle.

Your laneway house can be a mortgage helper, income helper, more housing space, a caregiver suite, in-law suite, cottage for your out of town guests, home office.  All of which add value to your existing home.

The zoning by-laws, do have restrictions on allowable square footage, height, set backs, etc.  This information can be found on-line at  

Zoning is about planning, and it encompasses many aspects such as standards regarding frontage, lot size, set back from street, building heights, parking requirements, alteration of buildings, maximum density of population, the display of signs, sound and noise emitted from a building, and so on.  There are classifications and sub-classifications to zoning, such as residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural, open space such as parks and recreation and environmentally sensitive/flood plain as well.  

The provincial ministry/department is responsible for planning and has the ultimate authority to zone any property within a province.   That's zoning--- and that is what it is good for!

For more information on laneway housing in Vancouver, BC, go to: or


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