Zoning Regimes and the Development of Multi-Family Housing in Vancouver

Nathanael Lauster, University of British Columbia; Jens von Bergmann, MountainMath

Research increasingly suggests the strong role of zoning as a constraint upon urban development in North America. In particular, zoning restricts parcels available for multi-unit housing by design. As an obscure and largely municipal policy, the content and direct effects of zoning often escape careful research attention. Recently we obtained CMHC support for a project documenting and codifying municipal zoning across the 21 municipalities of Metro Vancouver (https://zoning.sociology.ubc.ca/). In addition, the project explores historical change in zoning within the City of Vancouver. In this paper we directly explore and systematize changes in the City of Vancouver’s zoning regimes as they bear upon the development of multi-unit housing. We then connect changes in zoning regime to changes in urban development patterns from the initiation of zoning (across the 1920s) to the present day, highlighting the changing processes by which regimes have enabled new multi-unit housing. Overall the evidence suggests a strong and determinative role for zoning regimes in limiting multi-unit housing, opening up our discussion of several suggestions for policy reforms aimed at better meeting regional housing needs.

This paper will be presented at the following session: