Communities and SHBC go small to address housing affordability and options

For immediate release — November 2017

Our current housing paradigm is facing challenges from a number of fronts. Local governments are dealing with issues around land availability, housing affordability, the pace of development, impacts on infrastructure and sustainability.

This fall, the cities of Maple Ridge and Nelson are rethinking their approach to housing affordability by exploring alternative housing forms in collaboration with registered society Small Housing BC. The cities, supported by this partnership, are investigating what more can be done within their city limits to sensitively accommodate various forms of infill housing in their existing neighbourhoods.

While at first these three municipalities may appear dissimilar, they all face common challenges: the need for more more affordable housing, managing infill development and the evolution of their communities. Together they will be working on Small Housing: Bringing Little Homes to the City, a multi-year project that helps facilitate an ever-growing conversation around housing and the shared opportunities that lie ahead. Co-designed by the cities, and assisted by Small Housing BC’s network, this series aims to tackle housing diversity and affordability through three unique and city-specific approaches to potentially expand Maple Ridge and Nelson’s laneway housing and infill development programs.

The cities of Maple Ridge and Nelson are both looking at the possible launch of a pre-approved design process to help increase uptake of their accessory dwelling programs. “These are all agile and yet transformative projects, ones that look to stakeholders and the public to inform how small housing will take shape in their communities. We are thrilled to be a part of such a vital and truly collaborative process,” says Jake Fry, co-founder of Small Housing BC. With Small Housing BC’s assistance, these three municipalities will be able to leverage and share information on research, lessons learned and new ideas.

Through industry and public consultation, each municipality will test the viability and appetite for small housing in its community, and individually determine next steps to potentially create more affordable infill rental and homeownership options within their areas. This will include opportunities for peer-learning, knowledge sharing, policy review, and stakeholder and public engagement that will help inform each municipality in how to best address its housing strategies.

The Small Housing project will run until December 2018 and is funded by Vancity, BC Housing’s Homeowner Protection Office and the Real Estate Foundation of BC.

The City of Maple Ridge first established its detached garden suite (DGS or laneway) program in 2008, with regulations embedded into its zoning bylaw. Since then, the program has resulted in 40 DGSs being constructed. On October 3, 2017, City Council endorsed a community consultation process to explore the potential expansion of its existing DGS program. “The City is pleased to be able to explore alternate housing forms and new processes to create concrete action around broad goals of ensuring that all citizens have access to stable and affordable housing. We are anxious to see what the public thinks of this concept,” notes Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Read.

“Backyard infill projects like laneway homes aren’t new to Nelson and there are more in the works as we speak. But we haven’t seen the uptake on laneway housing that we initially expected. There are many lots that could easily accommodate a laneway house and we want to explore how to get more homeowners thinking about the possibilities,” says City of Nelson’s Mayor Deb Kozak. Since 2013, the municipality allows detached secondary dwelling units (DSDUs or laneway houses) in most of Nelson’s residential areas; to date 15 units exist or are in the application stage. On October 23, 2017, planning staff presented this collaboration to Council and announced its plans to develop a more robust DSDU policy.

Formed in 2012, Small Housing BC is a registered society that supports the development and promotion of small housing as sustainable forms across British Columbia; it contributes to research, knowledge transfer, education and the achievement of excellence associated with small homes.

For more information on this project, please contact Anastasia Koutalianos, co-project manager at Small Housing BC, at or 604-992-9024. Questions specific to any municipality should be directed to the city’s contact: