Should duplexes be allowed in most single-family areas? Public hearing Sept. 18

Good idea, bad process.

That’s Jim Hall’s take on proposed zoning changes that would allow duplexes in most single-family, low-density neighbourhoods in Vancouver.

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He attended, Sept. 13, the last of four information meetings about the changes, which go to public hearing Sept. 18.

Hall, chair of the Arbutus Ridge Kerrisdale Shaughnessy (ARKS) Vision Implementation Committee, said his position is his alone — he hasn’t had time to consult with the committee.

That said, he considers the duplex proposal a good idea because it’s a modest increase in density, duplexes are more affordable than a single-family home, and the ARKS’ vision, which was approved by council in 2006, indicated residents want more housing choices.

Hall even advised his own daughter to buy a duplex, rather than a condo, because of strata issues. She just purchased one near 25th and Knight.

“So, I do support it. However, as chair of a vision [committee], there has not been enough consultation and time to talk to our committee and get an official endorsement,” he said. “[I] have given [my] personal position but I don’t have the time to have a meeting with my neighbourhood to have an endorsed opinion before council. We’re having an open house now and it’s going to council next week — one week.”

Hall said he only learned about the open house through the Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods.

The duplex proposal is one of the city’s “quick-start” actions in its broader Making Room housing program, which was approved in June. The overall program aims to increase the supply of medium-sized, medium-density housing throughout the city in single-family neighbourhoods — the so called “missing middle” types of housing — with a view to creating the right supply of homes for families.

Over the next year, staff will be evaluating the possibility of allowing triplexes, four-plexes, townhouses and apartments up to four storeys in low-density neighbourhoods. A report on those options will go to council in the spring of 2019.

Duplexes, meanwhile, can be in a range of styles — front/back, side-by-side or up-down unit configurations.

Current RS (single-family) zoning allows for secondary suites, laneway homes and character infill. Proposed changes would allow duplexes, with or without secondary suites. Duplexes would be an option for new construction only.


City of Vancouver map
City of Vancouver map


The changes being considered would not allow an increase in floor area over what is currently allowed and duplexes would not be permitted in conjunction with a laneway house. The city says these details are expected to limit a potential land value escalation.

The zoning changes are intended to maintain the character of the neighbourhoods, while introducing a different type of housing choice.

Currently, duplexes are allowed in some areas of the city, including areas of Grandview-Woodland and Mount Pleasant.

Paula Huber, a senior planner for the City of Vancouver, said reaction to the proposed zoning changes at the Killarney and Hastings open houses this week was generally supportive, but it was more mixed at the event in Dunbar.

Huber said the goal of Making Room Program is to deliver more housing options for residents.

“We’ve got a whole lot — 60,000 — of these detached single-family houses and we’ve got a whole lot of highrises downtown and in [arterial] corridors. But we don’t have this range — from infill and duplex up to four-storey apartment buildings,” she said.

“This is the first step in the Making Room program to deliver duplexes throughout the city. Then, over the next 18 months, we’re going to be talking with communities and doing analysis about housing, [and] introducing the missing middle type of housing in all neighbourhoods across the city to add more housing choice and improve affordability.”

Carey Murphy, who lives near the King Edward Canada Line station, stopped by the open house out of curiosity. Murphy said the changes will lead to houses being demolished for what amounts to a small increase in the number of units allowed on each lot — three to four.

“I’d rather see an incentive for people to convert or do something in their own house to get a fourth living unit rather than have to demolish and rebuild,” she said. “I see it as being wasteful but also it’s expensive. It’s a lot cheaper if you can just do an addition to your house that’s going to give a few extra square feet rather than have to demolish and build a whole house.”

Jack Seto, a West Side resident, said he’s not opposed to duplexes or even triplexes in single-family areas, but he’s bothered by what he sees as layers of city hall bureaucracy and council inaction that stall decisions and make outcomes more costly.

The public hearing gets underway at 3 p.m., Sept. 18. There are six items on the agenda.


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