Legislation (Bill 47) has been introduced that will allow the Province to establish minimum allowable height and density for Transit Oriented Development (TOD) areas. Local governments will be required to designate these areas near transit hubs and consider applicable guidelines pertaining to them. The Province expects that approximately 100 TOD areas will be designated in approximately 30 municipalities within the first year of the legislation coming into effect.
TOD areas are defined as land within 800 metres of a rapid transit station (e.g., SkyTrain station), and within 400 metres of a bus exchange where passengers transfer from one route to another.
Within these areas, limits will be placed on zoning powers under Section 479 of the Local Government Act with the effect that local governments will not be able to prohibit or restrict density of use, or a size or dimension of buildings or other structures as set out in the regulations. Where a local government’s current zoning allows for less density than the new provincial minimum, the new increased minimum density must be allowed. Local governments may, however, approve higher densities at their discretion.
The Province has outlined a policy framework for these areas, specifying minimum allowable density (floor area ratio, FAR) and minimum allowable height (storeys) based on prescribed distance from transit hubs, the type of transit hub, and the municipality size, population and location.
Site standards and guidelines
Subject to the regulations, a local government may not require an owner or occupier of any land in a TOD area, or of any building or other structure on the land, to provide off-street parking spaces for the residential use of the land, building or other structure, other than off-street parking spaces for use by disabled persons. Commercial parking requirements will not be affected within TOD Areas. Builders and developers will be able to build as much parking as desired for a project but will not be required to meet a minimum standard of parking units. The Province will also be creating a provincial policy manual addressing site standards.
The legislation allows for the establishment of guidelines related to: off-street parking and loading space, OCP or zoning bylaws applying to TOD areas, and designation of TOD areas. Under the legislation, a local government must consider applicable guidelines in specific circumstances, including when developing or amending an OCP, and when developing or adopting a zoning bylaw.
Following the release of regulations and the policy manual in December 2023, lands that local governments have designated for transit-oriented growth in OCPs will immediately be captured under new minimum allowable density requirements. For additional TOD areas requiring local government designation, municipalities will have until June 30, 2024 to designate those areas, pending regulation.
UBCM policy alignment and next steps
UBCM recognizes the importance of land use and transportation integration and recognizes that housing located near transit has the potential to increase affordability. UBCM members have consistently called for increased Provincial investment in transit to support economically competitive, sustainable and livable communities.
However, there are many moving pieces with recent legislative changes, raising significant concerns with regards to potential unintended consequences and cumulative impact on local capacity. Bill 47 is being introduced concurrently with:
- Bill 46 substantially changing the framework used by local governments to pay for infrastructure and community amenities related to new development,
- Bill 44 which introduces requirements for OCPs, zoning bylaws, and Small Scale Multi Unit housing, and
- Ongoing implementation of the Housing Supply Act that will see housing targets set for a growing number of municipalities: a second group of 8-10 municipalities will be selected and notified in late 2023.
UBCM welcomes member feedback on the legislation, the engagement process, and the associated implications for local governments, to inform our future engagement with the Province as we seek to mitigate unintended consequences and ensure that local governments receive the supports needed for effective implementation.
If you have any questions or concerns that you wish to convey to UBCM, please contact Josh van Loon, Senior Policy Analyst.