BC communities face roadblocks to adding gentle density housing to their inventory. Understanding the roadblocks is something we are working on with Small Housing BC  and with funding from CMHC.  The project will also help to identify the supports, tools and resources that local government staff need to overcome them and move forward more rapidly with gentle density.  

Gentle density housing refers to infill development that complements neighbourhood character and can include anything from a small accessory dwelling unit and four, five and six-plex developments. Adding housing units through gentle density can save servicing and infrastructure costs for a community, so why is this approach not embraced more?  

Here are some of the roadblocks we heard from local government staff: 

  • Limited public and local government understanding of what gentle density could look like and what the benefits are 
  • Restrictive regulations and approval processes (zoning, design guidelines, building codes, development permits) 
  • Limited staff capacity and resources 
  • Lack of consistent collaboration between sectors and between different levels of government 

To help remove these roadblocks, we have identified these four strategies to support local governments: 

  • Build public and Council understanding (e.g., public engagement materials, targeted campaigns) 
  • Strengthen planning-technical expertise and support local innovation (e.g., convening technical tables to develop resources such as standard home designs) 
  • Create a community of practice for municipal planners (e.g., create and facilitate a platform for sharing knowledge) 
  • Create and convene inter-jurisdictional and inter-sectoral coordination (e.g., convene and facilitate dialogue among/between sectors) 

To help overcome these roadblocks, we identified the need for a web-based tool that includes technical information, engagement resources, images and designs, case studies, and a forum for online dialogue and exchange of information. Small Housing BC is currently seeking the next phase of funding from CMHC to develop this webtool and will be looking for planners to provide input and test a prototype.   

If you are interested in finding out more about this project, or being part of the prototype testing, please email Cheeying at: cho[at]whistlercentre.ca