The District of Squamish has reformed zoning rules for affordable housing and adopted blanket zoning bylaw changes to remove density restrictions and allow affordable housing projects of six storeys or less in any Squamish neighbourhood that is outside of higher flood hazard areas.
In a press release, District said this unprecedented move will eliminate the rezoning requirement for publicly funded affordable housing projects in any zone and privately funded affordable projects in any residential zone.
“We know the need for housing in our community is critical and these changes will ensure we are cutting red tape out of the way so that housing can be built faster and cost less,” said Squamish Mayor Armand Hurford. “Rather than relying on zoning to determine where affordable housing can be established, we are going to rely on partnerships with our community housing providers, funding agencies and the private sector. This is an important step forward to provide more affordable housing in our community and support our partners in pursuit of affordable housing projects.”
In addition to removing the need for rezoning, the bylaw includes the removal of several key restrictions including floor area, lot coverage and setback requirements, and cutting parking requirements in half. The changes help streamline the development approval for non-market housing providers.
The amendments are expected to incentivize hundreds of affordable homes in the next ten years by removing zoning uncertainty and enabling affordable housing to be built with greater speed and density across the community, Distrist said. The changes also aim to lower development costs, resulting in more affordable rents for residents. This step is one of the first bold initiatives under the District’s Housing Action Plan that aims to transform the regulatory side of housing supply in Squamish, District said.
“This is a big move in support of critically needed housing, and is a clear sign to senior levels of government that Squamish is a serious partner in addressing our housing crisis” says Housing Squamish Executive Director Sarah Ellis.
Since 2017, the District said it has helped to facilitate the creation of 387 non-market publicly funded affordable rental units in the community, including projects such as Spirit Creek, Westwinds and Centrepoint.
The 2023 District of Squamish Housing Needs Report projects that 9,600 new housing units will be required by 2036, with an estimated 6,840 units needed by 2031 in order to meet the housing needs of our community. The report estimates that of the 6,840 new units needed, 42% will need to address housing needs for households earning below $70,000 per year.