New provincial housing legislation

Updated November 30, 2023 (legislation has been adopted)

The Municipality of North Cowichan, like many other local governments across B.C., is in the early stages of understanding the recently adopted provincial legislation (Bill 44) that is aimed at increasing housing supply.

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North Cowichan is committed to increasing the supply of both market-rate and affordable housing in order to support workers, families, seniors, and vulnerable populations, and to ensure people that live and work here have somewhere to live. This commitment is an ongoing strategic goal of Council and is supported in the 2022 Official Community Plan.

Staff are working to better understand this legislation, how it will impact North Cowichan’s zoning bylaw, and how it will align with current planning policies and procedures, including North Cowichan’s draft Affordable Housing Policy.

We expect to have clearer direction in the coming weeks, and will be bringing forward a report to Council on the implications of these legislative changes as well as recommended next steps.

Key facts and questions:

  • Permit one secondary suite or one laneway home (accessory dwelling unit) in all communities throughout B.C.
  • Permit three to four units on fully serviced (water & sewer) lots currently zoned for single-family or duplex use, depending on lot size.
  • Permit up to six units on larger lots currently zoned for single-family or duplex use and close to transit stops with frequent service.
  • Require all local governments to update their housing needs reports (HNR) using a standardized methodology to estimate housing needs over a 20-year time horizon.
  • Require that official community plan (OCP) and zoning bylaws be updated every 5 years to reflect and pre-zone for the 20-year total number of housing units required to meet anticipated housing needs. OCPs must also include housing policies respecting each class of housing need required in the most recent HNR.
  • Prohibit public hearings for housing-focused rezonings that are consistent with OCPs, where the residential component of a development comprises at least half of the gross floor area.

Has anything changed yet?

  • No, our current zoning bylaw and procedures remain in place and no development entitlements have changed. North Cowichan will be providing an update on any immediate changes, along with implications for the future and next steps.

What happens if I have a development/zoning application currently with the Municipality?

  • We will continue to process applications the current zoning bylaw. Staff will assess what this means for each application on a case-by-case basis and advise applicants accordingly on the implications and options.

Where can I find the location of North Cowichan’s Urban Containment Boundary?

  • The UCB is defined within our Official Community Plan and is viewable on our interactive webmap:

Can municipalities opt out of the provincial legislation?

  • The legislation contains a provision for municipalities to request a deferral until 2030 to comply, but only on certain technical grounds relating to infrastructure capacity.  Otherwise, there is no ability for a municipality to be exempt from the changes.