In a groundbreaking move, the City of Vancouver has passed a pivotal housing reform aimed at addressing the city’s housing crisis. According to the Vancouver Sun, Vancouver’s residential landscape has long been dominated by single-family homes, with high-rise apartments concentrated in the city center. However, there has been a glaring lack of medium-density housing options, commonly known as the “missing middle,” which are in high demand across many North American cities but scarce in Vancouver.

The Policy in ActionMissing Middle

The recent decision – missing middle, which has sparked intense debate, involves the transformation of single-family homes into multi-unit residences, allowing for up to six units per lot or eight for rental-specific housing, as reported by CBC. This marks the most significant housing reform in Vancouver in the past fourteen years and is expected to substantially increase housing density.

Implications for Different Lot Sizes

  • For standard lots measuring 33 feet in width, the maximum building area for new constructions will increase from the current approximately 3,400 square feet to around 4,000 square feet, accommodating up to four units.
  • Larger lots measuring 50 feet in width will see their maximum building area increase from 5,200 square feet to approximately 6,100 square feet, allowing for as many as six units.
  • In the case of rental-specific housing, up to eight units will be permitted, with one unit potentially reserved for the owner’s use. The maximum building height is capped at three stories or 37.7 feet.
Missing Middle

Impact on Housing Landscape

This policy is set to impact the majority of Vancouver’s approximately 65,000 detached house lots. Once it officially takes effect, the city anticipates receiving around 200 applications annually for the construction of multi-unit housing.

According to city officials, the cost of constructing new multi-unit housing is estimated to be 50% lower than building new detached homes and roughly 75% lower than constructing new apartment buildings. This approach aims to enable the construction of more housing units on each individual lot, allowing for shared land costs. While the price of these new units may still exceed the budgets of many families, it is expected to be more affordable compared to current housing prices in these neighborhoods.

Understanding the Floor Area Ratio (FAR)

The Floor Area Ratio (FAR), a measure of density comparing a building’s interior area to the land area, is a critical factor in this policy. Vancouver’s standard lot size is approximately 33 feet by 122 feet, equating to 4,026 square feet. The new regulation establishes a maximum FAR of 1.0, effectively utilizing nearly the entire land area for multi-unit housing.

Balancing Act

However, while the overall building area increases, the new rules impose tighter restrictions on the maximum floor area for an individual detached house on a lot. Presently, the maximum FAR for new homes in Vancouver can reach up to 0.7. According to the proposal, the FAR will be reduced by 0.1 to reach 0.6. In practical terms, this means that for Vancouver’s standard detached house lots, the maximum building area for the main house will decrease from the current 2,800 square feet to 2,400 square feet, resulting in a 14% reduction in the usable living space.

Emphasis on Laneway Houses

At the same time, the primary residential density on single-family land will shift largely to laneway houses. The maximum area of ​​a laneway house will increase from the existing 0.16 FAR to 0.25 FAR, which will increase the residential area of ​​a laneway house by 56%.

The purpose of this policy is obvious: As a detached house owner, you can choose not to build multi-family housing on your land, but if you want to knock down the old house and rebuild it, the new house will only be smaller than the previous one. Laneway houses can be added. Big. Instead of sticking to a smaller main house, it is better to build a larger auxiliary house. The city government is using both soft and hard tactics to induce homeowners to build multi-family housing on their own land!

Diverse Reactions and Concerns

This policy has faced opposition, particularly from families who live across multiple generations in the same household. Critics argue that it challenges the living arrangements of many Vancouver families who practice multi-generational or communal living and require larger homes.


In conclusion, Vancouver’s housing reform represents a pivotal moment in the city’s history. Traditional single-family homes will give way to a more diversified and compact housing ecosystem, aimed at addressing the housing crisis. Whether one supports or opposes this reform, it is poised to redefine Vancouver’s real estate landscape, transforming the city’s housing choices and lifestyles. It is an ambitious and innovative approach to combatting the housing challenges faced by one of Canada’s most vibrant cities.

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