In the fall of 2019, the Vancouver city council (the “Council”) announced that it officially green-lit the creation of a physical master plan for Vancouver’s long-term growth, land-use, and transportation planning while also addressing social, economic, and cultural aspects of daily life in the city.,
The Vancouver Plan is undergoing a 2.5-year-long planning and development process split into 5 phases, including:
- Phase 1: Public Engagement (Fall – September 2020)
- Phase 2: Developing Emerging Direction (October 2020 – July 2021)
- Phase 3: Policy and Land Use Ideas (August – November 2021)
- Phase 4: Revising and Final Plan (December 2021 – June 2022)
- Phase 5: Implementation (Summer 2022+)
On April 5, 2022, the City of Vancouver (the “City”) released the first draft of the Vancouver Plan (the “Plan“), a 150-page document outlining the policy vision of the City through to 2050. Included in the Plan are discussions surrounding, among other things, a reimagination of the land use strategy and neighbourhood types, integration of a robust transportation network, urban design, rental housing, climate change, ecology, riparian resources, community infrastructure, and heritage conservation. The Plan aims to provide high-level directions and inform the development of new strategies for the City’s growth for the next 30 years.
Land Use Changes
The Plan introduces community building blocks—sets of infrastructural and environmental precincts—each layered on top of the others to create a new map of neighbourhood types and development districts.
Principally, the Plan proposes new neighbourhood types to replace the existing Official Community Plans and zoning guidelines that currently govern portions of the City. These neighbourhood types will also be used to inform future zoning and development by-laws surrounding specific points of interest such as the Metro Core (i.e. Downtown and North Granville), Municipal Town Centre (i.e. Oakridge), Rapid Transit Areas (i.e. Broadway Corridor, Kingsway, and 41st Avenue), and various Neighbourhood Centres.
In dense, highly populated areas such as the Metro Core and Rapid Transit Areas, higher building heights (up to 30+ storeys) are proposed in conjunction with a distributed pattern of growth. This will result in a greater mix of low and mid-rise buildings in any high foot-traffic locations. Shopping areas and commercial zones will generally see small storefronts and increased solar access on major pedestrian streets.
Increased levels of retail and office spaces are proposed along Frequent Transit Development Areas (i.e. 41st Avenue, 49th Avenue, and Main Street), with a minimum density target of 35-80 jobs per hectare in corridors and 60-350 jobs per hectare in station areas. Low-rise, medium-rise, and high-rise multi-unit buildings from 12-18 storeys are generally proposed for strategic sites.
Most Neighbourhood Centres and Village areas (i.e. Kerrisdale, Olympic Village and Grandview) will see increased rental housing and middle-ownership options with added shops, services, and housing choice. The Plan proposes the addition of low-rise multi-unit residential and mixed-use buildings up to 6-storeys and a minimum residential density of 40 people per hectare for most regions along major transit lines.
A variety of Multiplex Areas are also outlined in the Plan, with a focus on the development of ground-oriented housing (i.e. duplexes and townhomes) through land assemblies and lot consolidations, with an aim to provide a more affordable and sustainable option to single-detached homes. For the majority of the residential areas across the City, smaller scale, multi-family residential homes (2-3 storeys) are proposed, and up to 4-6 storeys for rental or social housing where certain Secured Rental Policy (SRP) applies.
Building Code Changes
Although specifics are not provided at this stage, the Plan outlines changes to the development application and business permitting processes aimed to increase efficiency and accelerate application approvals. Updated zoning and licensing regulations will be implemented and be brought in line with those in the surrounding municipalities by 2024.
Changes are proposed for implementation into the existing Vancouver Building By-Law 12511 (the “Building Code”), including new guidelines surrounding building shape, outdoor space requirements, and solar access. Further, a set of revised guidelines on the use of efficient building materials and water and energy conservation are in the works.
A new, one-stop method of approval will be implemented for any qualifying NPO-led, Indigenous, and equity-denied licensing and development applications, with a particular focus on NPO-operated and City-supported community infrastructure (i.e. neighbourhood houses, social enterprises, wellness centres, community kitchens, and community halls).
In the summer of 2022, the City will enter Phase 5 of its development process for the Plan and is expected to publish a new City-wide Official Development Plan (“ODP”) outlining the specifics of the 30-year land use, infrastructure, and financial guidelines for the implementation of the Plan. The ODP is expected to be adopted by 2024 and will contain a specific City-wide Map of new Land Use Designations with height and density guidelines.
The ODP will support Council decision making on the sequencing of new land use planning processes with the community and will be considered in conjunction with regional investments in transit, water, and sewer infrastructure.
The Plan and ODP will be subject to a phased implementation plan, so it will not translate into zoning changes or area policy until the Plan is complete. Through the implementation phase, the Plan will also outline a new approach to public investment focused on renewing aging infrastructure and adding amenities and services to underserved communities in the City.
What are the Implications of the Vancouver Plan?
As the Plan’s implementation draws near, legal professionals, land developers, business owners, and potential investors should stay informed of the significant changes that are to arrive as part of the phased rollout.
Throughout the latter half of 2022 and 2023, the Plan will be integrated and adopted into new land use policies and zoning decisions moving forward. Investors and real estate developers should become familiar with the newly proposed neighbourhood types and keep an eye out for amendments to the Vancouver Zoning and Development By-Law 3575. Many commercial and residential areas will see their zoning and land use guidelines updated in accordance with the new strategic policies in the Plan.
A significant need for City-supported infrastructure upgrades may present a welcome opportunity for stakeholders to enter the Vancouver market through public-private partnerships (P3s) allowing for the development of keystone projects and accelerated rezoning applications in conjunction with negotiated community amenity contributions (CACs).
Builders and contractors should be cognizant of amendments to the Building Code and other relevant City by-laws, so as to ensure that their clients, suppliers, and subcontractors can stay ahead of the new construction guidelines which will form part of the building and site design requirements prior to undergoing a new project.
For more information, or if you have a question about this article, please contact a member of our Real Estate Group.
 Kenenth Chan, “City of Vancouver’s new citywide planning process could cost $18 billion”, online: Daily Hive <https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/vancouver-citywide-planning-process-budget-july-2019>.
 Simon Little, “Consultations begin on Vancouver’s ambitious citywide plan”, online: Global News <https://globalnews.ca/news/6168372/consultations-begin-vancouver-citywide-plan>.
 The Vancouver Plan [draft], online: City of Vancouver <https://vancouverplan.ca/wp-content/uploads/Draft-Vancouver-Plan-2022-04-05.pdf>
 Ibid at page 38.
 Ibid at page 40.
 Ibid at page 50.
 Ibid at page 54.
 Ibid at page 52.
 Ibid at page 56.
 Ibid at page 144.