Vancouver Zoning Changes – Duplexes and Townhomes

Big Changes Bring Challenges and Opportunities

As the City of Vancouver’s current council draws to a close ahead of the upcoming civic elections, a series of zoning changes was passed this September. While some, such as the Cambie upzoning plan, have been in the works for years, others came as a complete surprise. The “Making Room” initiative introduced this summer by Mayor Robertson involves a complete upzoning of the vast majority of the city’s single-family neighborhoods. While many critics are concerned about the effects this increased density may have on parking availability and neighborhood character, many homeowners are eager to seize upon the opportunities the changes bring.


The most drastic change brought about by council’s decision is the mass rezoning of nearly all RS-zoned (single family) neighborhoods in Vancouver. Only areas of Shaughnessy will continue to have restrictions on duplex construction.

The new rules will allow duplexes to be built (or existing buildings to be converted) on any lot in the affected areas. Each duplex will be allowed a secondary suite, making a maximum of 4 units on a single lot. Laneway homes will not be permitted on lots that contain a duplex, however.

Duplex developments will be restricted to a Floor Space ratio of 0.7 with the construction of a new building. If current rules state that your lot’s FSR is 0.6 (meaning you can have a floor space equal to 60% of your lot), this will mean a significantly larger home to make room for the duplex.

Duplexes will be allowed to be stratified and sold as two separate properties, which can provide both more affordable units to first time buyers, and provide a larger profit to sellers.


While some homeowners may hear this news and get caught up in the excitement, looking forward to building a duplex on their lot, it will be important to make an informed decision before deciding what to do.


While council has approved the plan as a whole. It is not yet fully in effect. Future decisions will be made at council meetings to make amendments to the rules. It’s important to wait until all the decisions are made before putting resources into a planned rebuild.


One key factor to remember when considering taking advantage of the changes is that lots will be restricted to a 0.7 FSR. That means that by demolishing your home to build another, you could be losing potential floor space and sale value if your home is currently larger than this.

It is possible that your home is overbuilt in its current state and would benefit from a renovation that converts it to a duplex. Many types of homes in Vancouver contain more floor space than current regulations would allow in a new building.


Your property and home may already qualify for retention benefits under the city’s Character Home plan. This plan that applies to all RS zones in Vancouver (and some RT zones in Grandview and Mount Pleasant) and provides a great deal of leniency to owners of qualifying homes.

If your property qualifies (Pre-1940 homes that are still largely in their original state), you may be offered FSR bonuses, duplex conversion, laneway construction, larger infills (secondary buildings) and the ability to stratify into 3 or more salable units depending on your lot size. A character home that takes advantage of all available benefits may be able to reach an FSR of up to 0.83, far beyond the average 0.70 offered to new duplex constructions.

However, if you demolish the building, you will lose those benefits and have to work within the area’s existing FSR and zoning rules, resulting in a potential losses. Renovating a character home may be the best option to retain its value.


The opportunities these changes open up for homeowners are incredible, and it’s best to keep yourself informed. Online research is one part of the equation, but it’s no replacement for speaking to an expert.

Our team is passionate about character homes, zoning and building bylaws. We take pride in providing the best information we can, and giving homeowners everything they need to make an informed decision that’s best for their homes, their families and themselves.

If you own a home that is affected by any of these changes and want to learn more about what you can do, or what you should do, contact us for a no-obligation consultation to discuss your options.