B.C. could be getting a modernized “Vancouver Special” as the province tries to tackle the housing crisis.
The province is looking to select a consultant to create a selection of standardized designs for small-scale, multi-unit homes, such as townhomes, triplexes and laneway homes, Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon announced Thursday (Nov. 16).
A request for consultants opened Nov. 15 for the first phase of the project, and will close Dec. 13. The province says it will work with the consultant for nine months, with the goal of designs created by spring 2024 and availability for local governments by the summer.
The plan is for these designs to be adopted by local governments and offered to builders and homeowners “at a significantly below-market cost to expedite permitting and development.”
Premier David Eby and Kahlon actually previewed the idea during their virtual townhall Wednesday (Nov. 15) when a caller had asked about standardized housing.
Eby said there are “just so many reasons why it would be great to have pre-approved plans for homes,” before referencing the “Vancouver Special.”
According to the Vancouver Heritage Foundation, Vancouver Specials are “front-gabled, two-storey boxy built on grade with very shallow-pitched roofs.” They were built in the thousands between 1965 and 1985 and defined Vancouver streets and beyond.
Eby said they were cheap to build and many families called them home.
“If we can standardize things, if we can use technology to make things cheaper and easier to build, we should do it.”
The province says standardized designs can substantially streamline the permitting process to make it easier for local governments to give building-permit approvals quickly, while also saving builders and homeowners the costs that come from expensive design services. They’re also aimed at helping smaller local governments “that may not have the resources to develop standardized designs to help approve developments efficiently and quickly.”
As many as 10 different designs will be developed, with Kahlon adding in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that a “variety of designs will be added in the coming years so our communities remain vibrant.”
The province says the designs will comply with the BC Building Code and are expected to be as close as possible to building-permit ready, “recognizing minor amendments may be required by local designers or architects to take into account specific site conditions.”
This move follows the province introducing new legislation on housing over the past few months.
Most recently, the Housing Ministry introduced legislation on Nov. 8 to increase housing density around rapid transit and bus exchanges. If passed, it would allow three to four units on land currently zoned for single-family homes and duplexes, and as many as six units near bus stops with frequent transit service.
– With files from Wolf Depner