The City's Zoning and Development Bylaw - along with the Land Use and Development Policies and Guidelines - help shape Vancouver, and make our communities more liveable.
Building permits and regulations are enforced by the City of Vancouver to ensure safety and livability for you, your neighbours, and future property owners and residents.
To keep Vancouver safe and liveable, the City:
In Vancouver, urban planning focuses on liveability.
That means creating a city of neighbourhoods where people can work, play, and shop.
It also means creating urban environments where residents feel supported and engaged, and can enjoy a vibrant street life and their fellow residents.
In building our liveable, sustainable city, the City:
One Familly Dwelling District:
The intent is to maintain the single-family residential character of the RS-1 District, but also to permit conditionally one-family dwellings with secondary suites. Emphasis is placed on encouraging neighbourly development by preserving outdoor space and views. Neighbourhood amenity is enhanced through the maintenance of healthy trees and planting which reflects the established streetscape.
The intent is to preserve and maintain the single-family residential character of the RS-3 and RS-3A Districts in a manner compatible with the existing amenity and design of development, and to encourage new development that is similar in character to existing development in this District. Emphasis is placed on encouraging neighbourly development by preserving outdoor space and views and by ensuring that the bulk and size of new development is similar to existing development. Neighbourhood amenity is enhanced through the maintenance of healthy trees and planting which reflects the established streetscape. The RS-3 District permits a higher non-discretionary density than the RS-3A District.
The intent is primarily to maintain the single-family residential character of the District, to conditionally permit, in some instances, the conversion of large homes to contain additional accommodation, and some two-family dwellings and to accommodate retention of an existing residential building where creation of a new lot is otherwise approvable.
The intent is to maintain the existing single-family residential character of the RS-5 District by encouraging new development that is compatible with the form and design of existing development, and by encouraging the retention and renovation of existing development but also to permit conditionally one-family dwellings with secondary suites. Emphasis is placed on design compatibility with the established streetscape. Neighbourhood amenity is intended to be enhanced through the maintenance and addition of healthy trees and plants.
The intent is to maintain the single-family residential character of the District, to encourage a good standard of building design, materials, and landscape development while allowing design diversity in new development and to encourage retention of existing housing stock. Neighbourhood amenity is enhanced through the maintenance of healthy trees and planting which reflects the established landscape.
The intent is to maintain the single-family residential character of the RS-7 District and, on typical smaller lots, to conditionally permit two-family dwellings and multiple conversion dwellings and, on larger lots, to conditionally permit multiple-family dwellings and infill. Neighbourhood amenity is enhanced through external design regulations.
Two Familly Dwelling District:
The intent is primarily to permit side-by-side two-family dwellings.
The intent is to permit two-family dwellings and to conditionally permit, in some instances, low density multiple-family housing.
The intent is to encourage the retention of neighbourhood and streetscape character, particularly through the retention, renovation and restoration of existing character buildings. Redevelopment is encouraged on sites with existing buildings of style and form which are inconsistent with the area’s pre-1920 architecture. Emphasis is placed on the external design of additions to existing buildings and new buildings to encourage the preservation of the historic architectural character of the area. Floor area incentives are included to achieve the creation of affordable housing and the rehabilitation of original buildings which are important to the neighbourhood’s character.
RT-4, RT-4A, RT-4N, RT-4AN, RT-5, RT-5A, RT-5N, RT-5AN
The intent is to encourage the retention of existing residential structures and to encourage and maintain a family emphasis. The RT-4, RT4N, RT-5 and RT-5N Districts emphasis is placed on the external design of all new buildings and additions being compatible with the historical character of the area, and on being neighbourly in scale and placement. In the RT-4A, RT-4AN, RT-5A and RT-5AN Districts this emphasis is limited to certain uses or, in RT-5A and RT-5AN Districts, to development seeking density relaxations.
RT-6 (Mount Pleasant)
The intent is to encourage the retention, renovation and restoration of existing residential buildings which maintain an architectural style and building form consistent with the area. Redevelopment is encouraged on sites with smaller buildings or buildings of architectural style and form which are inconsistent with the area. Emphasis is placed on requiring the external design of buildings and additions to buildings to follow the proportions, rhythm and details of architectural features of the area.
The intent is to encourage the retention and renovation of existing buildings which maintain an architectural style and building form consistent with the historical character of the area. Redevelopment will be encouraged on sites where existing buildings are smaller, or do not contribute to this character. For renovations and additions, emphasis is placed on maintaining existing external architectural character; for new development, on compatibility in external character. In all cases, neighbourly building scale and placement is emphasized.
RT-9 (Kitsilano Point)
The intent is to encourage new development with a diversity of character and neighbourly building scale and placement. The retention and renovation of existing buildings is also permitted on sites where buildings have historical or architectural merit.
The intent is to encourage development of multiple small houses and duplexes on large lots and assembled sites, while continuing to permit lower intensity development on smaller sites. Siting and massing is intended to be compatible with, but not the same as, pre-existing single family development. Retention of older character buildings and high quality architectural design of all new development are encouraged.
The intent of this schedule is to allow a variety of housing options by encouraging development of multiple small houses and duplexes on larger lots and assembled sites, while continuing to permit lower intensity development on smaller sites, such as one-family dwellings with or without a secondary suite and/or a laneway house. Siting and massing are intended to be compatible with, but not the same as, pre-existing single family development. Laneway houses, secondary suites, and lock-off units are permitted, within limits, to provide flexible housing choices. Retention of character buildings and high quality architectural design of new development is encouraged.
Multiple Dwelling District:
The intent is to encourage development of courtyard rowhouses on larger sites while continuing to permit lower intensity development on smaller sites. Siting and massing is intended to be compatible with, but not the same as, pre-existing single family development. High quality architectural design of all new development is encouraged.
The intent is to permit low to medium density residential development, including low-rise apartment buildings, and to secure a higher quality of parking, open space and daylight access through floor area bonus incentives.
The intent is to permit medium density residential development, including high-rise apartment buildings, and to secure a higher quality of parking, open space and daylight access through floor area bonus incentives.
The intent is to permit medium density residential development, including a variety of multiple dwelling types, to encourage the retention of existing buildings and good design, and to achieve a number of community and social objectives through permitted increases in floor area. The RM-4N District requires evidence of noise mitigation for residential development.
RM-5, RM-5A, RM-5B, RM-5C, RM-5D
The intent is to permit a variety of residential developments and some compatible retail, office, service and institutional uses. Emphasis is placed on achieving development which is compatible with neighbouring development with respect to streetscape character, open spaces, view retention, sunlight access and privacy. The RM-5A, RM-5B, RM-5C and RM-5D Districts permit greater densities than RM-5.
The additional intent of the RM-5 District is to require developments suited to families with children. The additional intent of the RM-5C District is to permit a greater range of uses. The RM-5D District supports the development of social housing.
RM-6 (West End)
The intent is to permit high density residential development and some compatible retail, cultural, recreational, service and institutional uses. Emphasis is placed on achieving development which recognizes the formal character of Georgia Street and is compatible with the West End residential character along Alberni Street.
LANEWAY HOUSE :
A laneway house is a smaller, detached home located where the garage would normally go on a single-family lot.
Laneway houses contribute to the overall sustainability of the city. They give people more opportunities to live close to where they work, shop, and play, and they make the city's urban lanes more green, liveable, and safe.
Laneway housing also contributes to the amount of affordable rental housing available in the city.
Can I build a laneway house on my property?
You can build a laneway house on any lot 32 feet or wider in any RS single family zone.
Laneway houses are an excellent way to increase the diversity of rental units in single family neighbourhoods, by providing:
Laneway housing plays an important role in achieving Council’s priorities to increase the supply of rental housing options across the city.
Build and legalize your basement or secondary suite:
Building more rental suites is an excellent way to reduce our carbon footprint, and expand affordable housing choices.
To accommodate this, the City now permits suites in every detached single-family home in Vancouver within the RS, RM, and RT zones.
Council has also relaxed a number of building codes to make creating rental suites easier. For instance, they have:
SECONDARY SUITE PROGRAM
The following steps are designed to help a homeowner through the various stages involved in installing a new suite to an existing house, or retaining an existing suite that has no prior permits or inspection approval.
STEP 1: Apply for a Special Inspection and book an appointment for this inspection.
A Special Inspection is a coordinated inspection carried out by the Building, Electrical and Plumbing Inspectors. Its purpose is to determine what upgrading work would be required to legalize a suite.
STEP 2: Review Upgrading Letter.
You will receive a letter listing the permits, plans, and upgrading requirements. Please read the upgrading letter carefully and prepare any documents that are required to obtain permits (e.g., Plans).
STEP 3: Obtain Permits.
Bring the letter to City Hall (515 West 10th Avenue – Ground Floor) with the necessary plans as indicated on the upgrading letter and apply for a Combined Development and Building Permit.
NOTE: A Combined Development and Building Permit can be obtained by the homeowner or his/her representative. However, Electrical, Plumbing, Gas, and Sprinkler Permits, if required, will only be issued to licensed contractors.
STEP 4: Call for Inspections.
Progress inspections are required during the course of the upgrading. Several inspections may be required before a job can be finalized. To book a progress inspection or final inspection for a secondary suite, you or your contractor may phone 3-1-1 (or 604.873.7000 outside of Vancouver).
STEP 5: Suite Approval.
If the work meets all requirements, your suite will be approved. Staff in the Secondary Suite Office will send you a letter confirming this.
STEP 6: Annual Business License.
An annual Business License will be required for rental suites.
Permits, Plans & Upgrading Requirements
The information below has been prepared as a guide to homeowners only. The relevant City By-Law and/or Code requirements will take precedence.
A Development & Building Permit will be required to carry out upgrading work and to formally change the use of your house from a one-family dwelling to a one-family dwelling with a secondary suite. The homeowner or his/her representative can apply for this permit.
If the upgrading letter identifies any required trades permits (i.e., Electrical, Plumbing or Gas Permits), these permits can only be obtained by licensed contractors.
Plans are required at the time you apply for a Development & Building Permit. In most cases, two sets of floor plans and site plans will be acceptable. These plans do not need to be prepared by a professional; however, the information on the drawings must be drawn to scale, dimensioned and clearly labelled.
The floor plan must include the location and dimensions of all secondary suite rooms (bedrooms/ kitchen/bath room/living room, etc.), stairs, windows, doors, and the location of electrical outlets and plumbing fixtures in the suite.
The site plan must include the location and dimension of (a) on-site parking, (b) the access path from the street to the suite entry and any protrusions encroaching onto the access path, and (c) the location of the lane and the street.
If additions or alterations are proposed or required in other parts of the building, or if the building is raised or lowered, further plans will be required.
The following are general requirements for a secondary suite, identified through a Special Inspection of the building, where Building, Electrical and Plumbing/Gas inspectors attend the property together. The focus of the inspection is the suite area; however, any hazards throughout the building that are identified during the inspection, must be corrected whether or not a suite is retained or installed.
Houses built before April 20, 2004 – one on-site parking space will be accepted.
Houses built on or after April 20, 2004 – require two on-site parking spaces (one for the primary dwelling unit and one for the
A parking space is 8’ x 18’. In some cases, a site peculiarity may allow a relaxation.
A durable surface is required for parking spaces.
A minimum existing ceiling height of 6’6” is required over 80% of the suite area and all exit routes.
Grade Level/Minimum Floor Area
The secondary suite cannot be over 1.83 meters (6 ft.) below finished grade level.
A minimum floor area of 37m2 (400 sq. ft.) is required; however it cannot exceed the size of the principle dwelling unit.
Existing lath and plaster in good condition, or minimum 1⁄2 inch gypsum wallboard is required on walls and/or ceilings between the primary dwelling unit and the secondary suite.
Self-closing devices are required on any interconnecting doors between the principal dwelling unit and the secondary suite.
For sprinklered buildings, interconnected, hard-wired smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detection with battery back-up and silencing feature installed with a permanent connection to an electrical circuit, are required in every bedroom and one every floor which must located in the hallway when the bedrooms are served by a hallway. Note: carbon monoxide detection alarm is not required when there is no gas furnace in your house.
For unsprinklered suites, in addition to the above, these smoke alarms must be equipped with carbon monoxide detection, battery backup and manual silencing devices which will silence the alarm for a period of 10 minutes, after which the alarm will continue to function.
The proper number of receptacles/appliance circuits will be required in the suite.
The main electrical service must be sized to accommodate all electrical loads (e.g., usually two electric ranges and two
electric dryers will require a minimum 100 amp service).
Plumbing & Gas:
Existing plumbing and gas fixtures must be properly installed with approved traps and vents. • Furnace and hot water tank vents require proper clearance from combustible materials.
Gas appliances must be installed in an approved manner.Fees for a secondary suite (2016 rates)
One time inspection and permit fees as follows: Special Inspection
Combined Development & Building Permit Electrical Permit
There will be additional fees for Water, Sewer, Garbage and Recycling Flat Rates.
Note: This guide has been prepared for information only. The Relevant City By-Law and/or Code requirements will take precedence.