Frequently Asked Questions
Definitions of key terms
What is “Missing middle”? Missing middle refers to a range of housing types that fit between houses and apartment building over 6 storeys, including multi-unit buildings such as duplexes, triplexes, townhouses and low-rise apartments. It’s described as “missing” because there is very little of this type of housing in most of Vancouver’s low density neighbourhoods, which account for more than half of the city’s land area.
What are “Multiplexes”? Multiplexes are a type of missing middle housing, consisting of small townhouse buildings on single lots. Multiplex options that are currently being explored could include up to 4 units on standard lots and 6 units on larger lots.
What are "Low density neighbourhoods”? Low density neighbourhoods in Vancouver are areas where the primary type of buildings are single detached houses. While these RS-zoned areas are often referred to as “single-family” neighbourhoods, many houses contain a secondary suite, and some have a third unit in a separate laneway house. Since 2018, duplexes have also been allowed and are starting to be built in these neighbourhoods.
How much change will this create? How many multiplexes will get built?
The number of new multiplexes that are built will depend on a range of factors, including City regulations (e.g. permitted floor space, number of units, density bonus rate) and broader market factors. Based on the current concept, staff don’t expect the option to build a multiplex to significantly speed up the rate of redevelopment currently happening in low density areas. In recent years, approximately 500 lots have been redeveloped annually in these areas, mostly to build new single detached houses.
If multiplex, duplex and houses are equally attractive projects, then multiplexes would account for about 1/3rd of the redevelopment (with new house and duplex construction accounting for most of the other 2/3rds), and we would see approximately 150 multiplex projects per year.
Staff expect multiplexes to account for an increasing share of permits over time, similar to our experience with duplexes, which are now approaching 50% of new builds in RS zones.
Will the changes to RS zones increase property values?
For most properties in low-density areas, multiplexes would not impact property values. Staff expect single detached houses and duplexes would continue to be the primary driver of land values. On lots where multiplexes may increase land value (primarily larger properties and properties in higher-value locations), a higher density bonus rate would apply in order to offset that increase. You can find information regarding the proposed density bonus rates here.
How much will multiplex units cost? Who will they be affordable to?
As new ownership housing, multiplexes would not be affordable to many, however they would be significantly less expensive than a new single-detached house or duplex.
Sales prices for multiplex units would vary depending on location, size, and other features. The table below provides an example comparison between the estimated cost and income needed to afford a new fourplex unit, new duplex unit and new house in an east side location.
Est. Purchase Price*
% of House Cost
20% Down Payment
*Based on average unit size for a 4,026 sq. ft. lot at 0.7 FSR for house and duplex, 1.0 FSR for multiplex **Assumes 20% downpayment, 25 year amortization, 5.5% interest rate, property taxes, maintenance and household spending 30% of income.
Why can’t the units be more affordable? What can the City do?
One option staff are exploring could enable one unit in a multiplex to be secured as a “below-market homeownership” (BMHO) unit, instead of the builder paying a density bonus charge. The BMHO unit would be required to have at least two bedrooms, and would be sold to a household that meets certain eligibility requirements at a price that is at least 50% below market value. This option is proposed to be administered by BC Housing as part of it's Affordable Home Ownership Program.
Achieving greater affordability, including less expensive market ownership and rental housing options, and below-market and non-market rental housing, requires different approaches and larger buildings (typically apartments). Other City initiatives are focused on delivering these types of housing, including the Secured Rental Policy, which enables new secured rental housing to be built in low-density areas near shopping, transit and other daily needs. Other inputs such as senior government funding and financing are critical to making construction of more deeply affordable non-market housing possible.
Why can’t the density allowed for multiplexes be greater than 1.0 FSR? Are there other opportunities for Missing Middle Housing in City that go beyond 1.0 FSR?
Multiplexes are proposed to have a maximum FSR of 1.0 to enable this new option to be made available across all low density areas and to ensure they are simple to build.
Higher densities can create a significant impact on utilities such as the city’s sewer system. This can necessitate considerable upgrade costs that are transferred onto property owners, and would compromise the financial viability of the projects. In addition larger buildings generally must meet more complex rules, which can mean longer review times.
Other policies such as those included in recent community plans and city-wide policies like the Secured Rental Policy support the construction of larger and more dense types of Missing Middle Housing. Additional opportunities for higher-density housing will also be introduced through the implementation of the Vancouver Plan.
Will allowing multiplexes cause more displacement of existing renters?
The option to build a multiplex is not expected to significantly increase the rate of redevelopment in low density areas. Most multiplexes will be built on sites that would otherwise be redeveloped to a new single detached house or duplex. While redevelopment in low density areas does impact renters, allowing multiplexes as a new option is not expected to significantly increase those impacts.
In some cases, new multiplexes may be built as secured rental housing. However generally, in order to enable the development of new purpose-built rental housing to be viable in low density areas, larger buildings (usually apartments) are required. Other policies like the Secured Rental Policy are enabling this type of housing to be built in low density areas.
Sites that are located in the City’s Designated Floodplain will not qualify for a multiplex project. Where do I find information if my property is in the Designated Floodplain?
You can find out if a property is located in the Designated Floodplain by visiting the following website: https://opendata.vancouver.ca/explore/dataset/designated-floodplain/map/?location=11,49.24708,-123.12355
The areas displayed in red on the map correspond to the boundaries of the Designated Floodplains. You can zoom into your property on the map to determine if it is within a floodplain.
Will sites that are slightly below the lot size requirements be allowed to come in for a multiplex project?
No, lots will be required to meet the minimum size requirements for frontage and total area to be eligible for a multiplex. Based on project design testing, staff determined that 10 m (32.8 ft.) was the minimum lot frontage required for a multiplex.
Why are there no parking minimum requirements for a multiplex project? There is already not enough parking in many neighbourhoods, this is going to make it much worse.
There is no minimum parking requirement proposed for multiplex projects because there is very limited space for cars on most lots due to the need for site servicing such as an electrical transformer box (PMT), garbage and recycling, etc. However, staff anticipate that in most cases applicants will choose to maximize the number of parking spaces to meet market demand.
Parking demand and the amount of street parking available varies across the city, but low density neighbourhoods generally experience less parking challenges than higher-density areas. The outcomes related to the new multiplex will be monitored and reported back to Council in the future.
To achieve greater parking on a site would I be allowed to build underground parking?
No, underground parking would not be permitted for multiplexes. Underground parking is very expensive to construct and would make multiplexes generally financially unfeasible. In addition, underground parking has significant environmental impacts related to deep excavation and carbon pollution associated with the use of significant amounts of concrete.
I have a property without a rear lane. Why can’t I build a multiplex project?
To be eligible to build a multiplex, it would be necessary to have a lane or street at the rear of the site to facilitate garbage and recycling pickup, parking access, and access to a potential electrical transformer that would be located at the rear of the site.
I heard that basements are not encouraged through the multiplex option. Do I have to build completely above grade?
Applicants will continue to have the option of including a basement level if desired. The City is also enabling designs that are entirely above grade.
What’s going to be done to ensure there’s adequate school capacity for families with children in these neighbourhoods?
Planning staff are in regular contact with the Vancouver School Board (VSB) to align City planning directions with VSB school capacity and long-range facilities planning.
Multiplexes would create a modest increase in the number of households living in low density areas, and would be unlikely to significantly impact any particular school catchment. VSB has forecasts on school capacity utilization into 2027 from their 2019 Draft Long Range Facilities Plan which show that enrollment in schools is declining, especially on the east side. The downward enrollment trend is predicted to continue for the school district overall, but will vary significantly in different catchment areas. Overall, capacity is expected to be available over the long term.
Can I subdivide my land into two or more legal properties to build multiplex projects?
No, subdivision will not be permitted to create new lots for multiplex development.
Do trees on my property have to be removed to achieve a multiplex project?
Staff anticipate there will be tree removal with the construction of multiplexes, as there currently is tree removal with new houses and duplexes. It is difficult to retain trees in the middle of the site and provide a new multiplex. Tree retention will be focussed on the front yard for multiplexes which is the most practical location for retention, and where the trees contribute to the pedestrian experience. To offset tree loss, each multiplex will be required to plant new trees in the front yard if there are none existing. This requirement is extended to new houses and duplexes with suites to add to tree canopy in the overall neighbourhood.
Are houses protected if they are on the Vancouver Heritage Register (VHR)? How might heritage houses be protected?
Some houses that are listed on the Vancouver Heritage Register (VHR) are also legally protected from demolition or unsympathetic alterations by heritage designation. These buildings are not permitted to be demolished and replaced with a new multiplex.
Houses that are listed on the VHR, but not subject to the same level of protection as designated ones, continue to be eligible for retention incentives and conservation under the Character House Incentives Program or a Heritage Revitalization Agreement. Incentives for retention include the ability to provide multiple units and/or infill buildings in conjunction with reasonable retention of the house. For Heritage Revitalization Agreements, substantial retention and conservation is required. Notably, character retention projects will not be subject to the bonus density charge.
How many units will trigger a need for a Pad Mounted Transformer (PMT) on a property? Explain the size, placement, and the cost of a PMT on homeowners.
The requirement to provide a transformer does not depend only on the number of units on a property. It is triggered when increased service loads from additional units on a block cannot be supported by existing infrastructure (ex. electrical poles). Generally, three or more units will create significant increases on the service to require a transformer.
A Pad Mounted Transformer (PMT) may be required on a site by site basis and is dependant on review by BC Hydro. Contacting BC Hydro prior to submitting a formal application is strongly encouraged. A 12x12 foot area is needed to accommodate a PMT and its servicing requirements. The cost of a transformer varies depending on the service required and may be within the range from $70,000 to $150,000. A refund is available if new customers connect to the electrical box within five years of its installation. You can find information about the option for a refund here.
How will the proposed changes to the RS zones help with processing applications?
The changes being explored, including creating simpler and more standardized rules for new single detached houses, would help improve efficiencies in the permitting process, and over time could help shorten processing times.
What will the proposed changes mean for the character retention program?
Character retention incentives will be maintained so properties with character houses can continue to pursue retention projects if they choose. The multiplex program would allow more properties (both character and non-character) in RS zones city-wide as do similar projects through new construction. One minor change to the character retention regulations is that the bonus 0.05 FSR for a single-detached house will now apply to the new house of 0.60 FSR, so the total size is limited to 0.65 FSR.
Won’t adding multiplex increase the complexity of rules, not simplify them?
City staff are also exploring changes to align and simplify regulations for all housing options in low-density areas to simplify the permitting system and make it easier to process permits.
If the same rules apply everywhere, won’t everything new look the same and compromise the character of different neighbourhoods?
The City is looking to simplify and align rules around building height, building placement and floor area across all RS zones. This should not compromise overall neighbourhood character as the scale and single lot pattern of development would be kept, but there could be more variety in architectural style. As with current house designs, some options will be more popular (more repeated) than others.
Will a single detached house be allowed to rebuild to the same size?
Today there are more than 50,000 homes in RS built before 2009 when house size was limited to 0.60 FSR (~2,400 sq. ft. on a standard lot). Current regulations allow new houses to be built to 0.70 FSR (~2,800 sq. ft. on a standard lot) and staff are proposing to return the size of new houses from 0.70 FSR back to 0.60 FSR to encourage options that provide more units on each lot (such as multiplexes) and discourage the replacement of older houses with new larger houses single detached houses. Up to 1.0 FSR is permitted for Multiplex projects with 3 or more units.
Can a laneway house be sold separately from a single detached house?
No, laneway houses cannot be stratified and sold separately from a single detached house. The Laneway House Program is intended to provide opportunities for more ground-oriented rental housing options in existing single-detached house neighbourhoods.
Options to strata title and sell units separately are available through the Multiplex option and through the existing character retention incentives.
Will the larger (0.25 FSR) laneway house option be available for all RS zoned lots?
Yes, the larger laneway house option will be available for all RS zoned lots, regardless of lot size or size of house currently on site. Laneway houses will be limited in size to 2,000 sq. ft. or 0.25 FSR, whichever is greater.
Additionally, laneway houses (LWHs) have the same rules city-wide and are allowed in some RM and RT zones. The proposed change to allow larger LWHs in RS zones would also apply to the RM and RT zones where the laneway house option is currently permitted.
Can you clarify the proposed changes to the rules about maximum garage sizes?
Currently, the rules for accessory buildings (garages) allow them to be up to 48 sq. m (~500 sq. ft.) or 30% of the minimum rear yard prescribed in the district schedule (zone), whichever is greater. These rules mean that the size of accessory buildings vary across RS depending on site size and require formulas for determining opportunity.
Staff are proposing to standardize the maximum size for accessory buildings across RS to 48 sq. m (~500 sq. ft.), this is equivalent to parking space for 2 cars.
Why are the RT or RM districts not being updated as part of the changes to RS Zones?
The focus of this project has been on the city’s RS zoned areas, which make up roughly 50% of the City’s land base. Changes to add new housing options and simplify regulations in other zoning districts would need to be addressed as part of future work, including Vancouver Plan implementation.
RT districts include restrictions on sites with character buildings (Strathcona, Mt Pleasant, etc.) which would require a different approach to simplifying rules.
Instream and Future Applications
When are the proposed changes expected to come into effect?
Should Council approve the proposed changes at public hearing in September 2023 enactment is expected for October 2023. Applicants who are interested in developing a multiplex will be encouraged to book an enquiry session with staff prior to submitting an application. Registration details will be posted on the project webpage pending the outcome of the public hearing at https://www.shapeyourcity.ca/multiplexes.
What happens if I have a permit enquiry or application in-stream when the changes come into effect?
The proposed changes being considered by Council may affect applications that have not yet been approved by the issuance of a Development Permit or a combined Development and Building Permit.
If Council approves the changes at the Public Hearing and enacts the proposed by-laws, applications that don’t yet have an issued Development Permit or a combined Development and Building Permit will need to comply with the new regulations, unless they are covered by the proposed legacy clause. The legacy clause will allow applications for single detached house and single detached house with secondary suite, including additions to a character house, made on or before the date the new regulations are enacted to proceed under the old regulations and guidelines. This includes new construction and addition/renovation. Applications covered by the legacy clause must be issued within 12 months from date of application.
The proposed regulations for duplex, laneway house, infill and Multiple Conversion Dwelling (MCD) with retention of a character house are more permissive than the existing regulations in terms of height and external design regulations, so an instream project should be approvable under the new regulations.
When will the City require an applications to comply with the new rules?
After the new regulations have been enacted by Council, all new applications submitted after the enactment date will need to comply with the new regulations, unless they are covered by the proposed legacy clause. The legacy clause will allow applications for single detached house and single detached house with secondary suite, including additions to a character house, made on or before the date the new regulations are enacted to proceed under the old regulations and guidelines. This includes new construction and addition/renovation. Applications covered by the legacy clause must be issued within 12 months from date of application.
I have an existing application submitted for a project in an RS zone, can I amend my application to be for a multiplex?
Multiplex will require new Development Permit and Building Permit applications, instream applications for other uses cannot be converted to a multiplex application.
I have an existing permit application (e.g. for a house) and I would like to develop a multiplex instead, what should I do?
You should contact your Project Coordinator by email and let them know you would like to withdraw your existing permit application. Then, make a new application via the application portal: https://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/contact-development-buildings-services-centre.aspx and list under the description ‘Multiplex application’.
NOTE: Consultation with an architect and/or Professional Engineer regarding Vancouver Building By-law requirements for multiplex use is highly recommended. In addition, contacting BC Hydro prior to submitting a formal application regarding possible requirement for an on-site Pad Mounted Transformer is strongly encouraged.
Will I lose my spot in the processing queue if I decide to change my application?
This depends on what the change (amendment) is for. Amendments generally cause a delay in overall permit processing time.
What are the costs of amending or resubmitting an application?
Please refer to fee schedule: https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/vancouver-development-building-permit-fees.pdf
Can I get any money back if I withdraw an application?
You may be eligible for a partial refund depending on how much work the City has already spent on this application. Please contact your Project Coordinator for this assessment.
How can I learn more about the proposed changes?
You can learn more about the proposed changes and ask questions in advance of the public hearing through our website: https://www.shapeyourcity.ca/multiplexes
If Council approves the changes, staff will be offering site specific enquiry sessions open to individuals wanting to learn more about options for development on their site under the new multiplex opportunity. Further details about these sessions will be posted on the project website after the public hearing.
You are encouraged to review the proposed so that you understand the extent of redesign that may be required in order for your application to be considered under the revised by-laws, policies and guidelines.
If you have any questions, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.