Zoning = More Affordable Home Ownership in Greater Vancouver

In the City of Vancouver, home owners in RS1 and RS5 zoned areas are now permitted to have both a secondary suite and a laneway home if their property meets specific criteria.

It’s a way to gently densify neighbourhoods while maintaining their single-family residential character. It also makes home ownership more affordable. A home owner can rent two of the units to help pay the mortgage.

Co-ownership: friends, family, partners

What was once a single family lot in Vancouver can now have a total of three units in some areas of the city.

The City of Vancouver is careful to point out that the three units cannot be separately sold or strata-titled. But what happens if three friends, partners or family members decide to buy the property together and each live in one of the units? Is this possible? Can they co-own it?

Yes, they can, according to the City of Vancouver. These arrangements are created using a contract where all three parties buy the property and each of their names appear on title in an undivided interest. The separate legal contract spells out what percentage each party owns.

What does a co-ownership agreement include?

A co-ownership agreement can be very detailed and typically includes:

  • each co-ownership interest in the property, for example 25/25/50; and
  • expense payments, for example, what each co-owner will pay for the Property Transfer Tax, property taxes, property insurance, water and sewer fees, repairs, improvements, maintenance and legal fees

How difficult is it to get a mortgage when buying property with friends, partners or family?

Financial institutions offer a variety of products aimed at home buyers wanting to jointly buy property.

For example, Vancity offers a new Mixer Mortgage, described as “a whole new way to own a home.” This mortgage lets partners, family members or friends share the cost of home buying, including the deposit, the mortgage and other ownership expenses.

RBC Royal Bank, Scotiabank, TD Canada Trust and other financial institutions offer what are known as “co-borrower mortgages,” which let friends, family and partners own a property together. Applicants must complete a co-ownership agreement and are required to buy home and life insurance.

Laneway house. Coach house. Infill. What’s the difference?

A coach house or a laneway house is typically a smaller detached unit in the rear yard of a principal residence.

Under zoning, coach or laneway houses are often treated like secondary suites. They are for the property owner’s family use or for rental. Depending on the municipality, the property owner may have to reside on the property and may have to provide additional parking. Coach or laneway homes typically cannot be stratified or sold separately from the principal residence.

In contrast, an infill unit is typically a principal dwelling located on a site which already contains one or more principal dwellings. If it is located in a duplex or higher density zoning area, the infill unit may be a duplex or triplex. Infill units can be stratified or even sold as detached units. To accomodate population growth, laneway, coach houses and infill homes are a creative solution to densifying our neighbourhoods while retaining neighbourhood character.

For information on this type of zoning in your area,contact your local municipality.

Did you know?

  • The District of Maple Ridge, the City of North Vancouver and the City of Richmond all permit a secondary suite in every home in single family neighbourhoods. They each also permit a coach house in some zones, provided the coach house meets specific criteria. But property owners cannot have both a secondary suite and a coach house and a principal residence on one single family residential lot in these municipalities.

In Metro Vancouver, some municipalities now permit additional auxiliary units on single-family residential lots. In some cases, these units can only be rented. In other cases, they can be sold. It all depends on the zoning.


-Courtesy of REBGV


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