Proposed Zoning Amendment to Facilitate Affordable Housing

Based on provincial targets identified in the District of Squamish 2023 Housing Needs Report:
  • 9,600 new housing units will be required in Squamish by 2036; 6,840 of these will be required by 2031.
  • Of the 6,840 units, 42% will need to be affordable to households earning below $70,000 per year (2,873 units).
  • For housing to be considered affordable, it should cost no more than 30% of gross household income. At an income of $70k per year, housing costs (rent/mortgage, property taxes, heating, strata fees) should not exceed $1,750 per month.
  • The District defines affordable housing as: housing that costs 30% or less of a total income that is 80% or less of the Median Total Income in Squamish. This currently ranges from a total income of $35,488 to $100,952 depending on the household type.


Squamish needs more affordable housing.

The District has done much work in this area already, and continues to explore new ways to use local government tools to boost affordable housing supply. Three examples include:

  1. Squamish Affordable Housing Society to manage units and explore new projects (in place)
  2. Community Amenity Contributions from developers (expected to achieve 5-15% of affordable units from all rezonings)
  3. Partnership projects such as the 76-unit Spirit Creek rental apartments where the District donated land and BC Housing provided funding (this work is ongoing as new project opportunities are being explored). The Westwinds Seniors Housing is another partnership project that added new affordable units to Squamish.


Affordable housing belongs everywhere.

One way to boost supply is to remove density limitations for affordable housing projects from the Zoning Bylaw so they could be more viably established across the community. The District is proposing amendments to the Zoning Bylaw intended to help remove barriers and facilitate affordable housing in any zone where residential is a principal use.

Bylaw 3000 proposes to replace Section 4.49 with a new general regulation related to affordable housing. These general regulations would:

  • Allow affordable housing in any zone where residential is a principal use.
  • Allow the height of a principal building where all of the units are secured as affordable housing to increase to 23 metres (six stories).
  • Exempt affordable housing buildings from lot coverage.
  • Apply a parking requirement of one space per dwelling unit for affordable housing units.
  • An amendment to Section 4.25 Gross Floor Area is also proposed to exempt gross floor area use for affordable housing.
  • (Separately, an amendment to Section 4.10 Height of Buildings and Structures is included to apply a maximum building height of 26.5 metres or 8 storeys, which ever is less, in any zone that may permit a taller building height, as this is currently the tallest building height that the District’s Fire Department can safely fight a fire in).
The following questions and answers are intended to help the public learn more about the proposed amendments.
Why is it necessary to do a blanket zoning change? Why not go project-by-project/property-by-property?
  • A rezoning is a lengthy process. Removing this barrier aims to make it easier for project proponents (typically non-profit entities) to contemplate a project.
  • As an example: The Spirit Creek affordable rental project rezoning was expedited and took six months, and the overall process to get from rezoning to building occupancy took five years. This is a long time to wait for a new project and so reducing this timeframe is the goal. It typically takes about a year to rezone a property and it can be challenging for projects to get financing without having zoning in place, given the uncertainty associated rezoning applications. The affordable housing amendments could save six months to one year of time on a project.
What kind of projects are the amendments hoping to facilitate?
  • The Spirit Creek affordable rental apartments (Buckley Avenue) is the ideal project that these amendments would help enable. The Spirit Creek property size is 5330 m² (an estimated 7.5 single family lots) and is located close to transit and services. A property of this size allows for sufficient area to accommodate required parking as well as outdoor space for the residents.
Could a six-storey building be built on a lot beside my residential property?
  • This is a highly unlikely scenario considering the number of units that could be provided on a single property, ensuring there is one parking spot per unit. For proponents to build something that is affordable, the number of units built must be maximized to take advantage of building cost efficiencies.
  • Staff have calculated the area required for parking and determined that a typical RS-1 lot could likely support six parking stalls, which would allow for a six-unit building. Given that only six units would be possible, it is unlikely that an affordable housing building on a typical RS-1 lot would be feasible at six-storey height.
Where could a six-storey project be feasible?
  • It would require upwards of six typical RS-1 lots to be consolidated to accommodate the required parking for a 40-unit building. A building with fewer than 40 units would not likely require the maximum 23 metre height. In discussions with the Squamish Community Housing Society (SCHS), affordable housing developments under six-storeys do not typically receive financing, as they do not contain enough units to make a project viable.
Learn more and provide input.

1: Join us at an Information Night hosted by District staff:

Date: Wednesday, September 20
Time: 5 to 8 pm
Location: 38014 Fourth Avenue
Format: Drop-in open house


2: Public Hearing where Council will hear feedback from the public.

Date: Tuesday, October 3
Time: 6 pm
Location: Council Chambers or via WebEx or telephone participation