UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Affordable housing through affirmative zoning Malong, Julieta M. D.


The delivery of social housing is consistently plagued with problems ranging from reduced budget allocation, scarcity of adequately zoned lands and neighborhood opposition. Though limited, provincial funding is still available in BC. However, land acquisition remains a problem. Municipal governments are recognized to have the influence to increase the amount of land for affordable housing projects through the use of zoning by-laws. This thesis argues that the exclusionary character of the municipal zoning by-law does not encourage the creation of affordable housing units. Amendments to the Municipal Act under Bill 57 which allow BC municipalities to negotiate with developers to set aside some units as affordable through density bonusing and inclusionary zoning do not also guarantee that units can be created. Both strategies are dependent on the performance of the market place. This thesis explores an alternative form of affirmative zoning as a possible municipal initiative that can facilitate the creation of affordable housing units by reviewing governments' activities in affordable housing provision and by looking at Surrey as an illustrative case. The alternative form calls for the amendment of the zoning by-law to include a specific zone for affordable housing and pre-zoning of vacant municipal-owned lands for affordable housing. By adopting this strategy, a municipal government departs from its traditional reactor role. Surrey has demonstrated that in order to adopt affirmative zoning, a municipality has to be governed by a socially-committed council who should bring affordable housing provision as a visible component in the municipal agenda. The case also shows that the process has inherent constraints. The provincial government may prohibit councils from identifying affordable housing as a distinct zone while neighbourhoods can still mount strong opposition against the process. Senior governments may start to "dump" social housing projects in municipalities that have adopted this mechanism. With this mechanism in place, a municipal government may expect to accommodate additional population and consequently, an additional demand on municipal resources and services. However, the adoption of the strategy can provide municipal governments with an alternative option, enhance the planning process, foster public acceptance of affordable housing projects, and shorten the approval process. Two lessons are drawn from this thesis: • municipal resources can be re-directed to facilitate the process of creating affordable housing units and • planners and decision-makers should assume a progressive philosophy, leadership and social commitment to ensure that the strategy works.

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