Duplexes making ‘modest’ inroads into Vancouver housing options

In 2019, the city received 86 duplex applications, which translates to about 23 per cent of all redevelopment applications in single-family (RS) zones. 

At the moment when the city council had agreed on allowing duplex in most of the single-family neighbourhoods on a trial basis, the city staff had predicted that due to this, more duplex applications would arise, their presumptions have been proved correct. 

Last year, in 2019's trial period, the received a total of 86 duplex applications, which translates to about 23 per cent of all redevelopment applications in single-family (RS) zones.

“This modest level of uptake is in line with what was anticipated given that the duplex option was intentionally introduced in a modest way offering the same floor area that is possible for a house,” Neil Hrushowy, assistant director of community planning, writes in the report.

Hrushowy also notes that duplexes are very helpful for housing problems, due to providing twice as many units as one-family homes, this creates new lower-coast homeownership options, secondary rental suites, and even better energy efficiency than single-family homes.

He also mentions public engagement over the past year revealed “strong public support for duplexes as a housing choice” in single-family neighbourhoods. A Talk Vancouver survey in 2019 found 88 per cent of the 3,400 respondents agreed or strongly agreed with allowing them.

His report also states that he does not call for any council action, with some changes to the regulations having been made in the spring of 2019, he suggests that the existing regulations remain in place.

Staff will, however, be bringing forward a report sometime this year about the possibility of allowing duplexes in RS-3 and RS-3A zones as well.

Although getting to this point has not been very easy, few housing advocates are still thinking that the 

The road to getting to this point wasn’t smooth. Some housing advocates think council hasn’t been aggressive enough in allowing different types of housing in single-family zones, while others have argued forms such as duplexes aren’t creating housing that’s affordable to most Vancouverites and redevelopment has the potential to displace some affordable rental suites.

But, in September of 2018, the previous council approved duplexes in most single-family zones in a 7-4 vote.

Duplexes were already allowed in some areas of the city, including areas of Grandview-Woodland and Mount Pleasant but, in 2018, staff said they only accounted for about 1.6 per cent of the housing stock.

Later on in the year in December, the new council had decided not to reverse the old council's decision. Yet they did make some new revisions of the rules, they allowed duplexes on a trial basis with staff tracking data such as applications, approvals, pricing and impact on renters, and reporting back to council. All the information will also be discussed during the city-wide planning process.

Although there are a few exceptions, Duplexes are an option for new constructions only, and an increase in floor area over what is currently permitted is quite obviously not permitted. Also Laneway houses aren't allowed in conjunction with duplexes.

Also, duplexes that are on small lots are not required to have a secondary suite, while duplexes that are located on larger lots that are more than 5,500 square feet must have at least one suite and they can include two suites, with one for each half duplex.

Information about duplex sales prices isn’t available yet because few are completed, according to the staff report, although it notes duplexes typically sell for 66 per cent of the cost of a new single-family home.

“The introduction of duplexes in RS zones has not resulted in an increase in land values,” the report also reveals, while houses demolished to build duplexes are similar in age, size and value to those demolished and replaced with new one-family homes.”

If you would like to learn more about the affects that duplexes have on real estate in Vancouver, or if you are thinking about buying or selling your properties, please contact Matt Gul, who is a top luxury real estate agent situated in West Vancouver, who can help you with all of your needs. To contact Matt Gul please call him at 778.888.8888 or email him at matt@mattgul.com

Summarized by: Onur Gul on instagram at @onurgulfilm