While Vancouver may have fewer housing regulations compared to cities in other parts of the world (did you know that in the Netherlands, for example, seventy percent of an apartment building’s tenants must agree to a landlord’s proposed improvements to avoid renovictions?), many certainly still exist. They will affect your build or renovation at every step, and it’s in your best interest, and the interest of your fellow Vancouverites, to make sure all the rules that apply to your building or renovation project are adhered to.

Housing regulations can run from the general to the specific and in Vancouver include:

Zoning By-Laws: These regulations dictate what land is used for, building heights, floor space ratios, yard sizes… larger concerns that determine the overall safety and character of a neighbourhood. An area zoned for multi-family housing, for example, is ideally not going to be placed right next to an area zoned for heavy industry.


The Vancouver Building By-Law: This body of rules covers all aspects of individual building projects, including design and construction. You must get a permit, for example – official permission from the city – to carry out some changes and improvements on a property, or to build a structure that might not fit into an area’s existing zoning regulations.It also covers the inspection process, to make sure that your project adheres to the city’s Building Code.


Codes dictate minimum safety standards for every bit of a building. Those who break a building code regulation can then be held legally accountable for construction negligence, misrepresentation, or fraud.

All of this might sound quite straightforward. But in practice, applying these regulations to your project can be confusing and complicated. Take for instance this simple idea: what can I do on my property that does not need a permit? Here’s what I took from a cursory reading of the city’s webpage:

  • maintenance and repair, unless it’s a heritage building, or maybe not
  • some demolitions, but not all demolitions, it depends
  • build or maintain a fence, unless it’s one of the situations where you do need a permit

“This,” you are now thinking, “is going to be a lot more complicated than I thought!”

Vancouver’s Greenest City 2020 Initiative dictates that our priceless natural surroundings, trees, wildlife, and water sources, must be protected as well. This affects your project if you want to build near an artesian well or aquifer, or any place where there is a natural stream, some of which the city plans to rehabilitate to no longer run underground. Or do you want to remove, relocate or replace any tree on a property? You will need a permit.

And do you have a “character home” – an older home in a definite style that adds historical and visual character to your street? This makes the renovation process subject to additional regulation, though many projects are still possible. You can add more floor area to an existing character home. You can convert it into a multifamily dwelling for rental or strata. You can add what’s called an infill: a smaller dwelling unit that sits where a garage would normally be on your lot – a laneway house, basically. If you think you have a character home you can ask the city for a Character Merit Assessment. We love our character houses but they do add an existing layer or two of regulation to the renovation process.

It’s very important to note right now, as well, Vancouver’s most up-to-date news on housing regulation:  the city’s Regulation Redesign, described as a “comprehensive review of our land use regulations and related policy documents”. It’s been in the works for some time and offers residents a public hearing on June 25 to inform and clarify a number of proposed amendments to the city’s land use regulations. You can get the information you need about Regulation Redesign here.

Fairly early in a building or renovation process I think I would feel myself drowning in all the regulations, codes, and permits. I have to live my life and do my own work while my home is renovated and would simply have neither time nor energy to acquaint myself with these many regulations. You know who wouldn’t drown in them? Reid Developments. It’s Reid’s business to know them and carry out your building project meticulously, obeying all rules and ticking all the city’s boxes. Get in touch with Reid today.