Unlocking the potential of public transit: BC’s new transit-oriented development legislation (and what it means for you)

Unlocking the potential of public transit: BC’s new transit-oriented development legislation (and what it means for you)

The Government of British Columbia’s new transit-oriented development (TOD) legislation has been causing more than a little confusion lately.

Some see it as a promising new tool that can help developers build more new homes and create sustainable, vibrant communities across the province. Others worry it could overwhelm some smaller communities, or even end up hurting the lower-income families it’s intended to help.

So who’s right? The answer, as with most plans to address BC’s housing crisis, is probably a little bit of both. So to help clear things up, we thought we’d take a deeper dive into exactly what the new legislation is, how it works—and what it might mean for you!

TOD 101: The basics

The BC government approved its transit-oriented development (TOD) legislation late last year. The goal was to increase the supply of housing in BC and address the impacts of climate change by establishing a province-wide set of minimum height and density requirements, which would apply to any new developments that are within walking distance of a designated “transit hub.”

In Metro Vancouver, for example, the legislation means any new buildings that are within 400 metres of a designated bus or West Coast Express exchange will have to be at least 20 storeys tall. Buildings within 800 metres of a SkyTrain station must similarly now be at least eight storeys high.

Unlike some past policies, the TOD minimums will be mandatory for all affected communities. As a result, municipalities that currently allow buildings to be smaller or less dense than the new minimums, must change their zoning to allow for denser developments within those designated transit zones.

Image courtesy of the Government of British Columbia. To see illustrations of other affected hubs, visit

Where and when will it come into effect?

To implement the new law as quickly as possible, BC municipalities only have until June 30, 2024 to adjust their bylaws to reflect the new density, size and height levels. They also have to make a few other changes to support the new requirements, such as removing parking minimums and reducing some of the stricter limits on off-street parking.

So far, the government has identified 104 new and planned rapid-transit hubs in 52 designated TOD areas. Not surprisingly, most of the TOD zones are in Metro Vancouver, the Okanagan or Vancouver Island.

In Richmond, for example, the legislation would mainly affect developments around major SkyTrain stations, like Aberdeen Station, Bridgeport Station, Capstan Station and Richmond-Brighouse.

What it means for homeowners and buyers

The idea behind TOD is to encourage the construction of high-density, mixed-use housing that’s close to public transit. A prime example would be residential condo towers, especially those that incorporate grocery stores, retail, childcare or other amenities in their mix of units.

For homeowners who live near or in these TOD areas, the legislation has the potential to increase property values, reduce commute times by encouraging the use of public transit, and could lead to more neighbourhood businesses, services and local amenities.

For buyers, the new policy could result in a wider choice and quantity of housing options being built in areas that are already often in high-demand, from luxury penthouse condos to more affordable one- and two-bedroom apartments.

What it means for investors

For real estate investors, the legislation offers some similarly interesting possibilities. It could increase the supply of housing in some of the province’s most densely-populated areas, leading to a greater variety of opportunities. It could also open up new markets among more environmentally-conscious, car-free and local-oriented renters and buyers.

By increasing the number of people living in those areas, the policy could also attract new businesses or recreational services, which might lead to increased demand and higher property values. Taken together, these changes could make buying one or multiple units in one of the designated TOD neighbourhoods a pretty attractive long-term investment.

What it means for everyone

Regardless of whether or not you’re in the market, however, the TOD legislation could be seen as a big win for BC’s drive to become healthier, greener and more sustainable.

More homes near public transit mean more people walking or taking the train or bus, and fewer cars on the road. Plus, because most of the designated transit hubs already exist, the changes likely won’t require a great deal of costly new infrastructure.

By focusing on proximity to fast transit, the legislation could also theoretically open up new homeownership possibilities for people whose needs haven’t always been met under the current system. This includes those who are environmentally-conscious or prefer a car-free lifestyle, as well as people who would simply rather spend their time walking or taking transit than sitting in their car for an hour or more on the way to work each morning.

The downsides

Of course, there could also be some unintended downsides to building that much new housing, that fast. The link between increased density and affordability, for example, never seems to be as clear or as simple in BC as both politicians and would-be homebuyers might hope.

Another concern is that the legislation could lead to hundreds of small low-rise buildings being replaced by shiny new condo towers. Since many of those existing buildings are rentals or older properties, this could result in tenants and low-income households being forced to move farther away from the transit many of them rely on.

Still not sure?

Overall, the possibilities for transit-oriented development seem to be both exciting, and headed in the right direction. But unless you happen to have a crystal ball, only time will tell if the legislation really has its desired effect.

Still confused? Don’t worry—that’s what we’re here for! If you aren’t sure what the new TOD legislation means for you, reach out to your REALTOR®, or give us a call and we’ll do our best to answer any questions you might have.

One-Minute Read

Unlocking the potential of public transit: BC’s new Transit-Oriented Development legislation (and what it means for you)

Last year, the Government of British Columbia approved its transit-oriented development (TOD) legislation as a new tool to help address BC’s housing crisis. The goal of the legislation is to set minimum height and density requirements for any new developments that are built within 400 metres of a designated bus or West Coast Express exchange, or within 800 metres of a designated SkyTrain station.

Critics have said the new legislation leaves too many questions unanswered, and could actually make housing less affordable or available for low-income families. But for homeowners, buyers and investors, the legislation has the potential to increase the supply of housing, raise property values, and create more walkable, sustainable and vibrant communities.

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