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Whistler probing provincial housing legislation ahead of looming deadline

Communities over 5,000 must apply new housing density bylaw changes before a provincial deadline of June 30
A municipal map of land parcels affected by new housing density legislation.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is working through how various changes to provincial legislation will impact housing in Whistler, with a wide-ranging update presented to council this week.


At the April 9 committee of the whole meeting, mayor and council heard an update on how the changes will affect Whistler’s planning department, prior to providing staff direction at the regular meeting on the same day.

As laid out in a staff report, the municipality is at various stages of adoption to provincial bills 44, 46 and 47, which require municipalities to rapidly update their bylaws in a manner intended by the province to speed up housing development.

Under Bill 44, which affects residential development, staff are currently conducting an analysis of the impact of small-scale, multi-unit housing (SSMUH) zoning requirements and their applicability across the RMOW’s existing zoning.

Under the SSMUH legislation, all municipalities must update their zoning and parking bylaws to accommodate small-scale, multi-unit housing on lands restricted for single-family residential.

According to the RMOW’s technical director of planning, Mike Kirkegaard, an initial analysis of areas of the municipality found there were 45 “restricted” zones within the RMOW, within which there are approximately 3,500 lots.

Of those 3,500, 281 are eligible to require secondary suites be permitted (Kirkegaard noted many already do have zoning to that effect), while 211 small lots (less than 280 square metres) qualify to be upzoned to allow up to three units, and 3,001 lots over 280 square metres qualify to be upzoned to allow up to four units. Zoning bylaws must be updated by June 30.

Staff said the changes are simply related to zoning, and do not require additional units be built—the number actually built is at the discretion of the landowner.

“This legislation really aligns with the municipality’s housing policies and strategies regarding infill development and private-sector initiatives to create new opportunities for additional housing for local residents and employees in existing neighbourhoods,” said Kirkegaard.

The RMOW is included under the province’s legislation around Transit Oriented Development under Bill 47, though it only has one site that qualifies, being the Whistler Gondola Exchange. Municipalities are unable to reject residential development proposals within a certain distance of transport hubs that are within provincial minimum densities.

Some questions from council were around cost and financing of these proposals on the building and financial industry (ongoing discussions), the stratafication of lots that have fourplexes built on them (a question staff said was up in the air across the entire province), and impact on the municipality’s carrying capacity, given the potential impact of more than 3,500 lots being upzoned in a short amount of time.

Staff responded it is easy to (hypothetically) max-out the potential population increase, but a more fulsome analysis would need to wait until there was actual uptake on the new development permitted by zoning changes.

The entirety of the RMOW staff update to the COW meeting can be watched on the RMOW website.

At the regular meeting later the same day, council directed staff to prepare zoning amendments relevant to both bills 44 and 47, as required by the province.

Under guiding principles suggested by staff, the RMOW will seek to support the provincial housing objectives, and to do it in a way that supports Whistler’s policy and development context, particularly in relation to providing housing for local employees; that does not alter existing base zoning entitlements; and that is easy to understand and communicated adequately.

On the guiding principle that existing zoning entitlements not be changed, staff said it would create an “overlay” of SSMUH regulations to simplify the process and sidestep the need to alter all 45 restricted zone regulations.

Another principle is to require a portion of all new housing be allocated to local employees.

Staff also spoke of density, saying they would seek to maintain density of neighbourhoods through the maximum allowable floorplan, and leave it up to the developer to decide how they would allocate floorplan space between however many units they chose to build.

A full list of guiding principles is available online.

To fund the changes required, the RMOW has received a one-time grant of $210,718 from the province—a grant allocated to every municipality affected by the legislation on a per-capita basis. According to staff, the funds will be spent on seeking legal assistance associated with bylaw preparation, and for work related to bylaw testing with input from teams of professionals with experience in architecture, building and construction, real estate professionals, and the Canadian Home Builders Association.

The proposed bylaw changes have a tentative first reading date in May, ahead of the adoption deadline of June 30. Municipal staff will monitor uptake of the changed zoning as it is applied.

Staff acknowledged there may be issues with the bylaws that arise through bylaw testing, and said they will be raised with council through reports and during the adoption process.

Other legislation changing the housing landscape for municipalities is longer-term, such as the pro-active planning portion of Bill 44, which has a deadline of Jan. 1, 2025 for an interim housing needs report and a Dec. 31, 2025 OCP amendment. Changes to bylaws and staff work on those files will come before council at a later date.

Mayor Jack Crompton told Pique he believes RMOW staff are doing an “unbelievable job at getting a huge amount of work done in a very short amount of time,” given the short turnaround time laid out by the province.

Asked about community feedback on the changes being applied to municipalities, Crompton said there is a lot of interest in “all things housing” in Whistler.

“Most of the people I talk to encourage us to be progressive in how we apply these new tools—I’m eager to see the outcomes of the bylaw-testing work that our staff will be doing with the local construction community,” he said.

“Our community continues to feel that housing is our No. 1 priority—the update of our zoning is going to help us move forward on housing.”