The City of Burnaby has recently introduced significant changes to its zoning bylaws, aimed at addressing housing shortages, promoting sustainable development, and encouraging more diverse housing options. These amendments mark a pivotal shift in how residential areas are developed, with a particular focus on small-scale multi-unit housing (SSMUH), transit-oriented development, and family-oriented housing. In this blog post, we’ll explore the key highlights of these zoning changes and what they mean for developers, investors, and residents.

Key Highlights of the Zoning Amendments

1. Small-Scale Multi-Unit Housing (SSMUH)

The most notable change is the introduction of the R1 Small-Scale Multi-Unit Housing District, which consolidates twelve existing residential districts (R1 through R12). This new zoning allows for:

  • 3 units on lots up to 280m² (3,014 sq.ft.)
  • 4 units on lots larger than 280m² (3,014 sq.ft.)
  • 6 units on lots at least 281m² (3,025 sq.ft.) within 400 meters of frequent transit

By enabling more units on single lots, this amendment aims to increase housing density and provide more affordable housing options in residential neighborhoods.

2. Transit-Oriented Development

To encourage the use of public transportation and reduce reliance on cars, the new zoning regulations eliminate minimum on-site parking requirements for lots within 400 meters of frequent transit service. Frequent transit is defined as bus stops with:

  • Buses stopping at least every 15 minutes between 7 am and 7 pm on weekdays.
  • Buses stopping at least every 15 minutes between 10 am and 6 pm on weekends.

This change supports higher-density development near transit hubs, promoting a more sustainable urban environment.

3. Family-Oriented Housing Provisions

The amendments include several provisions aimed at enhancing livability for families:

  • Larger Units: New developments must include family-sized units. Lots with 1 to 3 units must have at least one 3-bedroom unit, and lots with 4 to 6 units must have at least two 3-bedroom units.
  • Outdoor Amenity Spaces: Each primary dwelling unit must have at least 10 m² (approx. 107 sq.ft.) of outdoor space exclusively for its use, ensuring families have private areas for recreation and relaxation.

4. Streamlined Approval Process

To speed up the development process, the city has removed the requirement for public hearings for rezonings that align with the new provincial SSMUH regulations. This change, in line with section 481.3 of the Local Government Act, reduces bureaucratic delays and lowers costs for developers.

5. Simplified Regulations

The new regulations eliminate the complexity of Floor Area Ratio (FAR) and Gross Floor Area (GFA) limitations, focusing instead on height, setback, and lot coverage rules:

  • Building Heights: Maximum height of 12.0 meters and 4 storeys, inclusive of basements.
  • Lot Coverage:
    • 40% for 1 to 3 SSMUH dwelling units
    • 45% for 4 units
    • 50% for 5 to 6 units
    • 55% for rowhouse dwellings
  • Impervious Surface: Retains the 70% maximum impervious surface requirement to support stormwater management, tree retention, and outdoor amenity spaces.

Practical Applications

Maximizing Lot Use

For developers looking to maximize the use of their lots:

  • 6,000 sq.ft. Lot: Can support up to 6 dwelling units, provided it meets the conditions related to lot size and proximity to transit.
  • 8,000 sq.ft. Lot: Also supports up to 6 dwelling units, utilizing the lot efficiently to provide more housing options.

Sustainable and Family-Friendly Developments

The new zoning provisions encourage the development of sustainable, family-friendly housing:

  • Encouraging Sustainable Living: Higher-density housing near transit hubs supports environmental sustainability and reduces the need for extensive parking infrastructure.
  • Family-Oriented Housing: Larger units with mandatory outdoor spaces cater to the needs of families, enhancing community livability.


Burnaby’s new zoning amendments represent a forward-thinking approach to urban development, addressing critical housing needs while promoting sustainability and diversity in housing options. By simplifying regulations and streamlining the approval process, these changes provide significant opportunities for developers and investors, while ensuring that the needs of residents are met.

For more detailed information, refer to the official Burnaby City Council documents and the provincial policy manual. These resources offer comprehensive insights into the zoning changes and their implications for the future of housing in Burnaby.