House Conversion Regulations

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A large heritage home that has been converted into multiple housing units.

Victoria needs to create more housing options, both for renters and homeowners. That’s why we’re updating regulations to expand opportunities for repurposing large, existing houses into multiple residential units.

Open for Input:

Provide your feedback on proposed changes to house conversion regulations to Council directly at publichearings@victoria.ca in advance of the public hearing scheduled for Thursday, October 22.

About House Conversion Regulations:

House conversions can increase Victoria’s rental housing and home ownership opportunities.

Current regulations allow larger homes built prior to 1931, and some homes built prior to 1969, to be converted into multiple units. They can include everything

Victoria needs to create more housing options, both for renters and homeowners. That’s why we’re updating regulations to expand opportunities for repurposing large, existing houses into multiple residential units.

Open for Input:

Provide your feedback on proposed changes to house conversion regulations to Council directly at publichearings@victoria.ca in advance of the public hearing scheduled for Thursday, October 22.

About House Conversion Regulations:

House conversions can increase Victoria’s rental housing and home ownership opportunities.

Current regulations allow larger homes built prior to 1931, and some homes built prior to 1969, to be converted into multiple units. They can include everything from studio apartments to multi-bedroom units for couples or families.

Since the regulations were first introduced in the 1950s, hundreds of units of housing have been created.

By expanding the program, we can encourage more rental housing, more affordable home ownership opportunities, and more two-and-three-bedroom units.

Changes being considered include:

  • Allowing larger houses constructed in 1984 or earlier to be converted
  • Incentives for including rental housing, affordable rental, affordable home ownership, and heritage designation by allowing more units per floor area
  • Removing vehicle parking requirements for house conversions
  • Including bike-parking requirements to off-set reduced vehicle parking
  • Allowing under-height basement and attic spaces to be developed to increase the livable space for units
  • Allowing parking in the front yard (for non-heritage buildings) to create more backyard space for residents
  • Reducing restrictions to allow for new porches, decks and above-ground entrances and stairs
  • Allowing windows and doors at the street front to allow for more flexible layouts of units

The City will also be developing design guidelines for house conversions. Once updated guidelines are in place, staff will monitor impacts of the updated regulations and report back to Council within two to three years.

Updating the regulations is one of several housing initiatives we are undertaking to address housing and affordability in Victoria.

CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.
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    If a builder/homeowner can achieve passive house certification or step code 5 equivalent is there a bonus density? Ie more sf? faster building permit.

    tracey asked about 2 months ago

    Thanks for the question. 

    The draft bylaws do not include density bonuses for step code 5 of passive house certification, however staff are looking at further opportunities to expand and improve the regulations as a further phase of the Next Generation Conversion Regulations project and potential incentives for achieving passive/energy efficient standards are one of the identified options to explore.   

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    What is in the Regulation about accessibility?

    Nibor asked 2 months ago

    Thanks for your question.

    The proposed changes would not impact building code requirements and related city guidelines that include elements related to accessibility. 

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    Maximum square footage of house? Will we be able to add sf to conversion? Is the max sf tied to the size of the lot. Ie 4000sf house on a 6000 sf lot

    tracey asked 2 months ago

    Thanks for submitting your question to us. 

    The maximum square footage of a house depends on the zone that it is in. In the draft bylaw new floor area would be permitted where basement and attic space is being developed. No new additions beyond this would be permitted with the exception of the area equal to the required long-term bicycle parking spaces.

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    Why hasn't HPO been mentioned in the reports? According to HPO if the home is substantially renovated during conversion it requires HPO.

    tracey asked 2 months ago

    Thank you for the question. 

    The BC Housing Register (formerly known as the Homeowner Protection Office or HPO) is a Provincial regulation. In most cases for house conversions it would not be required given that most of the existing house would be retained, but this is something that an applicant of a specific project would need to confirm with the BC Housing Register.

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    What rules have you or will put in place to ensure the protection and promotion of the heritage character of our city, aesthetically and design wise? Have you put certain design guidelines for the developers to abide by to ensure Victoria will maintain its character and aesthetics?

    Emmastath asked about 2 months ago

    Thanks for the question.

    For the most part, conversions can be accommodated within existing neighbourhoods with little disruption to the immediate neighbours and in a manner that maintains the look and feel of the local area.   In this way, conversions are usually seen as a positive influence within neighbourhoods as investment and upgrades of these existing buildings are encouraged.

    One of the proposed changes would incentivize applications that offer to heritage designate their property by allowing a greater number of units per floor area.  This provision would be applicable where it is determined that the property has heritage value and a Heritage Designation Bylaw is adopted for the property through the normal City process.  Any resulting exterior changes would continue to require a heritage alteration permit to ensure consistency with heritage standards and guidelines.

    As a part of this project Council has directed staff to create a voluntary design guidelines. The intention of the document would be to help ensure that house conversions are done in a way that maximizes the liveability of units, respects character of existing buildings and the street context, and ultimately enhances Victoria’s neighbourhoods. Work on this is underway and will be made available in the coming months. 

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    is allowing for a garden suite as well as two suites in the main house a part of this project?

    michael85 asked about 2 months ago

    Thanks for the question.

    The conversion regulations allow for additional units within the existing house and do not include gardens suites. You may be interested in the Missing Middle Housing project currently underway. This project is looking at wider scope of potential infill options that would create more housing within Victoria. 

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    Does the conversion still required brining the entire home up to code with respect to electrical, plumbing, fire separations? What if home is 2x4 construction - do walls have to be firred out to 2x6?

    Qupee asked 2 months ago

    Thanks for taking the time to ask us a question.

    Generally, upgrades to the building to comply with the current code are limited to those parts of the building impacted by the work proposed (for example: new plumbing fixtures, new stairs or minimum fire separation between units). For specific questions on building code requirements for a conversion project, you can contact the Permits and Inspections division at: 250.361.0344 or permits@victoria.ca

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    In the new house conversion regulations, what will be an accepted definition of, or expectation for, bicycle parking? Interior storage somewhere within the main house (in a shared area such as a hallway or unfinished basement), or inside individual suites, or more flexible such as a shed, or even simply uncovered, in yard. Thanks.

    Toby asked 2 months ago

    Thanks for your question.

    The City's existing parking regulations lay out minimum standards for long-term bike parking, which require that it be secure and weather protected. The bike parking can be located either within the main building or in a separate accessory building.  Generally this would mean a single area meeting the minimum dimensions, accessible by all the units and easily accessed with a bike. In some cases limited in-unit storage may be appropriate if there is a dedicated space that meets these requirements. Information on the minimum bike parking standards can be found in ‘Schedule C - Off-Street Parking Regulations’.

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    In regards to this point "Removing vehicle parking requirements for house conversions". I don't have any issues with this, but on-street parking in residential zones needs to be resolved. If you remove 2 parking spaces from an existing house, then convert it to 4 units, you could potentially move 4 cars to a street that is already crowded. I'd like to understand how that could be dealt with? And putting in bike parking doesn't resolve this issue.

    GR asked 2 months ago

    Hello and thank you for your question!

    The proposed removal of the minimum off-street parking requirement would not remove the ability for a landowner to provide off-street parking for residents. The change would leave the number of vehicle parking stalls up to the applicant and their assessment of the demand in the house conversion they are undertaking. 

    On-street parking demand will be monitored as part of the updated house conversion policy implementation. As demand for private vehicle storage on streets increases, the City will look at related policy and regulatory changes such as permitted curb uses, enhanced parking enforcement, and parking permit programs. Changes may also be made in neighbourhoods with housing conversions to improve access to transit, walking, cycling, and shared mobility services like car shares to help reduce demand. 

    If you would like Mayor and Council to receive your questions or comments directly, please email them to publichearings@victoria.ca in advance of Thursday, October 22.