Skip to content

OPINION: New housing program not as bad as council suggests

Small-scale multi-unit housing program is positive for the city, says letter writer.
Email letters to

Re: Chilliwack council ‘deeply frustrated’ by new provincial housing rules,, June 5, 2024
As Chilliwack council vents about being "deeply frustrated" by the province “taking away voice of residents on matters that directly impact our neighbourhoods” by permitting upwards of four units on a single-family lot, I would like to provide them some feedback on the issue.
In March 2020, more or less the “start” of the COVID19 pandemic, the benchmark price for a single-family dwelling in Chilliwack was $600,000. Today its around $890,000. This is the reality facing young people entering the housing market.

Now, obviously there are many factors at play as to why housing prices have risen so dramatically but that’s not the purpose of this letter. What I want to do here is note why the Small-Scale Multi-Unit Housing (SSMUH) program is positive for the city.

SSMUH effectively removes the imaginary barriers placed on small-scale densification such as secondary suites, duplexes and coach houses by single-family-only zoning, zoning that covers much of the residential-zoned land in Chilliwack. This means that instead of having to ask for permission to construct a coach house in your backyard from politicians, you only must meet zoning regulations and building code requirements (note: Chilliwack didn’t fully liberalize this as they kept the Development Permit requirement in place).

So if you happened to own property but say your child and their family cannot, you can now, by right, build a coach house for yourself and have your children live close by while allowing them to build up a down payment for a house. And if or when they chose to leave, you now have added value to your property.

Alternatively, you could be a smaller building company without the financial resources to go back and forth with the city on a townhouse project for a small fourplex. With SSMUH, that builder just needs to find the right property and can now take one house and turn it into four. That’s three more families, three more taxpayers and three more homes for people.

But, you say, what about fourplexes! In my single-family neighbourhood! Well to that I say, welcome to the club. For two long, cities have been able to control where change happens essentially placing the “burden” of redevelopment and densification on certain areas over others. In addition, areas where densification has occurred are in a way paying for the more financially unsustainable development pattern of single-family neighbouring. The taxes and fees collected by single-family developments do not pay for themselves, they are subsidized by more tax-efficient land uses elsewhere in the city. SSMUH, by allowing some densification, makes existing neighbourhoods more financially sustainable in the long run.
SSMUH is not a panacea for the housing crisis, however, it is a part of the solution. What’s not going to solve this crisis is complaining about a level of change that is frankly hardly even noticeable once construction is complete. 

Kent Wilman