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Greater density on the horizon as Delta adopts new OCP

Delta council gave final approval to the new Official Community Plan on July 8 as the city tries to meet its provincial housing target
Delta council gave final approval to the city's updated Official Community Plan on Monday, July 8, 2024. (James Smith/North Delta Reporter photo)

Council gave final approval to Delta's new Official Community Plan Monday evening (July 8), opening the door to greater density in most residential and commercial areas of the city.

The plan was given third reading following a contentious public hearing on April 22, and referred to the Agricultural Land Commission and Metro Vancouver for review before Monday's vote. Both agencies supported the new OCP, offering minor changes that will be incorporated alongside other small amendments expected to be brought forward by city staff for council's consideration in early 2025.

The new OCP incorporates three major changes intended to support the development of much-needed and diverse housing options across the city.

The plan focuses growth in specific areas, increasing density in newly-designated "urban centres" and along major corridors; simplifies land use descriptions — from more than 75 down to only 10 — in order to streamline the development process; and provides a framework to enable small-scale multi-unit housing (SSMUH), a move supported by changes to Delta's zoning bylaws adopted June 24.

The updates to Delta's OCP and zoning bylaws were spurred by various pieces of provincial legislation adopted late last year and a ministerial order mandating the city add 3,607 net new housing units (completed homes, as measured by occupancy permits issued minus any units demolished) over the next five years — 75 per cent of the community's identified housing need.

Of the 3,607 net new housing units to be built in Delta and occupied by Sept. 30, 2028, provincial guidelines say the bulk of them (2,021) should be studio or one-bedroom, while 682 should be two-bedroom and 904 three bedrooms or more.

As well, more than half of the new units (2,030) must be rentals — 830 let at below-market rates, and 95 designated as supportive rental units.

Projected population growth means the city must add 14,000 units over the next 20 years.

A press release from the city notes Delta is the first city in the region to complete a review and update of its OCP since the province introduced legislation last fall requiring municipalities to do so.

“I want to thank staff for their hard work in creating a new OCP that will help meet the needs of our growing community, while also providing guidance to ensure development happens responsibly and sustainably,” Mayor George Harvie said in a press release Tuesday morning.

“This housing-focused plan will assist us in achieving our anticipated 20-year housing need and Housing Target Order to enhance our community's future vibrancy and livability. By identifying urban centres in our OCP, we are creating viable opportunities for sustainable residential development along major corridors.” 

In the three new urban centres — around the North Delta Social Heart, Ladner Village and the area around Tsawwassen Town Centre — developments up to six storeys will be allowed. The North Delta and Tsawwassen centres also offer “opportunities for up to 24 storeys where a significant community contribution is provided.” 

A 2021 OCP update limiting heights in Ladner Village to six storeys remains in effect under the new plan.

As well, the Scott Road Corridor — from 96th Avenue to 68th Avenue and extending west to generally around 118th Street — is getting its own standalone land use designation allowing primarily mixed-use buildings of up to six storeys, and up to 32 storeys in certain locations provided there is a “significant community contribution.”

For both the urban centres and the Scott Road Corridor, rental and non-market housing is “encouraged” in all projects over six storeys and “expected” for projects 18 storeys or higher.

RELATED: Surrey eyes major density increase in Scott Road corridor

Meanwhile, other sites and streets are now designated as “neighbourhood centres and corridors,” permitting townhouses and six-storey residential, commercial and mixed-use buildings, while other areas are classified as “mixed residential,” allowing for three-storey houseplexes, townhouses and rowhouses, alongside accessory dwelling units including secondary suites, coach homes and garden suites. The latter classification also allows for “limited, small commercial uses” such as neighbourhood stores, cafes and childcare facilities.

The remaining areas of the city previously zoned for single-detached homes and duplexes are now re-designated as “small scale residential,” permitting up to four units per lot as per provincial SSMUH legislation. 

The new land use designations do not automatically overwrite existing zoning in the city — that will require amending Delta’s zoning bylaws, as was the case with SSMUH on single-detached and duplex lots.

Adoption of the new OCP comes two weeks after B.C.'s Ministry of Housing said Delta was off pace to meet its year-one housing target and could face "compliance measures" if it fails to do so come Sept. 30.

On June 26, the ministry released six-month progress updates from the first 10 cities selected for housing targets last September, as well as the five-year targets for the second cohort of communities announced back in April.

While the ministry applauded the efforts of some cities, it said some — including Delta — are "not making as much progress as expected."

"These municipalities are encouraged to expedite their processes and comply with the new requirements to ensure that housing is being built where it’s needed," reads a ministry press release.

"Compliance measures may be taken if satisfactory progress is not made by the time annual progress reports are made, to ensure that municipalities are taking action to build homes for people as quickly as possible."

The ministerial housing order, which came into effect on Oct. 1, 2023, sets annual cumulative benchmarks the city must meet over the next five years and requires a progress report six months after the order took effect.

That report, which was received by Delta council on May 6, showed 242 occupancy permits were issued in the city from Oct. 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024 — 47 per cent of the 514 new homes required by the end of September.

An accompanying report by city staff notes that “strong efforts” were made towards approving projects at all stages of development, including granting third reading for 990 housing units and final reading for 67, plus issuing development permits for 211 units and building permits for another 206.

However, Delta's numbers were calculated using a different metric than that set out by the ministry, and by the province's count the number of newly-completed homes in the city over those six months was substantially lower — 114, less than half of what was reported by the city and only 22 per cent of Delta's year-one target.

READ MORE: B.C. says Delta not making 'expected' progress to meet housing target

SEE ALSO: 7 of 10 B.C. communities falling short of housing targets 6 months in

James Smith

About the Author: James Smith

James Smith is the founding editor of the North Delta Reporter.
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