Housing Code Updates

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Vancouver, like many communities, is facing a housing crisis. As the city continues to grow, demand for additional housing supply and a wider variety of housing types is also growing. Increasing supply and the diversity of housing will allow residents at various income levels to have access to suitable housing while also maintaining neighborhood livability.


The Housing Code Updates project is not intended to be a comprehensive solution to affordability issues; rather, it will allow incremental changes that offer flexibility for the market to provide housing options at price points that are more attainable to Vancouver residents.


The goal of the project is to update City codes to allow for different, smaller, and more attainable types of housing choices. Many are recommended in the Affordable Housing Task Force report (2016) and many are similar to what is allowed in Clark County and other Washington cities nearby and statewide.


The specific goals of this project include:

  • Adding flexibility to the housing code to allow the private market to develop a range of housing types to meet changing demographic needs and consumer preferences
  • Expanding market rate, middle income, and workforce housing choices
  • Maintaining neighborhood livability with incremental, rather than wholesale, change
  • Providing more opportunities for people to live near where they work and attend school, and reduce costly commutes
  • Encourage efficient development in areas with full existing public services


What Updates are Being Considered?

To better meet the growing need for housing options in Vancouver, City staff has developed and is seeking community input on the following six recommended updates to local standards and codes:

The Low-Density Residential Districts are primarily designed to preserve and promote neighborhoods of detached single-family homes on larger lots. Flexibility in housing type is promoted by allowing manufactured homes, duplexes, and planned unit developments under special conditions. Other types of uses such as elementary schools, churches, parks, and childcare facilities are permitted at appropriate locations and at an appropriate scale within this zone.

The R-17 zoning district is designed to accommodate detached and attached single-family homes that may or may not include an accessory dwelling unit. The minimum lot size in this zone would be 2,000 square feet with a density of 8.8 to 21.8 units/net acre. Two-family dwellings (Duplexes), three-family, or four-family dwellings are permitted subject to density and development standards of the R-17 district. Some civic and institutional uses would be permitted as limited or conditional uses.


Learn more about the draft standards for the R-17 Low Density Residential District


A new R-50 zoning category would allow multi-dwelling apartments to be developed with a minimum lot size of 800 square feet per units. The densest current baseline zone in Vancouver is the R-35 zone, allowing 35 units per acre. Higher densities than that can only be achieved presently in mixed use developments or in downtown Vancouver. Creating this zoning district is in line with surrounding jurisdictions, as Clark County has an R-43 designation. Allowing for more units per acre would create additional housing units which would help address the housing shortage.

Learn more about the draft standards for the R-50 High Density Residential District

These standards are intended to allow groups of small-scale cottages around common open spaces in single- or multi-family zoning districts in a manner promoting accessible housing and community interaction. The homes are smaller than what is allowed in other zoning districts but allowed in higher densities.

Useful terms:

  • Dwelling, Cottage Cluster. A grouping of detached or attached dwelling units that includes a common courtyard. Cottage clusters are not multiple-unit dwellings.
  • Cottage Cluster Development. A site with one or more cottage clusters. Each cottage cluster as part of a cottage cluster project must have its own common courtyard. Cottages may be on the same lot or parcel or each cottage may be on its own lot or parcel.
  • Common Courtyard. A common area for use by residents of a cottage cluster or other type of residential development. A common courtyard may function as a community yard. Hard and soft landscape features may be included in a common courtyard, such as but not limited to pedestrian paths, lawn, groundcover, trees, shrubs, patios, benches, or gazebos.
  • Community Buildings. These are buildings intended for the shared use of residents in a development (such as a cottage cluster) that provides space for accessory uses such as community meeting rooms, guest housing, exercise rooms, day care, community eating areas, or picnic shelters.

Learn more about the draft standards for Cottage Clusters

Micro-housing refers to small footprint, single room living units with a minimum floor area of 120 square feet, with a maximum unit size of 400 square feet. Residents may share bathroom and/or kitchen facilities and units are typically offered on a monthly basis or longer. Micro-housing can also be referred to as micro-units, residential suites, small efficiency dwelling units (SEDUs) and is often marketed to young professionals as dorm-style living. The purpose of these standards would allow smaller unit size multi-family rental properties in multi-family zoning districts. Micro-housing units would require 1 parking space per 2 dwelling units.

Learn more about the draft standards for Micro Housing

An Accessory Dwelling Unit, or ADU, is defined as one or more rooms with private bath and kitchen facilities comprising an independent, self-contained dwelling unit within or attached to a single-family home or in a detached building on the same lot as the primary dwelling unit. An ADU is distinguishable from a duplex in that, unlike a duplex, it is clearly subordinate to the primary dwelling unit, both in use and appearance.

While ADUs are allowed under existing code, the purpose of these code updates is to allow the conversion of existing garages to ADUs if:

  • All applicable ADU, building and other standards are met.
  • The conversion of the garage doesn’t eliminate the number of required parking spaces for the existing single-family residence.
  • The overall height of the converted or replacement structure is no more than 18 feet.

These updates will provide homeowners with flexibility in establishing separate living quarters within or adjacent to their homes for the purpose of caring for seniors, providing housing for their children or obtaining rental income. They will also help ensure that the development of accessory dwelling units does not cause unanticipated impacts on the character or stability of single-family neighborhoods.

Learn more about the draft standards for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

The development of new single-unit homes that prioritize visitability would allow for more accessible and inclusive housing options for those who use wheelchairs, walkers, or otherwise have limited mobility. Universal design features that make houses “visitable” include wider door frames, first-floor bathrooms and bedrooms, ramps or entrances without steps, lower kitchen counter heights, among others. The building permit center would give developers building aging in place features would get a reduces review period, resource materials to assist applicants, and the ability to work with designated staff person.

To ensure that new development fits in with existing neighborhoods that they abut, some setback and buffer requirements should be revisited. Currently, new development in higher density residential zones that directly abut lower density areas is only required to be setback 5 feet from the property line, with a 6-foot high shrub screen or fence. The proposed change would keep the minimum setback at 5-ft, the setback requirement would increase by one (1) additional foot for every three (3] feet of proposed building height above 35 feet, up to a maximum setback of 15 feet.

A “stair step” approach can be used. Added setbacks for taller buildings apply only to portions of the building above 35 feet.

Learn more about the draft standards for Adjusted Standards for New Apartments next to Existing Homes

These standards will allow density bonuses for long term affordable housing, defined as 80% AMI or below. Affordable housing developments in single family residential zones would be eligible for a 50% density bonus, and developments in multifamily residential zones would be eligible for a 100% density bones. Both zones would still require developments to be consistent with allowed building types and height limits.

Previously this proposed density bonus was available specifically for faith-based organizations. This has been broadened to any party based on community feedback.

Learn more about the draft standards for Density Bonus for Long Term Affordable Housing

In order to facilitate development of various types of housing in areas near transit, state law requires local governments to adopt lower requirements for the minimum number of parking spaces that must be provided.

Market rate apartments within ¼ mile of transit lines running every 35 minutes, or anywhere in CX zone, must provide 0.75 parking spaces per unit.

Long term affordable housing projects must provide 0.75 spaces per unit citywide.

Housing for seniors or disabled persons in these areas cannot be required to provide any spaces per resident. The City can require parking spaces for visitors and/or employees. The draft housing code amendments would require one visitor space per every 10 residents and .075 spaces per employee required, as measured during the largest employment shift.

Learn more about the draft standards for Parking for Housing Near Frequent Transit

An image of a white C-Tran bus that is parked parallel to a sidewalk. The bus has a bicycle rack and an ADA sticker on the front. The doors on the bus are closed.

If approved and adopted by City Council, most of the above code updates will require developers wanting to use them to go through a site-specific review process with notice given to neighboring properties.

Developers who want to use the new single-family or higher density zoning district standards would have to go through a rezone process, including public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council.


Tell Us What You Think

There are public meetings in the coming months to learn more about the proposed code changes and provide your feedback. You can provide feedback by submitting oral or written testimony at City Council meetings. Learn how and when to testify at City Council meetings here.

  • June 27 2022 - City Council Public Hearing


Recent Meetings

Agendas, minutes, and recordings for the most recent public meetings are linked below:

  • March 21, 2022 - City Council Workshop on Housing Conditions
  • April 12, 2022 - Planning Commission Hearing


How to Get Involved

  • Sign up for the project email list to be notified of specific developments or upcoming hearings
  • Participate online through the survey below
  • Ask city staff to present to your neighborhood or community group
  • Contact project staff to share input



Vancouver, like many communities, is facing a housing crisis. As the city continues to grow, demand for additional housing supply and a wider variety of housing types is also growing. Increasing supply and the diversity of housing will allow residents at various income levels to have access to suitable housing while also maintaining neighborhood livability.


The Housing Code Updates project is not intended to be a comprehensive solution to affordability issues; rather, it will allow incremental changes that offer flexibility for the market to provide housing options at price points that are more attainable to Vancouver residents.


The goal of the project is to update City codes to allow for different, smaller, and more attainable types of housing choices. Many are recommended in the Affordable Housing Task Force report (2016) and many are similar to what is allowed in Clark County and other Washington cities nearby and statewide.


The specific goals of this project include:

  • Adding flexibility to the housing code to allow the private market to develop a range of housing types to meet changing demographic needs and consumer preferences
  • Expanding market rate, middle income, and workforce housing choices
  • Maintaining neighborhood livability with incremental, rather than wholesale, change
  • Providing more opportunities for people to live near where they work and attend school, and reduce costly commutes
  • Encourage efficient development in areas with full existing public services


What Updates are Being Considered?

To better meet the growing need for housing options in Vancouver, City staff has developed and is seeking community input on the following six recommended updates to local standards and codes:

The Low-Density Residential Districts are primarily designed to preserve and promote neighborhoods of detached single-family homes on larger lots. Flexibility in housing type is promoted by allowing manufactured homes, duplexes, and planned unit developments under special conditions. Other types of uses such as elementary schools, churches, parks, and childcare facilities are permitted at appropriate locations and at an appropriate scale within this zone.

The R-17 zoning district is designed to accommodate detached and attached single-family homes that may or may not include an accessory dwelling unit. The minimum lot size in this zone would be 2,000 square feet with a density of 8.8 to 21.8 units/net acre. Two-family dwellings (Duplexes), three-family, or four-family dwellings are permitted subject to density and development standards of the R-17 district. Some civic and institutional uses would be permitted as limited or conditional uses.


Learn more about the draft standards for the R-17 Low Density Residential District


A new R-50 zoning category would allow multi-dwelling apartments to be developed with a minimum lot size of 800 square feet per units. The densest current baseline zone in Vancouver is the R-35 zone, allowing 35 units per acre. Higher densities than that can only be achieved presently in mixed use developments or in downtown Vancouver. Creating this zoning district is in line with surrounding jurisdictions, as Clark County has an R-43 designation. Allowing for more units per acre would create additional housing units which would help address the housing shortage.

Learn more about the draft standards for the R-50 High Density Residential District

These standards are intended to allow groups of small-scale cottages around common open spaces in single- or multi-family zoning districts in a manner promoting accessible housing and community interaction. The homes are smaller than what is allowed in other zoning districts but allowed in higher densities.

Useful terms:

  • Dwelling, Cottage Cluster. A grouping of detached or attached dwelling units that includes a common courtyard. Cottage clusters are not multiple-unit dwellings.
  • Cottage Cluster Development. A site with one or more cottage clusters. Each cottage cluster as part of a cottage cluster project must have its own common courtyard. Cottages may be on the same lot or parcel or each cottage may be on its own lot or parcel.
  • Common Courtyard. A common area for use by residents of a cottage cluster or other type of residential development. A common courtyard may function as a community yard. Hard and soft landscape features may be included in a common courtyard, such as but not limited to pedestrian paths, lawn, groundcover, trees, shrubs, patios, benches, or gazebos.
  • Community Buildings. These are buildings intended for the shared use of residents in a development (such as a cottage cluster) that provides space for accessory uses such as community meeting rooms, guest housing, exercise rooms, day care, community eating areas, or picnic shelters.

Learn more about the draft standards for Cottage Clusters

Micro-housing refers to small footprint, single room living units with a minimum floor area of 120 square feet, with a maximum unit size of 400 square feet. Residents may share bathroom and/or kitchen facilities and units are typically offered on a monthly basis or longer. Micro-housing can also be referred to as micro-units, residential suites, small efficiency dwelling units (SEDUs) and is often marketed to young professionals as dorm-style living. The purpose of these standards would allow smaller unit size multi-family rental properties in multi-family zoning districts. Micro-housing units would require 1 parking space per 2 dwelling units.

Learn more about the draft standards for Micro Housing

An Accessory Dwelling Unit, or ADU, is defined as one or more rooms with private bath and kitchen facilities comprising an independent, self-contained dwelling unit within or attached to a single-family home or in a detached building on the same lot as the primary dwelling unit. An ADU is distinguishable from a duplex in that, unlike a duplex, it is clearly subordinate to the primary dwelling unit, both in use and appearance.

While ADUs are allowed under existing code, the purpose of these code updates is to allow the conversion of existing garages to ADUs if:

  • All applicable ADU, building and other standards are met.
  • The conversion of the garage doesn’t eliminate the number of required parking spaces for the existing single-family residence.
  • The overall height of the converted or replacement structure is no more than 18 feet.

These updates will provide homeowners with flexibility in establishing separate living quarters within or adjacent to their homes for the purpose of caring for seniors, providing housing for their children or obtaining rental income. They will also help ensure that the development of accessory dwelling units does not cause unanticipated impacts on the character or stability of single-family neighborhoods.

Learn more about the draft standards for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)

The development of new single-unit homes that prioritize visitability would allow for more accessible and inclusive housing options for those who use wheelchairs, walkers, or otherwise have limited mobility. Universal design features that make houses “visitable” include wider door frames, first-floor bathrooms and bedrooms, ramps or entrances without steps, lower kitchen counter heights, among others. The building permit center would give developers building aging in place features would get a reduces review period, resource materials to assist applicants, and the ability to work with designated staff person.

To ensure that new development fits in with existing neighborhoods that they abut, some setback and buffer requirements should be revisited. Currently, new development in higher density residential zones that directly abut lower density areas is only required to be setback 5 feet from the property line, with a 6-foot high shrub screen or fence. The proposed change would keep the minimum setback at 5-ft, the setback requirement would increase by one (1) additional foot for every three (3] feet of proposed building height above 35 feet, up to a maximum setback of 15 feet.

A “stair step” approach can be used. Added setbacks for taller buildings apply only to portions of the building above 35 feet.

Learn more about the draft standards for Adjusted Standards for New Apartments next to Existing Homes

These standards will allow density bonuses for long term affordable housing, defined as 80% AMI or below. Affordable housing developments in single family residential zones would be eligible for a 50% density bonus, and developments in multifamily residential zones would be eligible for a 100% density bones. Both zones would still require developments to be consistent with allowed building types and height limits.

Previously this proposed density bonus was available specifically for faith-based organizations. This has been broadened to any party based on community feedback.

Learn more about the draft standards for Density Bonus for Long Term Affordable Housing

In order to facilitate development of various types of housing in areas near transit, state law requires local governments to adopt lower requirements for the minimum number of parking spaces that must be provided.

Market rate apartments within ¼ mile of transit lines running every 35 minutes, or anywhere in CX zone, must provide 0.75 parking spaces per unit.

Long term affordable housing projects must provide 0.75 spaces per unit citywide.

Housing for seniors or disabled persons in these areas cannot be required to provide any spaces per resident. The City can require parking spaces for visitors and/or employees. The draft housing code amendments would require one visitor space per every 10 residents and .075 spaces per employee required, as measured during the largest employment shift.

Learn more about the draft standards for Parking for Housing Near Frequent Transit

An image of a white C-Tran bus that is parked parallel to a sidewalk. The bus has a bicycle rack and an ADA sticker on the front. The doors on the bus are closed.

If approved and adopted by City Council, most of the above code updates will require developers wanting to use them to go through a site-specific review process with notice given to neighboring properties.

Developers who want to use the new single-family or higher density zoning district standards would have to go through a rezone process, including public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council.


Tell Us What You Think

There are public meetings in the coming months to learn more about the proposed code changes and provide your feedback. You can provide feedback by submitting oral or written testimony at City Council meetings. Learn how and when to testify at City Council meetings here.

  • June 27 2022 - City Council Public Hearing


Recent Meetings

Agendas, minutes, and recordings for the most recent public meetings are linked below:

  • March 21, 2022 - City Council Workshop on Housing Conditions
  • April 12, 2022 - Planning Commission Hearing


How to Get Involved

  • Sign up for the project email list to be notified of specific developments or upcoming hearings
  • Participate online through the survey below
  • Ask city staff to present to your neighborhood or community group
  • Contact project staff to share input


  • Please review each of the six recommended changes and respond to the questions. 

    Your input on each recommendation will help the City refine them to address community needs and concerns through development of code standards and requirements, which will happen in the next step of this project. 

    The photos shown are to give you examples of the general housing type being described and the intent for each code update.


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Page last updated: 21 Jun 2022, 11:03 AM