Housing and Development

Share Housing and Development on Facebook Share Housing and Development on Twitter Share Housing and Development on Linkedin Email Housing and Development link

Find out how the City is improving building and development regulations and processes.

Housing and affordability matters. We are advancing a number of initiatives that are improving the regulation of building and development in the community, streamline processes, and increase the availability of affordable housing in Fernie.

This project page provides you with a central location to find information about these efforts, proejcts and initiatives. We are also publishing reports related to housing, and answers to frequently asked questions.

As our projects and initiatives focused on housing and development advance we will also be running engagement and consultation opportunities here so it's easy to take part and share your thoughts.

Find out how the City is improving building and development regulations and processes.

Housing and affordability matters. We are advancing a number of initiatives that are improving the regulation of building and development in the community, streamline processes, and increase the availability of affordable housing in Fernie.

This project page provides you with a central location to find information about these efforts, proejcts and initiatives. We are also publishing reports related to housing, and answers to frequently asked questions.

As our projects and initiatives focused on housing and development advance we will also be running engagement and consultation opportunities here so it's easy to take part and share your thoughts.

  • Proposed Zoning Bylaw Update

    Share Proposed Zoning Bylaw Update on Facebook Share Proposed Zoning Bylaw Update on Twitter Share Proposed Zoning Bylaw Update on Linkedin Email Proposed Zoning Bylaw Update link
    supporting image

    Following the Province of BC’s adoption of Bill 44 mandating local governments to allow more small-scale, multi-unit housing in residential zones, the City of Fernie has been working to develop amendments to its Zoning Bylaw.

    Staff have thought carefully about the province’s recommended changes to zoning regulations, and drafted amendments that help promote the developability of attainable housing on residential lots while retaining the character of Fernie’s existing neighbourhoods. The proposed changes that aim to minimize impact to residents with less imposing heights and parcel coverage than the province has recommended, and consider the town's projected population growth, unique transportation options, and parking needs.

    On April 16, 2024, the City of Fernie presented Council with a draft bylaw amendment that satisfies Province’s requirements, allowing Council to understand the concepts and provide feedback before considering the amendment for adoption in June.

    What are the Proposed Changes?

    • Existing Residential zones within the Zoning Bylaw including R1, R1SL, R1B, R-WF, R-WF1, R2, R2-RS, will be consolidated and replaced with one zone ‘RSS – Residential - Small-Scale Zone’.
    • Low density zones in the Comprehensive Development areas like the Cedars and Montane will not be part of the blanket zone, but will be amended individually to allow for Small-Scale Multi-Unit Housing.
    • Four (4) dwelling units will be permitted on properties over 280 square metres in size, and three (3) dwelling units on lots with a minimum size of 250 square metres and a maximum size of 280 square metres.
    • New dwelling units can be developed in a variety of housing types including combinations of (but are not necessarily limited to): single detached dwellings, secondary suites, detached accessory dwelling units (such as garage suites), duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, townhomes.
    • Buildings can be constructed up to a height of 10 metres (one metre lower than the provincial recommendation), with a reduced height of 8 metres within a 6-metre setback from the rear property line to reduce the overall massing.
    • Maximum parcel coverage can increase on a sliding scale of 35% to 50% based on the number of dwelling units created (provincial recommendation 50%)
    • Minimum off-street parking requirements can be reduced on a sliding scale of 2 to 5 spaces based on the number of dwelling units created (provincial recommendation 1 to 4 spaces)

    Key Dates

    • Zoning Amendments will be presented at the Regular Meeting of Council on May 28, 2024, for first, second, and third readings.
    • Zoning Amendments will be considered by Council for adoption at the Regular Meeting of Council on June 11, 2024 (tentative date).
    • Provincial deadline for municipalities to adopt small-scale, multi-unit housing bylaw amendments is June 30, 2024.

    The Province of British Columbia has legislated that the Zoning Bylaw amendments are subject to Public Notice. Provincial changes to Public Hearing requirements mean that public comments will not be accepted as part of the process.

    Review the City of Fernie's proposed zoning regulation changes, here.

    Watch a recording of the Council meeting discussion, here.

    Related Information

    Short-Term Rentals will be required to follow the existing City of Fernie regulations. For more information, visit the Short Term Rental informaiton page.

    For more detailed information about how the changes relate to infrastructure, utilities and development cost charges, read the Staff Report to Council - April 16, 2024.

    Read about the Province's legistlated changes in the Small-Scale Multi-Unit Housing Toolkit for Local Governments.

    Read about the Province's recommended changes to zoning reulations in the Provincial Policy Manual & Site Standards Guide.

  • New Provincial Housing Legislation for BC

    Share New Provincial Housing Legislation for BC on Facebook Share New Provincial Housing Legislation for BC on Twitter Share New Provincial Housing Legislation for BC on Linkedin Email New Provincial Housing Legislation for BC link

    In November 2023, the Province of BC adopted new legislation aimed at easing the housing crisis by enabling the development of small-scale and multi-unit homes on most single-family and duplex zoned lots.

    What is Small-Scale Multi Unit Housing?

    Small-scale multi-unit housing (SSMUH) refers to a range of housing unit configurations that can provide more affordable and diverse options than single-family homes.

    New dwelling units can be developed in a variety of housing types including combinations of (but are not necessarily limited to): single detached dwellings, secondary suites, detached accessory dwelling units (such as garage suites), duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, townhomes.

    What Will Change?

    All municipalities across BC with a population of 5,000 or greater will soon allow four (4) dwelling units on properties over 280 square metres in size, and three (3) dwelling units on lots with a minimum size of 250 square metres and a maximum size of 280 square metres. Municipalities outside Fernie that are close to transit stops with frequent service, at least six (6) units will be allowed on larger sized lots.

    The new provincial legislation requires local governments to update their zoning bylaws to accommodate the increased dwelling unit density by the end of June 2024.

    The City of Fernie is currently working to draft amendments to the Zoning Bylaw, Official Community Plan (OCP) and develop an updated Housing Needs Report (HNR) to meet the Province’s timelines:

    • June 30, 2024 – Update the Zoning bylaw to allow for Small-Scale Multi-Unit Housing (SSMUH).
    • January 1, 2025 – Complete an Interim Housing Needs Report, estimating housing needs for a 20-year timeframe.
    • December 31, 2025 – Update the Official Community Plan and Zoning Bylaw to align with the finalized Housing Needs Report.

    The provincial changes also phase out one-off public hearings for housing projects that are consistent with official community plans. Instead, there will be more frequent opportunities for people to be involved earlier in the process, with new legislation requiring the OCP and Zoning Bylaw be updated every 5 years, while reflecting and pre-zoning for the 20-year total number of housing units required to meet anticipated housing needs. Public hearings will continue to be required whenever local governments update or develop new OCPs, or consider rezonings for projects that are not consistent with the OCP.

    Learn about the planned changes to help build more homes faster at the Province’s Housing Initiative information page

    More infomation is available in the November 1, 2023, press release from the Ministry of Housing.

  • Streamlining the Approval of Development & Construction

    Share Streamlining the Approval of Development & Construction on Facebook Share Streamlining the Approval of Development & Construction on Twitter Share Streamlining the Approval of Development & Construction on Linkedin Email Streamlining the Approval of Development & Construction link
    supporting image



    The Development Approvals Enhancement Project (also known as the LGDAP project) is currently underway, working to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of how the City of Fernie processes development and construction applications. The goal of this project is to remove barriers to attainable housing by accelerating the construction of homes that people need.


    This project is a collaborative effort between the City's Planning department and a consulting team, who are gearing up to host a series of engagement opportunities throughout late February, 2023.

    How can you get involved?

    • Join us for a presentation of the project at the Regular Meeting of Council on February 28, 2023. Meetings are streamed live to the City's Facebook page.
    • Members of the development and construction communities are invited to attend a workshop on February 27, 2023 to help develop strategies for obtaining consistent development success. For more information email planning@fernie.ca
    • Follow our progress on this initiative at the Development Approvals Enhancement Project webpage.

    Work on this project is funded by the Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) through the Local Government Development Approvals Program. The project kicked off in September 2022 and runs through until August 2023.

    Want to know more? Submit a question to the Project team via the Development Approvals Enhancement Project webpage.

  • Reducing "Minor" Variance Processing Times

    Share Reducing "Minor" Variance Processing Times on Facebook Share Reducing "Minor" Variance Processing Times on Twitter Share Reducing "Minor" Variance Processing Times on Linkedin Email Reducing "Minor" Variance Processing Times link

    On Monday June 27, 2022, Council voted to support reducing “minor” variance processing times from 3 weeks down to 1-2 weeks by adjusting the public notice process to align with direction provided under Section 498.1 of the Local Government Act.

    Under the new process, public notice requirements are waived for the issuance of "minor" Development Variance Permits allowed under Delegation Bylaw No. 2467. By not requiring public notice on “minor” variances, the timeline for the approval of an application could be as little as 1 week.

    This process improvement expedites the time it takes for Fernie home owners to break ground on construction projects requiring a "minor" variance, and significantly reduces the staff time required to process each application by 3 hours - from 9 hours, down to 6 hours approx. per application.

    Minor Variance Application Process adopted by Council on May 24, 2022 (WITH PUBLIC NOTICE)

    • Application Intake (1 hour) → Permit Review (2 hours) → Communication with Applicant (varies – 2 hours) → Public Notice (3 hours) → Permit Issuance and Close File (1 Hour)
    • Total Employee Hours (Estimated, Average): 9
    • Total Timeline (Estimated, Average): 3 weeks

    NEW Minor Variance Application Process adopted by Council on June 27, 2022 (WITHOUT PUBLIC NOTICE)

    • Application Intake (1 hour) → Permit Review (2 hours) → Communication with Applicant (varies – 2 hours) → Permit Issuance and Close File (1 Hour)
    • Total Employee Hours (Estimated, Average): 6
    • Total Timeline (Estimated, Average): 1-2 weeks

    Read more about this important process improvement in the report supported by Council at the Regular meeting of Council on June 27, 2022.

    Information on how to apply for a Development Variance Permit is available on the City of Fernie website.

  • Permissive Tax Exemptions

    Share Permissive Tax Exemptions on Facebook Share Permissive Tax Exemptions on Twitter Share Permissive Tax Exemptions on Linkedin Email Permissive Tax Exemptions link

    Each year the City of Fernie supports Affordable Housing initiatives by choosing to grant property tax exemptions to charitable and non-profit organizations that help to create and maintain local housing options, attract new residents & businesses, and encourage local economic development.

    Under Section 224 of the Community Charter, Council may choose to grant property tax exemption to eligible properties such as:

    • Public parks owned and held by an athletic or service club
    • Art galleries or museums owned by a charitable or philanthropic organization
    • Not-for-profit seniors and community housing
    • Property located around a place of public worship but not eligible for a statutory exemption

    Details of the Permissive Tax Exemption program is available on the City of Fernie website. Eligible organizations may apply by July 31, 2022 to be considered for a property tax exemption in 2023.

    Learn more about Permissive Tax Exemptions on the BC Government website.

    A full list of Fernie's Permissive Tax Exemption recipients is listed on pages 56-57 of the 2021 Annual Municipal Report.

  • Delegating "Minor" Variances - Streamlining the Process

    Share Delegating "Minor" Variances - Streamlining the Process on Facebook Share Delegating "Minor" Variances - Streamlining the Process on Twitter Share Delegating "Minor" Variances - Streamlining the Process on Linkedin Email Delegating "Minor" Variances - Streamlining the Process link

    The Planning Department is working on several short-term projects that are intended to help increase dwelling units in the affordable housing fabric.

    Delegation of Authority for Minor Variances

    This opportunity has just been created by updated Provincial legislation. Council may now consider delegating (giving) the authority to approve a specific set of variances to staff.

    First, the set of variances must be defined, and then if an application requiring variances fits within that definition it can be processed through staff authorized by Council.

    • Definition of “minor” variance a proposed variance must meet this definition to be delegated, otherwise, it must proceed to Council:
      • Setbacks greater than or equal to 1.5 metres from property line
      • Building / Structure height up to 10% over allowable height in the Zoning Bylaw
      • Parcel coverage up to 10% over allowable parcel coverage in the Zoning Bylaw
      • All projections into the required setback
    • Guidelines under which the delegate (Director or Manager of Planning) must consider when deciding on the issuance of a variance (Is there a high degree negative impact?):
      • Appropriateness of the development
      • Affects on the natural environment
      • Use and Enjoyment of adjacent lands
      • Changes in use / density
      • Intent of the Zoning Bylaw

    The new process is expected to drastically reduce the amount of staff time spent on these applications, and subsequently reduce wait times for the issuance of permits.

    Old Process Overview:

    New Process Overview:

    Read the report on this initiative and how it ensures the opportunity for public participation while reducing time spent per application and per Council meeting on these "minor" variances.


  • What is the LGDAP project? Improving process, policy, and materials

    Share What is the LGDAP project? Improving process, policy, and materials on Facebook Share What is the LGDAP project? Improving process, policy, and materials on Twitter Share What is the LGDAP project? Improving process, policy, and materials on Linkedin Email What is the LGDAP project? Improving process, policy, and materials link

    RFP Cover PageThe City is engaging an external consultant to complete a project to review and improve the City’s development application and approval process, bylaws, policies, and communication tools with the goal of increasing housing diversity and number of attainable housing units in Fernie.

    This is a grant-funded project. The City was successful in securing $171,875 in funding through the Province to improve our processes and support housing in our community.

    The Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued in March of 2022. The City is now working on awarding the project, with work to be completed no later than August 15, 2023.

    You can read the report on the project and the RFP and addendum on our website.

  • Zoning and Housing - Advancing the Housing Needs Report

    Share Zoning and Housing - Advancing the Housing Needs Report on Facebook Share Zoning and Housing - Advancing the Housing Needs Report on Twitter Share Zoning and Housing - Advancing the Housing Needs Report on Linkedin Email Zoning and Housing - Advancing the Housing Needs Report link

    This article summarizes current and new zoning that supports advancing multi-family housing in Fernie.

    Multi-Family Development Lands (Undeveloped)

    There are a number of privately-owned properties in Fernie that are zoned for multi-family development, and remain undeveloped. Many of these properties are within the existing parcel fabric, and some would be considered greenfield development.

    Theoretically, based on the size of the properties and the maximum density allowed in these areas, the undeveloped multi-family zoned properties in Fernie represent a maximum of 2,688 dwelling units. A conservative assessment based on development to 50% of the maximum density still allows for the creation of 1,344 dwelling units without the need for significant new zoning.

    Major New Zoning

    Since the completion of the Housing Needs Report the City has moved forward with changes to the Zoning Bylaw to diversify the available housing stock, and promote the creation of new units in areas they weren’t previously permitted.

    Rental Zoning

    In March 2021, Council adopted Bylaw 2410 creating the R5R – High Density Residential Rental zone, and rezoned 90 Castle Mountain Road to the new R5R Zone, creating the opportunity to develop up to 193 dwelling units.

    Fernie was one of the first municipalities in BC to approve rental zoning as an initiative to support housing diversification

    CS1 Service Commercial

    In February, 2022 Council adopted a text amendment to the zoning bylaw to make dwelling units legal in the CS1- Service Commercial Zone above the first storey or behind the commercial component. There are approximately 38 lots that are zoned CS1 in the City (Located in the North Annex and the Ghostrider Subdivision). With the amendment to the CS1 zone, each one of those properties has the potential to have dwelling units above or behind a permitted commercial use. The bylaw does not limit the amount of dwelling units; however, lot size, parcel coverage and parking requirements for those dwelling units must be applied, which may limit the total number of potential new units.

  • Core Housing Needs - From the Housing Needs Report

    Share Core Housing Needs - From the Housing Needs Report on Facebook Share Core Housing Needs - From the Housing Needs Report on Twitter Share Core Housing Needs - From the Housing Needs Report on Linkedin Email Core Housing Needs - From the Housing Needs Report link

    The Housing Needs Report describes current and future housing needs for the City of Fernie. It is meant to provide decision makers, City staff, community members, service providers, businesses, and housing developers the information necessary to better understand their current and future housing needs, and to help identify existing and projected gaps in housing supply.

    Affordable housing: Stakeholders discussed an acute shortage of affordable housing. It was noted that Fernie is a “sellers’ market,” and home purchases are unattainable for many local residents, especially first-time buyers. Between 2006 and 2020, the average sale price of a single-family dwelling in Fernie has increased by over $285,500, according to BC Assessment data. There is a considerable gap between the income needed to buy the median house in Fernie, and the actual median income of renter households. While home ownership is within reach for many households in Fernie, these households will tend to be owners and have considerably higher incomes than the median. This finding is consistent with the 2017 Housing Needs and Gap Assessment Report which highlighted affordable housing as a critical issue for single parent families and single people with low and fixed incomes. The 2017 report also found that as house prices rise, home ownership has become unattainable for many moderate-income working people.

    Rental housing: The proportion of renter households in Fernie is steadily increasing; however, since 2003 there have been no new purpose-built rental buildings. Stakeholders highlighted an acute shortage of rental availability for all types and sizes of homes, which is consistent with findings from the 2017 Housing Needs and Gap Assessment report which found that there were limited housing options available for renters. Renter households are more likely to be in core housing need. Rental rates have increased prohibitively for many temporary seasonal workers, resulting in many living in over-housed situations.

    Special needs housing: There are very few housing options for people with disabilities. There are also limited wheelchair accessible rental units, and limited independent living options for people with disabilities. It has been more than 10 years since a substantial number of new institutional care units were registered.

    Housing for seniors: Currently, Fernie’s population is young relative to other jurisdictions, but it is aging. The 65 to 85 age cohort is expected to experience the most growth over the next five years. There are supportive housing providers and independent living units for seniors however, stakeholders have noted increasingly long waitlists for available units. Further, there is a shortage of wheelchair accessible rentals available for seniors on a fixed income. This finding is consistent with survey results from the 2017 Housing Needs and Gap Assessment report which identified seniors as the third ranked group having greatest housing need.

    Housing for families: As originally reported in the 2017 Housing Needs and Gap Assessment report, there is a demonstrated shortage of suitable and affordable housing options for single parent families, young families, and low and moderate-income families. Stakeholders confirmed a lack of suitable, available housing for families in the 3-bedroom and 4-bedroom range. While household size has been decreasing in Fernie, as it has across the Province, and the population as a whole is aging and may, in time, downsize to smaller units (assuming they are available), family housing remains a current issue that will likely persist beyond the short term.

    Shelters for individuals experiencing homelessness and housing for individuals at risk of homelessness: Throughout engagement with stakeholders, it was reported that homelessness is an invisible issue in Fernie and there is a lack of housing supports for those at risk of and experiencing homelessness. There are no emergency shelters available in Fernie other than emergency temporary housing available for women and children experiencing violence. This finding is consistent with the 2017 Housing Needs and Gap Assessment report which indicated a need for emergency shelter options for men who are either episodically or chronically homeless.

    Preparedness for seasonal population spikes: The population that Fernie serves is dynamic throughout the year. At certain times of the year, such as over winter or summer holidays, Fernie experiences seasonal spikes in population and may serve a population that is as much as 30% larger (over 1,500 more people) than the year-round population. Additionally, Fernie houses several hundred temporary seasonal workers, such as the 800 winter employees at Fernie Alpine Resort (around 25% of the 2016 working population). Fernie Alpine Resort does not provide staff housing at the mountain or support housing in Fernie. Larger employers in the region have also not provided temporary housing programs or facilities in the city. Fernie may need to work with larger employers to better address and accommodate seasonal and temporary staff.

    It is important to note that Fernie Family Housing Society (FFHS) is currently building a new 49-unit development consisting of 35 apartments and 14 townhomes next to Tom Uphill Manor and École Isabella Dicken Elementary School. FFHS received funding from BC Housing and Columbia Basin Trust for the project, which aims to provide mixed affordable housing for families, singles, seniors, and people with disabilities. This new development will help address some of the key areas of local need identified in this section.

Page last updated: 16 May 2024, 09:57 AM