Fee simple row houses offer gentle, more affordable density
At a glance (3 minute read)
- Row homes offer an affordable, non-strata alternative to townhomes.
- Municipalities must modify zoning and subdivision bylaws and fee schedules to permit this gentle density.
Throughout Greater Vancouver, there are many strata townhouses but very few fee-simple, individually owned row houses.
There are four reasons for this lack, according to architect, urban planner, and real estate consultant Michael Geller.
- Upfront, the homes cost more to build because in some municipalities, including Vancouver and West Vancouver, each rowhouse requires an individual sewer and water hook-up.
- Fee-simple row houses may not comply with existing zoning and subdivision bylaws. This means a developer must go through a lengthy rezoning and subdivision process. They’re developing the land, not stratifying it.
- Municipalities may charge higher fees for individually-owned row houses – similar to those for larger single-family houses on larger lots.
- Developers tend to develop what they know – which is typically strata townhouses.
Fee-simple row houses are twice as efficient as single family, detached homes. Two fit comfortably on a 35’ lot and each have small front and back yards, a detached garage and often a basement which can have a rental suite – making them more affordable than a detached home.
The owner owns the row house outright, just like a single-family house.
- There are no strata corporations or councils or strata fees and assessments, which means owners have more funds to pay down their mortgage.
- Each homeowner decides their own paint colour, wall coverings, and landscaping.
- Each homeowner decides if they want a large dog and two cats or if they want to rent their home.
Row homes have a shared party wall with a party wall agreement registered on the title.
There may also be a services easement agreement if pipes connecting to water and sewer cross over properties.
Depending on the developer, design guidelines may also be registered on title. Not everyone wants to mow their own grass, rake their own leaves, and clean their own gutters.
However, this is solved when owners form an association and pool funds to get this work done.
Legislation, regulations, and bylaws
In 2012, Bill 41 changed the Land Title Act to allow the registration of a party wall agreement on the title of adjoining properties.
In 2013, the City of Vancouver permitted the development of fee-simple row houses in RM-7 and RM-7N zones (multifamily). Vancouver requires a minimum lot width of five metres and a minimum house width of four metres.
What can municipalities do?
Examples of fee simple row houses
- Cambie Street and West 33rd Avenue in Vancouver. To develop this site into three fee simple row houses, planner Art Cowie was required to build two separate walls for each home, with space between them.
- Port Royal in Queensborough, New Westminster.
- Foxridge Homes, Surrey.
- Bedford Landing in Langley.