March 10, 2021

Density Bonusing


Incentive for Density Programs

Density Bonuses offer developments a level of density that surpasses the allowable Floor Area Ratio (FAR) in exchange for amenities or housing needed by the community. These amenities typically include parks, heritage preservation and affordable housing, but offering increased density in exchange for greener development can also be seen as an amenity to the community [1].

Density bonuses must be established in zoning bylaws that set out the specific conditions needed to receive the increased FAR. The impacts of increased density on services and the neighbourhood should be carefully considered. When creating a density bonus program, local governments should:

  • clearly establish the purpose of the program
  • establish a maximum overall density in the Official Community Plan or Local Area Plan
  • concentrate density in strategic areas to encourage transportation choice
  • calculate the value of the increased density and what amenities can be bought with it
  • define and prioritize amenities or housing needed by the community [2]

This incentive tool is less effective in communities where density isn’t valued by developers or where land is more affordable and developers are content to build out instead of up.

Getting More from Density Bonusing

Land Use

Local governments can allow density bonuses in strategic areas to encourage compact communities. This in turn will help achieve densities that can support transit, commercial centres and more protected green space. Density bonuses are often used in infill and brownfield redevelopment as an incentive for developers to convert underused lands into vibrant neighbourhoods.


Local governments can allow density bonuses in strategic areas to encourage compact communities. This in turn can help achieve transit-supportive densities and affordable housing.


Local governments can encourage high performance or “green” buildings by offering density bonuses in exchange for these amenities.


[1] Michael Wilson and Taylor Zeeg, 2007, Energy Efficiency and Buildings: A Resource for BC’s Local Governments, Community Energy Association and Fraser Basin Council

[2] Rutherford, Susan, 2006, The Green Buildings Guide: Tools for Local Governments to Promote Site Sustainability, West Coast Environmental Law Research Foundation.

Multi-unit dwelling


  • Land use and Transportation