Everything you need to know about Live Work Buildings

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What is a Live Work Building?

Live Work buildings in Vancouver are slightly different from typical condos buildings in Vancouver, and there are different kinds of Live/Work buildings, specifically, those that allow office style Commercial Uses and Artist Studios. First and foremost, the units are typically a little more bare than other condos, meaning they offer only the necessities. This means the Live Work units are generally lofts, with concrete flooring, exposed pipes, and high ceilings. Many of the buildings offer a loading bay for residents who build large projects, a show room that residents can use to display their art, and a workshop offering tools and a large space to do other work.

As far as I know, in order for a building in Vancouver to be granted Live Work Status, the building has to follow Building bylaw requirements for both residential and non residential occupancy. Considering that the units may be used for both living and working purposes, the buildings have to be designed to accommodate both uses, and neither use should affect the quality of living of other residents.

Live Work Buildings and Zoning

This blog post is not a substitute for proper due diligence with regards to what is allowed and not allowed in Live/Work buildings so contact the City of Vancouver to inquire about zoning for specific buildings and if your specific scenario would be acceptable. Live Work Buildings can fall under many different types of zoning, many of which are commercial-based. Live/Works are complicated enough that I can’t offer a blanket statement as to what’s allowed in each type of zoning, so the best thing to do is to contact the City to inquire about specific buildings. Some people I’ve spoken with at the City have been really helpful, and others have told me that you would need to submit for a business license to know for certain if a certain type of business is allowed. Unfortunately, you can’t submit for a business license until you own/rent the space, so you would have to buy the Live/Work unit with some uncertainty. Also, just because another unit in the building looks to be the home of a similar business doesn’t mean it’s allowed – that person might just be skirting the rules.

Here is a general idea of what *might* be allowed in a building that is zoned Live/Work:

  1. A dwelling
  2. General Office, Health Care Office, Barber/Beauty Shop, Photography or Artist Studio – Class A (meaning a non toxic artist studio)
  3. Both 1 and 2 above.

When it comes to using the space as an Artist Studio – Class A, there are two different types of “Artist Studio” permits. The first type is Live Work Use meaning the artists are allowed to have employees and trades in their units.

The second type is “Residential Units associated and integrated with an Artist Studio” meaning the residents are limited to the production of art, and employees and trades are not permitted.

For more information on Live/Work and Work/Live zoning (there is lots to know), check out the City of Vancouver’s Live/Work Zoning Information.

Always make sure to check the building’s bylaws with regards to what’s allowed as well. Some don’t allow regular visitors (i.e. clients/employees) and some restrict on the type of work allowed in a space.

Financing for Live Work Buildings in East Van

There are many benefits to a Live-Work unit, especially when it comes to taxation HOWEVER I have received some conflicting information about this from different professionals (note that I’m neither an accountant nor tax advisor), so do your own due diligence by talking to a Tax Lawyer as this blog post is not a substitute for professional advice.

With regards to mortgage financing: some mortgage lenders won’t lend on Live/Work buildings, while others are just really picky about the type of designation and whether or not you’re pursuing it for residential or commercial purposes.

If you’re purchasing a Live/Work studio with commercial lending, the designation of the space will be really important. If the building is zoned for an Artist Studio rather than commercial activities, commercial mortgages may be tough to come by. It’s always good to work with a mortgage broker (rather than a bank) when it comes to Live/Work purposes since they can find a lender who understands your situation. ALSO – I have heard of scenarios where Owners of Live/Work studios using it for Commercial purposes are charged the City of Vancouver Vacancy Tax since no one “lives” there, so make sure you talk to a variety of professionals prior to purchasing a Live/Work unit, especially if it’s for Commercial purposes: Tax Lawyers, Accountants, Mortgage Brokers and the City of Vancouver. 

If you’re purchasing a Live/Work studio for residential purposes, financing should be possible (again, if your bank denies you, talk to a mortgage broker).