If you have ever seen a small, historic house wedged between two high-rises in the downtown core, this is where zoning, and the term 'highest and best use' come into play. Imagine that you owned a plot of land 20 years ago, and nothing was ever built on it. If the properties on either side were zoned exactly the same, let’s say residential for single family homes (RS-1), and houses were built on them, 20 years ago the value would be relatively similar (minus the houses).
Fast forward 20 years, and the location has been developed into the city center, and the same properties on either side were re-zoned for commercial high-rises (CD-1). Now that those properties have been re-zoned, and the houses have been replaced by skyscrapers, your vacant plot of land that is still zoned for a single family house is in what is called an 'interim use' which is defined as: the use to which a site or improved property is put until it is ready for its future highest and best use.
To be maximally productive, your property must be in its ideal use. In other words, it must be developed to its full potential, which is determined by the surrounding land uses (high-rises), and the Community Plan which can be found on any city’s website. Without doing anything to the vacant land over the 20 years, the surrounding developments and competitive forces within the market would have shaped the potential of your site and increased its value significantly.
Highest and best use can be described as the foundation on which market value rests, and is defined as: the reasonably probable and legal use of vacant land or an improved property that is physically possible, appropriately supported, financially feasible, and that results in the highest value.
If you choose to purchase a condo, zoning will not matter much to you, but if you want to buy a house on an individual plot of land, check to see what the current zoning is which can be found on the listing or the tax assessment, or ask your realtor.
The City of Vancouver has provisions according to what you can do with your property according to the respective zoning. See which district schedule applies to your property below, as you may be legally entitled to construct accessory buildings or suites on your lot. This is also a good check to see if improvements made to the property you are interested in were done legally, but always confirm that permits were acquired beforehand, otherwise you may run into issues down the road when you need to sell the property yourself.