Vancouver’s back lanes could now become livelier.
it densest could be and a Vancouver most desirable eco-trend cities or in merely North a America, necessity but in the one fact of the is, that over 800 permits have been approved to build laneway houses, also known as mini homes, all around the city since the eco-density Initiative was implemented in Vancouver in 2009. Apart from high-rise condos and basement suites, Vancouverites have discovered that they can still live in a well-established neighbourhood in the city before having to leave in search of a place they can afford to live. This is the reason why we are now seeing many little homes being built on the back ends of existing homes, and making our back lanes an inviting place to live! In order for a laneway house to work, the owner of a single-family home, on a lot that is at least 33 feet wide, must invest an average of $250,000 (including permits and construction) to transform the backyard/garage into a small 500-900 square-foot, one or two-bedroom living space. This home can then be rented out to someone looking to live in an efficient home, in comfort, and privacy, in the city, usually for about $1,700 a month. It seems like a win-win situation for both parties, and and top of it all, it seems like a good solution to the current housing deficit in the city. This might be the reason why this project is here to stay. In addition to being “mortgage helpers”, laneway houses are being built for many other reasons, including safe housing for elderly parents; to help college-aged children to live independently and build a private space but yet be close to the family, to welcome back newly married children starting their own family, or to simply downsize, as is the case for some empty-nesters that are not looking forward to relocating. Bryn Davison, LaneFab Co-owner, gave us some insights into some of the many benefits of laneway housing. These benefits are: keeping families together, land-use efficiency, cost efficiency (when comparing to the cost of buying a condo in the city), the use of existing neighbourhood facilities, the opportunity for owners to generate income, and the possibility to contribute to the affordable rental housing stock in the city. This type of housing is one that will preserve neighbourhood character, increase housing choice, and accommodate population growth all of which can occur for a reasonable price and in a reasonable timeframe. When we asked Bryn about life in a mini-home, he was excited to share his own personal experience since he and his wife live in a 360 square-foot, East Vancouver condo. “Vancouver is the perfect city for mini living spaces and laneway housing, since many of us love the city life and are used to small spaces anyways. You learn to value the space and live with the essentials. Life becomes simple, less expensive, allowing you to spend more time and money doing what you most love.” Bryn is an expert when it comes to building small spaces. He was the first one to build a laneway home in Vancouver and his company was awarded the 2013 Scotiabank Eco-living Award for his Business Leadership, setting the example of building energy efficient laneway homes in Vancouver.
Although there are many benefits to laneway housing, the Eco-density Initiative has raised a few concerns within the community. Neighbours are concerned about the impact of density on everyday life. Specifically, in the subject of privacy, noise levels, changes in the neighborhood appearance, parking, etc. Residents are also concerned about the capacity of existing community resources, such as childcare facilities, schools, and hospitals, some of which are already running at maximum capacity, to accommodate increased density. For the last few years, The City of Vancouver has been watching the evolution of laneway housing carefully, and, as a result of this, has recently expanded the program across all of the city’s single-family zoning areas and has implemented new regulations addressing some of the current concerns. Specifically, regulations on house height, parking, and storage space have been revised and changes are making this option more accessible to many of us. City planners are confident that public feedback is positive and that laneway houses can be well integrated and accepted in most neighbourhoods. Although Vancouver is leading the way in North America in creating a solution for housing need with laneway housing, other cities in the Lower Mainland, such as North Vancouver, Surrey and Coquitlam have also embraced this housing trend. Thanks to modern, eco-friendly architecture, technology and design, houses can now be built that help us maximize the available space without leaving us feeling cramped. Get ready to be surprised when attending a laneway home open house or when searching the web for laneway homes in Vancouver, you just might realize that you are willing to give up your big space and move into one of these perfectly designed mini laneway homes! For questions about laneway housing in Vancouver e-mail The City of Vancouver at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the enquiry centre at by phone at 604.871.7613. For general information, please visit www.vancouver.ca/homeproperty-development/lanewayhouses-and-secondary-suites.aspx