Laneway Hous­ing

Van­cou­ver’s back lanes could now be­come live­lier.

Westcoast Families - - Families - by Mon­ica Gon­za­lez

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 laneway.hous­ing@van­cou­ or con­tact the en­quiry cen­tre at by phone at 604.871.7613. For gen­eral in­for­ma­tion, please visit www.van­cou­­prop­erty-de­vel­op­ment/laneway­houses-and-sec­ondary-suites.aspx

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