What does the City of Vancouver's recent laneway housing push mean for your neighbourhood?
On July 28, 2009, Vancouver City Council unanimously approved the proposed Laneway Housing regulations and guidelines, amending existing single-family zoning by-laws and allowing the construction of laneway homes.
Unfamiliar with the laneway concept?
Until recently so was I. For the past year I’ve been working as a professional intern with the Lighthouse Sustainable Building Centre as part of their 2010 Green Building Challenge. Through working on the Laneway Housing Project created by Lanefab, I’ve been getting up to speed on the laneway housing debate and evolving municipal regulations.
More info on laneway housing & EcoDensity
Planning for the Future –
Granville Online's EcoDensity Special (National Magazine Award, honourable mention)
Laneway Housing on the Vancouver EcoDensity Site Includes links to regulations specific to Laneway Housing, Laneway Housing guidelines and Laneway Housing illustrative examples.
(c/o City Farmer)
News coverage of laneway housing
CBCnews.ca – Laneway housing approved by Vancouver council
The Province – Laneway housing bylaw passed
The Vancouver Courier – City greenlights laneway housing
Laneway homes are a leading example of Vancouver’s EcoDensity strategy, a City initiative which focuses on altering our urban landscape to improve environmental sustainability, affordability and livability.
Laneway homes are to be built on existing lots in the footprint of a typical garage. They can be a maximum height of one-and-a-half stories, must be owned by the existing property owner (i.e., rentals only, no strata sales), and are only allowed on single-family zoned properties.
With city council’s approval of the laneway housing by-law, the Laneway Housing Project is moving beyond the planning stage. Focusing on a single house in East Vancouver, the plan is to build a second, fully-functional home within the footprint of the existing garage (total size around 500 square feet). Tied in is the concept of net-positive greenhouse gas reduction, whereby renovations that reduce the consumption of electricity and water in the existing home will more than make up for the resources consumed by occupants of the laneway house.
Leading up to the final by-law decision by city council, a main issue was whether lots with laneway homes would be required to have parking spaces for one or two cars as part of the Parking By-law No. 6059. As you can imagine, a requirement of two off-street parking spaces would significantly reduce the allowable floor-space for a laneway home. In the end, council approved a minimum of only one parking space. Now, otherwise expensive garage parking and storage can be converted into income-generating rental properties or living-spaces for aging relatives or children.
In response to Vancouver residents concerned about laneway homes popping up in their neighbourhoods, council will review the program after the submission of 100 applications for laneway homes, or after three years, whichever comes first.
For more information on the 2010 Green Building Challenge’s Laneway Housing Project, Bryn Davidson of Lanefab has put together an informative presentation that includes some very convincing cost, revenue and financing data, as well as great-looking renderings.
What do you think of laneway housing in Vancouver? Are you for or against the initiative? We’d like to hear from you. Leave a comment below.
Leah Nielsen is a freelance contractor who provides information and administrative web services to small businesses and organizations. She specializes in environmental and social sustainability and operates LeahLink.com, a central hub for her work and blog. Off-line she can be found riding her bike and engaging in creative endeavors around Vancouver.