Vancouver laneway housing motion approved

Laneway houses on single-family lots in Vancouver are a step closer to reality after city council voted unanimously to send the issue to a public hearing.

“This is the final step,” Vision Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer told the Georgia Straight following council’s June 16 meeting. “It will go to public hearing, and if it passes at public hearing, it will be allowed in short order after that. If it doesn’t pass at public hearing, it will not be allowed.”

Vision councillor Raymond Louie amended a staff recommendation to allow the construction of one- or one-and-a-half-storey buildings on existing single-family lots.

Reimer said that when looking at building laneway housing, homeowners should consider three interrelated factors: parking, the height of the unit, and the length of the lot. The public hearing will determine how much parking would be required on each site.

Speaking outside council chambers, development consultant and 2008 Non-Partisan Association council candidate Michael Geller told the Straight that laneway housing is “a good idea” and that he’d “love to see it succeed”. He promoted this policy during the last civic campaign.

“What this means for Vancouver is that we will be able to see more single-level units—which I think of as more like cottages, as distinct [from] two-level units,” Geller said. “But at least there will be a chance to see both being built and people can evaluate them. I really want this to succeed as an experiment, because it is a wonderful idea. In England or in Australia, we call them ”˜granny flats’. ”

Last October, the previous NPA–dominated council approved 25 directions for laneway housing and instructed staff to come back with a report laying out how plans could proceed citywide. City planning director Brent Toderian told council at the June 16 meeting that permitting laneway housing in all areas of the city would lead to an equitable distribution of the units and avoid concerns over varying tax rates.

“We were hearing from the public that there was a great deal of interest in these housing types across the city, and that there was a certain benefit to trying the housing type in all different neighbourhoods,” Toderian said at the meeting.

Reimer told the Straight her amendments to the staff recommendation dealt with the “monitoring and review” of the introduction of laneway housing.

“A report would be made available to the public at least every six months that looked at eight different impacts and tracked those—things like tree retention and location,” Reimer said. “ ”˜Are they all happening in one neighbourhood? Are they spread out?’ Also, quite importantly, it’s 100 pilots [100 laneway houses] or three years—whichever comes first—and we will review the policy in its entirety [after that].”

On the same day, council also approved a staff recommendation to amend the Zoning and Development By-law to introduce land-use definitions for a “principal dwelling unit combined with a secondary dwelling unit” and a “secondary dwelling unit”. If approved, this would allow secondary suites within apartment buildings downtown, in commercial districts, and in Southeast False Creek.



John Newcomb

Jun 18, 2009 at 11:08am

If laneway houses are good because they provide low-cost housing options and also help densify a neighbourhood, interesting to see what we've got now in Victoria. A new small-house development is emerging on the farthest fringe of the region, about 15 kms west of Victoria - small houses, very small lots, relatively low prices, but currently very isolated and not a walkable area currently:

Len Guenther

Jun 18, 2009 at 3:57pm

In Toronto this sort of development has been left to architects' own initiative while city-wide policy development is bureaucratically blocked. City Works Departments worry that firetrucks won't be able to negotiate laneways, that laneway housing will become a drain on services, that existing homeowners will find their privacy threatened. Are we about to witness history repeating itself?

Felipe Zahr

Oct 12, 2009 at 8:45pm

The design regulations aproved recently are very strict and it's a real challenge to come up with a nice design. It's good that the city is trying to ensure design quality, but they should give room for designers to offer more diversity.
Take a look at this lane housing options: