What’s a laneway house?
These mini-homes are built into pre-existing lots, usually in the backyard and opening onto the back lane or side street. Their size can range from 550 to 750 square feet, usually 1½ storeys, with one or two bedrooms.Typical regulations require that the laneway home is built in the back half of a standard lot in the space that one would normally find a garage.
A couple of years ago, the City of Vancouver (during mayor Sam Sullivan’s term) introduced the idea of laneway housing to increase the density in pre-existing neighborhoods while retaining the single-family feel of the neighborhood. This “eco-density” movement was originally thought to provide housing for the baby-boomer generation as they grew older and wanted smaller dwellings. Their children could then live in the larger main house and be nearby, or the home would be rented for extra income.
Since the laneway house concept has taken off, the baby boomers have not actually been the top clients. Their children have. Vancouver has the highest property values in Canada (three times as much as the average), but wages are no higher than the average city. That leaves late 20s- 30s year old people with very few options in home ownership. If they’re lucky, they’ll inherit money or a home from their parents or grandparents. Or, their parents will offer up their back yard for a laneway house. This is win-win for everyone.. the kids get a nice starter home and free babysitters across the yard, and the parents have their kids close by. If everyone gets along, it’s pretty much perfect.
The city has been careful with keeping by-laws strict enough to prevent abuse from developers, but flexible enough to create a really appealing dwelling that fits in with the neighbourhood. Of course, there are always going to be people who find loop holes or just disregard their neighbours unfortunately, but so far there have been many successes in the laneway concept, and hopefully it will continue to grow in a positive way.