The city has issued 800 permits for laneway houses since the program started in 2009 with 500 of the homes having been built.
Now efforts are underway to tweak the regulations governing their construction.
The city is hosting information sessions next week about the proposed changes, which are aimed at improving “the fit of these homes in neighbourhoods,” according to the city notice.
Laneway homes are detached homes on single family lots that are geared toward seniors, renters or small families who want to live in an established residential
“We’re expanding the program to include all of the single-family zones within the city, which was one of council’s directions,” explained Jane Pickering, the deputy director of planning.
“Currently we allow them in two zones, which actually cover about 94 per cent of the single-family areas in the city, so the update is to close that gap.”
Other proposed amendments are designed to make it easier to build single-storey laneway houses.
“We already allow for one-storey, but the way the regulations were constructed it’s just a little bit more difficult to build one, so as a result a lot of our laneway houses have been two-storey,” Pickering said. “Some of the neighbours reaction is that they claim it has affected their livability, so we had a look at that and are making some suggestions that would be a lot more amenable to build a single-storey.”
Seniors are one of the groups envisioned to move into laneway homes and some may have difficulty with stairs, she added. A single-storey home is also slightly less expensive to build.
The city has received more applications for laneway homes than originally anticipated, but Pickering doesn’t expect amendments to rules will spark a surge in interest except for a potential increase in applications from areas where they haven’t been permitted before.
Complaints to city hall about laneway homes have dropped since the program’s inception.
In 2010, the city received 39 complaints, which fell to 24 in 2011. In 2012, the city received 14.
Reasons for complaints included size, massing, parking and construction-related concerns about issues ranging from noise to blocking laneways.
“I do think as they have rolled out across the city, that the declining complaint level leads me to believe they are becoming accepted in the city as a legitimate form of housing,” Pickering said.
Feedback forms will be available at the laneway housing information sessions and staff anticipate a report will go before city council later in the spring.
The first information session is from 4 to 7:30 p.m. March 6 at the Polish Community Centre, 4015 Fraser St. in the main hall and the second runs from 4 to 7:30 p.m. March 7 at the Hellenic Community Centre, 4500 Arbutus St., small hall.