Heritage foundation touts laneway housing in Vancouver

City council will provide $42 million for 38,000 new housing units

The Vancouver Heritage Foundation is hoping to find older laneway homes to showcase to help sell the idea that building homes on the same lots as existing houses isnt as radical an idea as many think.

Last month, city council approved a 10-year affordable housing plan that will provide $42 million in land and capital grants to create 38,000 new housing units, including laneway homes.

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Laneway housing was already part of the EcoDensity initiative helped brought in by former mayor Sam Sullivan. Adopted in 2009 and the first of its kind in North America, the housing plan allows backyard cottages, typically between 500 and 1,000 square feet, to be built on about 94 per cent, or roughly 60,000, of the city's single-family lots.

However, in a quite literal example of NIMBYism, some residents dont want to see new homes built in backyards in their neighbourhoods due in part to the added congestion.

Jessica Kuan, a program and administrative assistant for the foundation, said the foundation hopes to find old-fashioned examples of how smaller homes can cohabitate with larger ones.

Were going with the term laneway because thats the citys terminology, but really its not just about the laneway as the city defines them, Kuan told the Courier. Many old coach houses and infills really do constitute the same idea of having another living space on the same property whether it is divided or one ownership.

While the term laneway itself is relatively new, secondary homes (also known as coach or carriage homes) built on the same residential lots as other houses have been around for decades. The trick is to find one thats still standing and whose owner is willing to open its doors to the public. The foundation held its first laneway tour, which saw a few hundred curious people squeezing into 10 newly constructed laneway homes, last December.

Were trying to find one that really is historic to Vancouver, one that wasnt built later or was infill. The goal is to find one that would constitute an original laneway and were trying to broaden the term as well since the city started this program.

Laneway homes are typically detached dwellings located in the backyard or garage area and are limited to rental or family use only with no separate legal or strata title. At least one parking space must be provided, which could include an enclosed garage. Both contemporary and traditional designs are permitted and homes can be single-storey or have upper-storeys.

What were trying to do is find an existing home with a laneway that might help show how you can build your laneway to go with it instead of building some big modern laneway that might even eclipse the original house. Clearly there have been coach houses that have been transformed into housing, so its not entirely new.

The Vancouver Heritage Foundation is accepting suggestions for possible candidates to be included in the upcoming Oct. 1 tour at 604-264-9642 or email mail@vancouverheritagefoundation.org.

Twitter: @flematic

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