Typically classified under names such as coach houses, infill housing, and granny flats—Laneway House (LWH) is a densification initiative that can provide many benefits for both the land owner and tenant. Made official in late 2009, the Council adopted regulations that would allow for Laneway Houses to be built on RS (single-family) zoned lots. These houses have been built on RS-1 and RS-5 zoned lots and will expand to RS-1A, RS-1B, RS-3/3A, RS-4, RS-6 and RS-7. Of course, in order to preserve the utility with existing structures, the LWH can only be built if the potential meets certain eligibility requirements, and must go through the City's approval process. A brief summary of requirements you would need to meet are as follows:
- Must have a minimum width of 32.15ft.
- The Director of Planning may approve narrower lots if the site width is at least 24ft.
- Access to open lane.
- Corner served by open or dedicated lane.
- Double fronting site served by the street on front and rear.
- A path must be provided along one of the side yards at least 3ft in width.
- Deep enough lot to allow for both the Main House and LWH extending up to 32ft inward.
- A minimum separation of 16ft between the Main House and the LWH.
Once eligibility requirements have been approved, there are steps to be taken in order to determine costs and feasibility, and on obtaining necessary permits:
1) Site servicing research: costs/requirements for sewer and water connections, electrical service, and gas installation.
2) Pre-application review: survey and plans for engineering, design, and landscaping pre-application reviews.
3) Application process: submit a permit application and meet related requirements.
The average LWH living space is 550ft², with 1 or 1½ stories, 1 or 2 bedrooms, and costs between $100,000 to $400,000 to build. Taking alternative, similarly priced options and their respective livability characteristics into account, there is a level of appeal that LWHs possess that can satisfy the most fastidious tastes.
Early in 2013, I attended a talk given by former Mayor Sam Sullivan, who had previously launched what is called the EcoDensity initiative in 2006, which would include plans for higher densities and smaller ecological footprints necessary to sustain a growing population. His theories on how densification alters the very fabric of our communities were thought-provoking and centred around the notion that lower-density developments typically have inhabitants of similar natures and backgrounds, while higher-density inhabitants are somewhat more diverse and segregated. Downsizers, small families, or young couples may therefore find the Lane Way Housing lifestyle very suitable, and arguably, affordable.