Laneway Housing a Solution?

lanefab solar laneway house - from streetWhat is a laneway house, who lives in one, where are they built and why? Lately, I have noticed quite a few laneway houses popping up in and around Vancouver. Curiosity got the best of me, so I attended a panel discussion at the Hive with top laneway housing experts to answer a few of my questions.section and kitchenSection cut – two storey LWHIMG_1655Panel – From left to right: Kate Allen [Smallworks], Bryn Davidson [Lanefab], Sonia Erichsen [City of Vancouver] and Ellen Pond [Pembina Institute]lanefab solar laneway house - from laneA laneway house (LWH) is a one or two storey garage-sized home built on the lot of an existing single-family dwelling. The average LWH is approximately 590 sq ft.lanefab solar laneway house - patio 1The minimum qualifications for a LWH are as follows:                                                                                    – A 33′ wide lot with lane access, or a double fronting lot
– Fire fighting access
– 16′ clearance to backyard space
– Maintenance of site permeability (green space)
– One off-street parking space, parking pad, or a parking spot inside the LWH

living_room_6_hdr_ed copyAs Vancouver is now the most expensive North American city to live in, laneway houses can lessen the strain of mortgage payments by offering a rental income, as well as additional options for renters. This type of dwelling is typical for the aging population, adult children, caregivers and renters who wish to live in detached housing.
living_room_2_hdr_ed copyPROS:
– Provides an alternative to renting a basement suite or apartment
– An excellent opportunity for meeting new people and having additional friendships, as many people enter and exit their home via. back entrances
– Adds more security and character to the lane
– Contributes to rental housing in the city, allowing an easier commute for jobs, services and amenities
– LWH’s meet green standards for energy and water efficiency
– Opens doors for creative “lanescaping” in the laneway, such as vertical gardens and plants
bathroom_washer_ed copyCONS:
– Less accessibility for the aging population, as stairs can be seen as a major issue for the elderly to navigate
– Designated parking pads are not always used, creating wasted space
– LWH’s with a second floor can create shadows in alleyways and can also become a privacy issue  where neighboring houses and yards can be completely visible
– The process for obtaining a permit to build a LWH is time consuming
– Separate connections are needed for plumbing and electrical
– Only affordable if the property is owned
– LWH’s are generally small when considering square footage
lanefab solar laneway house - bedroomAfter weighing out the pros and cons of laneway housing, they can definitely work for many. As a low impact way to solve population density in Vancouver, laneway houses can provide the answer, with prices as high as they are.


Net zero solar laneway house by Lanefab, photographed by Dylan Doubt

“Lanes as places, not spaces”


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