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Laneway house vote today

July 28th, 2009 · 21 Comments

Vancouver council is expected to approve laneway houses today, which will give 65,000 homeowners in the city’s RS1 and RS5 (single-family) zones the right to build a 750-square-foot house at the back of their lots.

I have a story on this move, which others across the country are watching with some interest and some bemusement, in today’s Globe. Everyone here is also watching to see what the actual take-up will be. For those imagining there will automatically be 65,000 new houses, it’s unlikely. There are several conditions that eliminate certain types of lots. You need a 16-foot distance between the back of the main house and the start of the laneway house, which means gigantic monster houses or houses set far back on the lot won’t qualify.

The lot also has to be minimum 33 feet wide at this point and it has to have a lane at the back of the property (not everyone does).

Michael Geller, quoted in my story today, says he doesn’t think there will be a huge stampede at first. The most likely people to build are those who want room for family, since it isn’t a quick money maker. The houses will likely cost $150,000 to $200,000 to build so you have to be getting a lot of rent before you make your money back on that outlay. (Even if you charged $1,500 a month for the little house, that’s only $18,000 a year in rent so you wouldn’t be looking at making a profit on your investment until you’d been renting for well over 10 years.)

But Geller thinks that developers building new houses will start adding in laneway houses as a feature.

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