Laneway Housing Update [ July 2011 ]

On July 28, 2011, City Council approved laneway housing development - for RS-1 and RS-5 Zoned, single family areas only – with the following basic requirements.

  • On lots with minimum 33’ frontage, with open rear lanes, on double fronted streets, or on corner lots with a lane or lane dedication.
  • Laneway houses to be located on the rear 26’ of the property & at least 16’ from the main house
  • Must have at least 1 on-site parking space in the rear yard.
  • Units of 1 – 1 ½ storeys, from 500 sq.ft. on 33’ lots, to a maximum 750 sq.ft. on 50’ or larger lots
  • Rental or Family use only – no strata titling
  • Construction of laneway house does not affect existing house (with or without a secondary suite), & they can be built with a new house without affecting its allowable floor area

Beyond these requirements, the City has a number of additional design guidelines:

  • Quality, Durability & Expression: guidelines to ensure quality of materials, architectural design, environmental sustainability, & building durability.
  • Scale & Massing: guidelines for building envelope/roof design, height & floor area limits, site & building orientation, & general neighbourliness.
  • Privacy & Overlook: regulating location of upper floor windows, exterior stairs, roof decks & balconies etc. – LW house to be non-intrusive to neighbours.
  • Lane Frontage: designs must enhance laneways, making them public spaces, like “streets”.  Rules govern lighting, door/window, parking, landscape, garbage location.
  • Landscape: must enhance lane appearance,  environmental performance of the property, & privacy for adjacent properties.

A comprehensive PowerPoint presentation for this is online at

Before building a laneway house, there are 3 critical first steps1. ensure the property is correctly zoned (RS-1 or RS-5):  2. ensure minimum site width of 33’ & a rear lane: 3. ensure there are services (water, gas, sewer) available for the project –Vancouver Engineering Dept is a great help here. 

Laneway houses were originally promoted as simple projects, with a simple approval process - but they’re not.  The current approval process is like a “mini” development permit application, with complicated conditions & details that must be worked out with a City planner.  A few Laneway house approvals have now been granted, and the following process takes about  6 - 8 weeks,

  • Preliminary meeting with City planner for Design review: 2 weeks for an appointment
  • 2nd appointment to make the Permit application: 2-3 weeks for this appointment
  • Building permit approval  3-4 weeks. 

For most people, that’s many weeks of frustration, worry and time wasted, so it is wise to hire a competent designer/architect to get through City Hall. After the first projects are built & well received by the public, the process may become more streamlined - or not.  The bureaucracy was inevitable, however, and a small price to pay to allow these long-awaited, practical additions to the Vancouver real estate landscape!  For more info on this, contact me, or make enquiries at 604-873-7611.

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