Demand for laneway houses in Vancouver continues to grow

The city of Vancouver says demand for laneway houses continues to grow, with 348 permits to build the rental dwellings issued in 2013.

Vancouver requires that laneway houses be rentals, and cannot be run by the Strata Corporation, in a bid to create more affordable rental options in the city.

More than 1,000 laneway house permits have been issued in Vancouver since they became legal in 2009. That year there were just 18 permits handed out.

But by 2012 a record 350 permits had been issued, up from 192 in 2010 and 229 in 2011.

This year’s permits are coming from all over the city and are not concentrated in one or two neighbourhoods, said city councillor Geoff Meggs on Saturday.

“We’re seeing this as a family-based solution. Often we see the parents build them for their adult children. So it’s not a silver bullet for the affordable housing strategy but it is one piece in trying to confront the (housing) crisis.”

At this point, Meggs said there is no plan for a cap on the number of laneway houses that can be built in the city, but he noted that staff are watching to see if it gets too crowded.

He wants to see provincial and federal tax incentive programs that helped developers build rental housing be restored.

Michael Lyons, vice-president of marketing for Smallworks, a builder of laneway homes in Vancouver, says at least half his customers are building the small houses at the back of their lots for the next generation.

He says it’s tough for young people in Vancouver because many of them can’t afford to buy something in the neighbourhood where they grew up.

The cost to build a laneway home, according to Lyons, is usually between $250,000 and $270,000. That price includes preconstruction costs of $11,500, excavation and site work of $30,000 to $35,000 and another $175,000-$200,000 for the construction.

Laneway housing, also known as granny flats, coach or carriage houses and “fonzi suites,” are usually one-and-a-half or two stories high, and typically built above or next to detached garages in narrow lots or laneways.

The small homes were initially devised as mortgage helpers, or affordable suites for aging parents, young families and students, as part of Vancouver’s eco-density plan.

Source: Tiffany Crawford, Vancouver Sun

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