Laneway housing bylaw passed

Suites will keep families together, city hall claims

Vancouver will soon be home to more smaller homes.

City councillors voted unanimously Tuesday to allow laneway housing in a bid to keep families together and help aging homeowners stay where they are.

The new bylaw — popular in other parts of the world, but new to Canada — allows garages of single-family residences to be replaced by free-standing suites, or so-called “garden cottages.”

Instead of a house for your car, laneway houses will provide a house for your parent, adult child, caregiver or a regular tenant.

“It provides people to age in their neighbourhood and stay in the neighbourhood that they grew up in,” Coun. Raymond Louie told The Province.

He said the market will determine whether the added stock of housing will bring down rents in Canada’s most expensive urban area. “I hope it will bring up the vacancy rate,” which Louie said was 0.3 per cent.

By having more people living nearer their workplace, he said, it could also cut down on commutes by car.

“I am thrilled that this has passed,” said Coun. Suzanne Anton, the lone NPA voice on council.

“This is a piece of the EcoDensity initiative,” she said of an urban planning program by the previous, Non-Partisan-Association-dominated council.

“I think it shows Vancouver’s continued leadership in urban design and our continued awareness of how to live better. These laneway cottages will help families, they’ll help people with their mortgages.”

Before the vote, staff reported to council most people who attended two public hearings in the past week were in favour of the idea, but a substantial minority voiced strong concerns about higher density in their neighbourhood.

“I am very concerned about their concerns, and that’s why I’m interested in monitoring it,” said Anton.

Council voted to review the entire program after the first 100 applications have been made to city hall. Areas of the city zoned for multi-family dwellings or apartments aren’t included.