Today’s Poll

Laneway housing variance approved as city begins campaign to encourage housing stock growth

Timothy Schafer
By Timothy Schafer
April 4th, 2018

The first test for the city’s desire to increase its laneway housingstock has passed.

Council approved an application recently for a development variance permit to vary the requirements for a proposed detached secondary dwelling unit, also known as a laneway house, a few months after the city undertook a project to develop more such housing.

Although a laneway house under current zoning was allowed on the property (608 Wasson Street), the variances were requested in order to construct a laneway house that achieved the maximum permitted gross floor area (65 square metres) on a single storey and was covered by a pitched roof (3:12 pitch).

Laneway housing has been on the city’s radar for years, with the launching late last year of a joint project between the city’s Development Services staff and the Small Housing B.C. (SHBC) staff.

The project is aimed at providing more affordable, entry-level and alternative small housing infill forms in the city through an expansion and revision of its detached, secondary dwelling unit program, and the development of pre-approved designs.

“The proposed single-storey detached unit is in keeping with the character of low-density residential zoning, and is lower in height than the existing primary home,” said city manager of Development Services, Pam Mierau, in her report to council. “It does not extend further back into the property than the existing neighbouring homes.”

The proposed addition would not unduly impact the neighbouring properties, she said.

A current small home (67.5 square metres), built in 1947, sits on a large lot (1,095 sq. m.). The property was marked by a significant slope, about one-third of it was treed, and a sewer right-of-way divided the property, limiting development potential.

The proposal is to build a single-storey, two-bedroom laneway house to create rental housing and generate income, read a city staff report to council. The property does not back onto a lane and thus foot, vehicular, and emergency access would be exclusively off Wasson Street.

The variance will allow:

  • an increase to the maximum building footprint from 55 square metres to 65 sq. m.; and
  • an increase to the maximum building height from five metres to 5.7 m.

The expectation of the laneway project will be the increase of rental and homeownership options in the city, said Mierau, by simplifying the application and approval process in order to encourage more laneway house development.

“Making the construction of laneway housing a more attractive choice for homeowners, while reducing staff’s per-application workload, is an efficient method of achieving (the) objective of increasing housing supply and diversity,” she said.

“A successful laneway housing program that simplifies the development process for homeowners to build a laneway house and choose amongst pre-approved designs could generate housing and rental income for hundreds of Nelsonites in the coming years.”

Five years ago the city approved a laneway home pilot project — and amendments to the city’s Zoning Bylaw — that allowed for the building of detached secondary dwelling units on the back of residential single family lots.

Categories: General