Laneway Lunacy

This is the way the single-family neighbourhood ends – with neither a bang nor a whimper but just a stroke of the pen, following the decision, in July 2009, of the Mayor and Council to rezone residential Vancouver. Thus, in one instant, the single-family neighbourhood became or acquired the permission to become the triple-family neighbourhood. Each lot (33 feet or wider) can now contain three residences: the principal house, an enlarged rental suite in that house, and, where the back yard used to be, a Laneway House. This is densification on steroids, with all the hazards that artificially induced growth threatens and entails. No other city in North America has similarly decided to destroy one of its most treasured and long-standing assets – the single-family neighbourhood, with its values, traditions, and ambience, all supported by tax-paying homeowners. Toronto, for example, experimented with Laneway Housing, but, after the construction of approximately 200 of these structures, decided that continuing the program would be counterproductive and imprudent.

Unfortunately, instead of the prudent and balanced evaluation displayed in Toronto, the handling of Laneway Housing by City Council in Vancouver shows undue – one might even say reckless – hastiness. Calls for a moratorium emanating from one dissenting member of Council were rebuffed, as Council refused to consider any delay in the implementation of its extremely controversial and potentially ruinous policy. In place of due diligence, Council’s preferred administrative tool is the battering ram. In addition to overruling calls for prudence from one of its own members, Council ensures that input from residents is both thwarted and ignored. No process for collecting neighbourhood opinion has been devised, and therefore no attention or weight to neighbourhood opinion can be given. With respect to specific development projects, Council at least goes through the motions of garnering neighbourhood opinion by holding meetings. But consistently the opinion thus solicited is ignored, while the clamouring of property developers is heeded. Indeed, the City Planning Committee, which advises Council on developmental matters, would be better named the City Cramming Committee, as it unfailingly favours developers and dismisses the impassioned objections of residents.

The Eco-Density Charter, approved by Vancouver City Council on June 10, 2008, epitomizes the battering ram approach to city cramming or densification. But here the battering ram is concealed in a velvet glove of manipulative rhetoric designed to break down resistance and opposition. This manipulation takes two forms: false promises and misleading descriptions. With respect to false promises, the Charter assures residents of full access to “consultation . . . engagement and dialogue with all voices” accorded representation, whereas, as already noted, no such access is available, and no interest in it on the part of Council has been displayed. Instead of consultation, there is conning or the deliberate attempt to placate opposition through the use of misleading and patently false characterizations. The very term, “Eco-Density,” constitutes a false characterization, designed to clothe the wolf of densification in the sheep’s clothing of eco-trendy jargon. Eco-Density is an oxymoron – a yoking of contradictory terms. There is nothing ecological about densification that, by cramming more people into the same space, unduly stresses and pollutes the environment, both natural and human. False promises abound in the Charter, ranging from assurances regarding restrictions on shadowing to “respect for authentic neighbourhood values, context, character, and identity.” The rows of towering two-story masses entailed in Vancouver laneway housing, hideously exemplified in the 4600 block of West 11th Avenue, spread darkness and congestion, where once there was light and space – and relative privacy. Further proliferation of such structures throughout the city will only aggravate the problem.

The jarring contradiction between what the Eco-Density Charter says and what laneway housing construction actually entails suggests that the text of the Charter at best constitutes political sloganeering and at worst involves a deliberate attempt to mislead, deceive, and lull into acquiescence. In short, to my mind, the Charter appears to be a document in bad faith – proposing one thing, while enabling the implementation of something quite different. A particularly glaring example of this tactic concerns the claim that laneway housing introduces nothing more than “invisible densification,” easily absorbed by neighbourhoods, with no alteration of their familiar and cherished environment. This is a blatantly false assertion. Densification by means of laneway housing is no more invisible than Pinocchio’s nose after he tells a series of lies. The implications of this fact should be recognized. Laneway housing is a Trojan Horse. To invite it into our midst is to threaten the single-family neighbourhood with abolition and destruction. In a laneway housing neighbourhood, there will be no more backyards. In place of backyards, there will be rows of laneway houses, separated from the principal houses by secondary lanes – smaller versions of the primary lanes from which the term, “laneway house,” is derived. Moreover, in a laneway housing neighbourhood, there will likely be increased crime. For increase in crime rates has been empirically linked, by the Calgary Police 2008 Environmental Scan (a document available on the Web), to increase in densification and to increase in the ratio of tenants to homeowners.

There is a further danger to recognize. As formulated in Vancouver, Laneway Housing is not a stable policy. Nothing prevents the Mayor and Council from further altering residential zoning at any time. First this zoning was changed to permit construction of laneway houses, but with requirement that each laneway house be owned by the owner of the primary house whose backyard it occupies. Next policy will likely be changed to permit laneway houses to be sold separately, without linkage to the primary home in front of them. At that point, laneway housing will be ready for stratification – division, that is, of each laneway house into a collection of condominium apartments to be sold individually.

A policy as contentious and invasive as Laneway Housing should obviously be subject to public debate and ultimate referendum. But Council prefers to press on with its own agenda, regardless of vehement opposition, encouraged by the salivating support of developers who build the structures and bankers who peddle mortgages for such construction. Yet support for Laneway housing comes from some residents too, not just commercial enterprises that profit from it. Residents supporting Laneway Housing rely on one main argument. It concerns access to downsized housing in the neighbourhood either for themselves after they retire or for aged or infirm family members whom they want to care for in a convenient location. Those taking this position forget that Laneway Housing has very little to do with residents already living in the neighbourhood concerned. Instead, it entails the proliferation of secondary structures intended to house tenants from other parts of the city or from outside the city – tenants whose only relation to the owners of the principal houses is the cash nexus based on payment of rent. The result of such densification is obliteration of the residential environment invaded by Laneway Housing. In my view, to support Laneway Housing, for whatever reason, is to endorse destruction of the environmental character and function of the neighbourhoods concerned. It is to invite increase of congestion, crime, vermin (due to additional garbage), and environmental stress.

Eric P. Levy

Vancouver Resident

Dear Mayor and Council:

The Vancouver Courier (June 22, 2011) reports Councillor Heather Deal’s concern that public opinion be carefully canvassed before any decision regarding the removal and relocation of the message-festooned plywood panels, covering the vast stretches of broken windows following the Stanley Cup riot downtown, is taken.

Unfortunately, neither Councillor Deal nor any other member of City Council displays similar concern that public opinion regarding Laneway Housing – a more insidious, but more permanent form of neighbourhood destruction – be carefully canvassed and considered. Indeed, far from showing concern for public opinion, the Mayor and Council have allegedly displayed the intention to manipulate and mislead public opinion, through disseminating the Eco-Density Charter – a document that relies on deception and false assurances in order to placate and soothe opponents of Laneway policy.

I addressed these tactics of deception in my earlier e-mail of May 18, entitled “Laneway Lunacy,” to which no member of Council responded.


Eric P. Levy

Vancouver Resident

About This Website

Irresponsible haste to realize the Laneway Housing concept has started to create many problems in Vancouver and will only lead to more as 1.5 story (up to 20 feet high) Laneway Houses continue to spring up throughout the city. This website will attempt to highlight the situation so that 1) The Mayor and City Council will take responsibility and amend their lack of reasonable building standards, public notification, and proper planning, 2) unsuspecting neighbourhoods might prepare themselves for a sudden decline in their standard of living and 3) if you’re also concerned please write City Council and join our group to see what we can do to change the current Laneway Housing guidelines allowing 1.5 story laneway homes.

The Good aspects of Laneway Housing:

For homeowners wishing to build a 1 story laneway house, this type of Eco-densification fits into the ‘Good’ category. According to the City of Vancouver’s EcoDensity charter Commitment #3, laneway housing is to be ‘hidden’ so the 1 story laneway homes can be categorized as such. However, the much larger and intrusive 1.5 story (up to 20 feet) homes (as some have called McMansions) do not fit into this definition – and these are the laneway houses that comprise the majority of current permit applications and will continue to do so as long as City Council allows this.

The Bad and the Ugly aspects of Laneway Housing:

Virtually all single-family residential areas (RS-1 & RS-5 zones) in Vancouver have been rezoned to permit the construction of a Laneway House as well as a rental suite in the main house. (Approx. 65,000 lots) – with such a massive re-zoning, why was a referendum not done to see if the majority of Vancouver home owners wanted this?

Neighbours have absolutely no say and are not given any notice prior to construction.

Serious concerns about the 1.5 story (up to 20 feet high) Laneway Houses are:

  • The impact on privacy – the size and location of windows are left up to the builder’s discretion
  • Any concerns from neighbouring properties are not considered by the Planning Department
  • Increased shading of neighbours’ yards which then negatively impacts the growth of gardens and overall enjoyment of one’s yard
  • Increased noise levels – many laneway homes are being built with balconies facing into the lane

4600 block rowhousesThere is no limit to the number of Laneway Houses permitted on a given block. If you want to see a perfect example of what can happen in your lane, visit the lane in the 4600 block of West 11th Ave. where a series of row laneway houses have been built (plus they have two other laneway homes in that very block bringing the total to 5).

parking is too narrowOnly a single off-street parking space is required for a lot. Garages only need to be 2.7m (8’-8”) wide. This is too narrow to accommodate, and exit from, an average sized vehicle. Why are some homeowners putting in large windows and heated flooring in the garage of their laneway homes? It would suggest that this allotted parking space will not be used for a car but rather for living or storage space. So if a home with a basement rental suite and a two bedroom laneway house has an average of 4 to 6 cars associated with it, you can expect them to be parking in front of your house.

Other issues we can anticipate from the increase in development of Laneway Houses:

  • Likely all lanes will have to be paved as many lanes in Vancouver are still unpaved.
  • Likely street lighting will be added to the lanes for safety reasons
  • Annual street parking permits will be required by residents
  • Increased pressure on community services such as schools

Vancouver taxpayers can expect to see many of these costs passed onto them.

Vancouver is identified as the most liveable city in the world according to the latest annual ranking compiled by the Economist magazine. The Economist emphasizes “Cities that score best tend to be mid-sized cities with a relatively low population density.” The Economist goes on to say that Low density often fosters a broad range of recreational availability without leading to high crime levels or overburdened infrastructure. Low density in Vancouver will not be the norm for long. This is because city council has rezoned 94% of Vancouver residential properties to allow for the construction of laneway housing and over time this will significantly increase density while destroying single family neighbourhoods.

Please see the Dunbar Residents Association newsletter that highlights the death of single family neighbourhoods.

In 2006, Toronto ceased their laneway housing program (except under special circumstances are permits given). All of our concerns are the same concerns listed in the Toronto Staff Report that led to the end of their Laneway House program as their City Council could see the inevitable problems. Somehow our City Council doesn’t want to open their eyes to our concerns so please join us in getting that message to them.


No Eco - All Density

39 Responses to Home

  1. Sandy says:

    Your arguments boil down to 1 issue: you are against any change.

    I note that in driving down your 4600 west 11th block recently, there were lots and lots of parking spaces on the street. I note also that that 4500 west 11th block has adopted a residents-only regulation on half of each side of the block.
    Laneway housing is meant to create a livable lane that is like a street, so allowing builders to put decks facing the laneway is not an oversight, but intentional.
    The cost of garbage collection is borne by each property owner through their property tax. Your concern about increased cost is misplaced.
    Yard shading is affected by many factors, including those big apartment towers on West 10th, large hedges or trees, or new homes that are taller than the old homes they replace. You can’t blame laneway houses for this.
    Increased pressure on schools occurs when young people with kids move into your neighbourhood. No young people can afford to live in your neighbourhood at the current rental or ownership prices. You’ll note that the Vancouver School Board has had decreasing enrollment for years now, and in particular West Point Grey is down: http://www.vsb.bc.ca/population-and-enrolment-trends
    It seems to me that what you are really opposing is densification. Giving neighbouring owners a veto power over laneway houses being built is a most terrible idea.

  2. nan says:

    We’re NOT against laneway housing or change. We also believe in affordable rental housing, mortgage helpers, granny suites, in-law suites. If you as a homeowner want to embark on any of those options, then build out your basement and/or a ONE story laneway home. The city of Vancouver’s Eco-Density charter, Commitment #3, states that laneway housing will be hidden – there’s nothing hidden about 1.5 story (20 foot) buildings pearing down on neighbours properties. Until a thorough impact assessment is done on the development of 1.5 story laneway homes, we are going to do what it takes to get our message out there.

    We are collectively against ONE type of laneway housing that we feel has been rolled out with haste – and we’ re not just speaking for one street or one neighbourhood. This change was forced upon all neighbourhoods without proper consultation . Even a large and developed city like Toronto was able to see the negatives (privacy, operational costs to the city, residential parking issues etc) that would come from laneway housing and ceased their program. Again, we’re not asking City Council to kill laneway housing, we’re just asking that they follow through on the Eco-Density charter commitment #3 and maintain that laneway houses be hidden, therefore be no higher than 1 story.

  3. nan says:

    One more thing – many of our concerns have also been confirmed by Ned Jacobs, a Vancouver urbanist and spokesperson for Neighbourhoods for a Sustainable Vancouver, in this letter he wrote to City Council:


    This issue is not just a West side one – it’s an East side one too.

  4. Sandy says:

    That’s not your message at all, then. You just hate 1.5 / 2 story laneway houses? How would you feel about a laneway house with a full basement, making it 2 stories, but keeping the lower of those stories fully underground? Seems to me like that would address ALL of your legitimate concerns.

  5. nan says:

    Our message and concerns are all outlined in the content at the beginning of this page. As for building a basement, I understand from the city that it’s possible, however, bear in mind that the amount of natual sunlight will be severely restricted on most properties as the expectation (according to city guidelines and drawings) is that the green space go directly up to the edge of the laneway house and this includes the space at the front of the laneway house as well(minus the entrance to the car garage, which of course will be used to park a car).

  6. Sandy says:

    I read your concerns outlined above and addressed most of them (the ones I feel are not legitimate) in my first comment above. The only legitimate concern remaining was the height of the laneway homes. I don’t understand your comment about natural sunlight being restricted. How would putting up a laneway house with a basement that, from outside, looks just like a garage (i.e., only 1 story above ground), be offensive to your group?

  7. nan says:

    Sandy – your comments in your first response are inaccurate as you made the assumption that this website and the concerns listed are only for the people on the 4600 West 11th Ave. block only – it’s not. It’s city wide. Go take a look at the Monitoring of Laneway Housing Implementation report put forward to Council by the Planning Department and you’ll see listed in the four pages in Appendix A all the public concerns from across the city that were ignored. And the number of people becoming concerned is only increasing, yet Council still refuses to do anything.

    I never said that a basement would be offensive. My comment about sunlight being restricted was in reference that you would have to give up a lot of green space to build away from the structure so that natural light could be seen from the windows in the basement and with the current City Council wanting to the Greenest, this would go against their motto.

  8. Sandy says:

    Perhaps I should suggest to Council that I think all laneway houses should be painted blue. I might even get a half dozen people to agree with me. That might make it into Council’s report summarizing “citizen concerns”, and then I could whine about how Council is ignoring my concerns. Do you not see the hypocrisy? Council has a mandate and is only going to expand this program.
    You and your group are all residents of 4600 West 11th. You are generalizing without a basis in fact.

  9. Lee L. says:

    Talk about the destruction of neighbourhoods. Not that Vision gives a hoot what you think as they are holy warriors.

    Rabbit warrens anyone?

    • Sandy says:

      I don’t understand why you’d think neighbourhoods are being destroyed. I for one am happy that laneway houses are being allowed.

      • Lee L says:

        Just check out the pictures Sandy. That’s why.

        You love laneway housing because it targets the garage which houses the evil car. Push the cars out onto the street and voila! you have manufactured ‘congestion’. That having been done, the ONLY solution would be more bikes. Am I right?

        As far as ‘affordable’ housing goes, if I build a $200,000-350,000 laneway addition does it increase or decrease the selling price of my house ? More affordable or less affordable?

        Even at today’s ultralow interest rates, it would cost $1,300 – 2,000 per month to cover the loan on the lane house and I certainly would not be building it and losing my back yard just to cover the loan unless it is like the old inlaw suite. Let us remember that loan rates are bound to go up as well, since they are at historical lows. I am old enough to remember comes inortgage rates of 21% ( that is not a typo!). So I don’t see where the ‘affordable’ part comes in. What it really comes down to, is that this is only the first step. The other shoe has not been dropped which is when the City allows strata or subdivision of the properties for the sake of real affordability and yes, that is the destruction of the neighbourhood.

  10. nan says:

    I thank you so much for your continued contribution to this serious issue. First off, how do you know I don’t live in any of the following blocks that registered formal complaints with the City – 100 block W. 21st, 200 block W. 21st, 4300 block W. 8th, 2300 block E. 2nd, 2100 block W. 46th, 2800 block W. 49th, 6400 block Yew St., 600 block W. 22nd, 4600 block W. 5th, 3900 block W. 13, 3500 block MacDonald St., 8100 block Hudson, 4600 block W. 6th…
    I just double checked my house address, BC Assessment and mail this morning because you continue to be convinced that I live in the 4600 block W. 11th , and guess what – no where does it state that I’m in the 4600 W. 11th block so just accept the fact that there a lot more people concerned and it’s people like you who are helping other Vancouverites understand what is about to really happen.
    There is no generalization going on here – the City of Vancouver’s website has all the documented factual information for anyone to see for themselves. Like I said before, check out Appendix A in the Oct. 13, 2010 Monitoring of Laneway Housing Implementation report and all 3 video parts of the Oct. 21 public hearing. The truth is that the hyprocrisy is coming from City Council.

    • Sandy says:

      I’ve read all the relevant documents, but clearly have a different take on them than you do. I find it interesting you have avoided giving a clear statement on your position on laneway houses that are built with 1 story underground, 1 story above ground: for or against? And for the sake of argument, let’s say there is no impact on green space, as the basement, if it has any windows, will have few of them and they will be entirely below ground, with a small window well, and a requirement to have additional vegetation planted in the backyard to compensate for that space. I’m going to guess you’re still against?

  11. Ripley says:

    Hilarious – people who live in a CITY complaining about tiny 20 foot freestanding houses being too dense. You’re the reason why dense housing is being pushed further and further out from the centre of the metropolitan where it belongs.

  12. interested says:

    Sandy is completely accurate in all of his statements. I suspect that the author of this website is associated with the Dunbar Residents Association, whose select members have had a dedicated opposition against laneway housing from the very beginning. The huge irony here is that Nan and the DRA seemingly hold no opposition to the huge monster houses that continue to be built in these neighborhoods. These homes destroy heritage housing, render their lots to treeless wastelands and are comprised of badly built faux Edwardians (all looking exactly alike) built right up to the lot-lines. Somehow that’s ok, when laneway homes – miniscule in comparison – are not. Perhaps it’s an issue of class than. No working people allowed?

  13. Deny says:

    I agree with Sandy. I am a young, professional adult with a very decent paying career, and, WILL NEVER be able to own property here in Vancouver without winning the lottery. The cost of housing in Vancouver, whether it’s rental or for sale, is outrageous! I’ve been looking at renting for quite some time and it’s average is $1100 per month and that’s a DECENT apartment, around 700 sq ft. Sure there are $800 per month rentals, but they’re snatched up in a heart beat, and, possibly a bit smaller and run down. Also, if you’re looking to rent an apartment with a pet, good luck! Even though Vancouver is considered a pet-friendly city, almost all the ads in Vancouver Craigslist don’t allow pets.

    Building a lanehouse on family property ensures that I’d be able to afford the mortgage payment around $1100-1300 without the issues of upstairs neighbours, unit next door neighbours, and, with some garden space for my pet. In addition, I’d have a nice lanehouse that I know would be built with my high standards, pleasant on the eyes and eco-friendly.

    So if you’re criticizing lanehouses, think twice about young people such as me not being able to afford any other sort of property here in Vancouver. Lanehouses allow me the possibility to live in a nice neighbourhood, be close to family, and, have my dog in a space I consider my own.

    • Lee L says:

      Further to the ‘affordability’ whining of..
      Deny..consider this:

      NEVER own a house you say… do you mean NEVER if you don’t have 2 people working.. , do you mean NEVER if you have a low paying job … or do you mean NEVER if you never leave Vancouver for a while.. or do yomean the real NEVER> I never want to make the sacrifice required to own my living space.

      What determines the price for owning a house in Vancouver.
      1. Demand and it is certainly there.
      2. Ability to satisfy banks. You have to have aquire a down payment and be able to pay the payments.
      3. Vendor desperation around a particular price. This depends on personal circumstance, how much has been invested in the property ( ie laneway investment or original purchase price, outstanding mortgage ), how much the offers to buy are coming in at, and health or marital issues.

      In BC today, there is still the opportunity to head out of Vancouver, find a job with your spouse and put away some cash to make a down payment as did my wife and myself. I know a town in BC that you can buy a full 3-4 bedroom house where you can raise a family and you can work in the nearby mills … the houses cost around 100,000 bucks. You pay 1/7 the down payment and 1/7 the bank interest you do in Vancouver ..but .. there are no Starbucks, no clubs …just fantastic fishing holes.. so then you can save. And later, if you MUST live in Vancouver, you have the wherewithall ( down payment ) to do it without forcing a social agenda upon us all ( laneway housing). This is exactly what my wife and I did. You can just stay there for a while and pay off your house in 5 or 6 years at union wage.
      So stop whining and get honest with yourself.

      Further proof.. I know you wont believe me but it is true:
      Satisfying the banks.. it has never been easier. They basically beg you to take a loan. When my wife and I bought our house, the mortgage rate was 14 plus percent on a first and 16 on a second mortgage. That affected people’s ability to pay payments and thus affected the selling price.
      No different today, except the interest rates are at historical lows and you can get a first at just under 3 percent. Second mortgage slightly higher, therefore the payments you can support ( hence the size of loan and hence price ) are higher but your ability to make payments shoud be the same as mine was.

      So due to low interest rate pamyments, people can make payments on a much larger amount which has pushed prices up to what the market will bear for buyers. Nothing new here except your whining about how HARD and IMPOSSIble IT IS.
      If it were impossible, then the market wouldnt bear it and prices would fall but they dont because it isnt impossible unless your mindset prevents you from adapting and making a plan to adapt.

      About vendor desparation.. it only appears when there are no buyers at a given price. Clearly there ARE people able to make the sacrifices you are not ( you would rather whine ) and they will be your landlords laneway house or not.

      BUT.. looking at these pictures and having cruised the neighbourhood..I dont wish to see my birthplace and it’s ‘Most liveable in the world’ neighbourhoods destroyed. And I see it coming. It hurts me.

  14. An informative post and a provocative range of comments. This is obviously a complex and many headed issue. Is this one of the right ways to densify our City? Have we even answered the collective question: do we want to / have to densify? From what I understand from most of those opposing Laneway Houses is that they are not against it full stop, but what they see on the ground is not acceptable for a variety of valid reasons: privacy, shadowing, street parking, built form neighbourhood character, etc. These concerns are valid and must be listened to.

    One interesting facet of Laneway Houses is their real cost. A $300,000 typical laneway mortgage payment will be +/- $1,800 + additional taxes at +/-$100 / month = $1,900. How many people are going to want to pay say $2,000 / month for an often convolutedly planned 1 bedroom unit blocks from a bus stop. While forming up with our NPA-Electra-Mobile for the Point Grey Fiesta Day Parade last weekend I noticed the 3 in a row new spec houses + laneways which have been prominently featured to illustrate the problems have hardly moved further to completion since I 1st saw them last November. This indicates there is some sort of problem. Are these houses with their attached laneway units not selling? Although laneways may make sense for in-law units, the marketplace will probably determine they are not a worthwhile investment.

    Given the obvious problems noted above and the serious concerns raised by a large number of affected residents, Council should immediately halt accepting new applications, conduct a review of the Laneway programme including public consultation, and make the necessary changes to the by-law to better serve everyone’s interests. If the by-law cannot be fixed, consideration should be given to repealing it. When I am elected to Council in November I will put forward a motion for this review.

  15. elf says:

    This laneway housing is garbage and these people including the City who are for this have absolutely no long-term foresight. LANEWAY HOUSING IS A TERRIBLE IDEA! IN EVERY WAY.

  16. Bill says:

    The house for sale next door to me is being advertised overseas as “approved for a laneway house”. What are we accomplishing by enticing more people to move to Vancouver while destroying the beauty and livability of single family neighborhoods? This does nothing to provide affordable housing to people already in the city. City Council’s fanatic obsession with densifying the city has the impact of making housing even less affordable to Vancouverites.

    • You’re right. Demand in the City of Vancouver will remain strong at least until Vision Vancouver destroys our livable city.

    • Blaming Vancouver unaffordability on the “overseas” is always easy. Vancouver is the most livable city, also is a free-market when it comes to real estate, this drives up the BC economy. Learn from the overseas people’s diligence, maybe you will soon be able to afford housing in Vancouver.

  17. P. Sutton says:

    Stop your whining. Suck it up princesses. There is a lot worse things than laneway housing coming in the future!! For example, did you know that the Pacific Ocean is becoming acidified by carbon dioxide produced because of our extravagent lifestyles. The self-undulgent, spoiled lifestyle is coming to an end so get used to the idea of more sharing of the resources.

  18. Lee L says:

    Ah P. Sutton… you have spotlighted what this is all really about. Agenda 21.

    And by the way, I bought a SINGLE FAMILY RESIDENCE in a SINGLE FAMILY NEIGHBOURHOOD and paid the price. Now the city has renegged on the agreement.

  19. Gordon Alexander Campbell says:

    The picture of the unfinished 1 1/2 story laneway home above is terrible – why not take a picture of a gorgeous laneway home such as the “19th & Slcoan” home. I watched that project from beginning to end and have spoken with the homeowner and am entirely sympathetic to his families efforts to house his growing family!

    The home is a “thing of beauty and a joy if not forever, for a long time to come” – it adds beauty and interest to the area. I have stopped and looked at the home many a time and each time I do, I encounter others driving by or biking or walking by who admire the home. I have not yet met anyone who thought the “19th & Slocan” laneway home to be less than visually stunning!

    I do not work for Lanefab but appreciate their efforts to improve the design of what could possibly be an eye sore. Shading and other issues are taken into consideration by the city during planning and the permit approval phase.

    A Lane home may not be bought or sold individually. A laneway house is a perfect way to care for a growing family or for elderly parent(s) when the support from loved ones is tremendously important. I would not advocate that any/all RS1 lots be approved for laneway home development but certainly can see the merit in developing corner lots such as the “19th & Slocan” home.

    Please, look at the pictures for the “19th & Slocan” home and tell me it isn’t beautiful! 1 000 000 more people are expected to arrive in the GVRD in the next 20 years – where will they live? Why should the city be expected to offer low cost housing or no cost housing when those of us who do own homes often work 2 jobs just to cover our own mortgages? This is one of the most expensive cities in the world and giving away low-cost or no-cost housing is just going to increase the property taxes that we all have to pay (all homeowners).

    Those who need help can not be solely dependent upon a welfare state that burdens the honest hard working average citizen. The community needs to be involved! People need to care for and preserve the integrity of the family unit! People need to make investments be it at your place of worship or community center and help others of their own volition without it being government mandated.

    Individuals who choose, and many do choose not to work or further their education and be lazy or have no sense of pride or personal integrity should not be allowed free housing or low cost – no – cost housing in Vancouver. We need to care for those who are vulnerable and needy through no fault of their own and not endorse a welfare state for all.

    Any person might be affected by the vagaries of time or unfortunate circumstances but the City by way of the public purse (tax dollars), should not be responsible for housing those who don’t make an honest effort! If a person is physically or mentally or emotionally challenged – neglected or abused – in a state of flux we have a duty to care for them as individuals – it is our privilege to do so. Laneway homes can make it possible for family units to stay together. Laneway homes can make it possible for adult children to care for their aging parents. The best place for family is with family in most cases!

    I have been through the Dunbar area and looked at several laneway homes and have nothing particularly good or bad to say about most of them. I was however, amazed at how dark and dreary many an alley is in that neighborhood and would worry for my own personal safety if I had to walk down an alley at night! Many of the alleys are unpaved and in poor condition and are not fit for travel in a well kept car.

    A laneway home might help to bring back life to the alleyways! A little light in a paved alley wouldn’t hurt one! A little life in a paved alley wouldn’t hurt anyone! And, the city levies an additional tax for garbage collection for laneway homes and charge separate sewer and electrical fees that might possibly be used for revamping our outdated sewer systems in the future.

    “We are all in the same gutter, it is just that some of us are looking up at the stars!” Protest is our right! I am glad you protest and publish your views! The city officials making the rules are elected – vote them out if you can! If you can not vote them out – maybe you are not in the majority and further reflection might be needed on your part!

    People protested when the Irish emigrated to Canada! People protested when the Chinese emigrated to Canada! People protested when Indians emigrated to Canada! How many people complained about Japanese Canadians having their property stripped from them and being deported to camps during WW II?

    We are not right because we protest – we have the right to protest! I admire those who protest honestly – I despise protesters who cover or mask their faces or seek to damage public or private property! You are doing well, please continue to protest in you polite and public way!
    God bless you!

    • leigh says:

      What paved alley? Take care of the infrastructure first. By profiling one successful lot(19th & Slocan) and turning your head to all the other disasters is our cause for distrust. You clearly don’t live in the road of destruction. Lane Way Housing can be responsibly done, unfortunately that’s not the present reality. Homes’ that were intended to be preserved have lost the majority of their light. Forget the garden what about the livability of the people. It’s outrageous to think that our basic needs can be stripped away all in the name of change. Our neighborhood is residential and the folks that bought into it made huge improvements from their own wallets and now it is being stolen away.”Change” your own damn neighborhood and leave the only place to see sun, light and stars be straight up.

      I did elect the right guy and watched him beg for us only to have the city planner refuse consideration. He should be fired for his outright lies to the council. Who elected him?

      “And by the way, I bought a SINGLE FAMILY RESIDENCE in a SINGLE FAMILY NEIGHBOURHOOD and paid the price. Now the city has renegged on the agreement.”

  20. Gordon Alexander Campbell says:

    Leigh – there are many discordant sounds being produced by so-called “musicians” these days – would you deny the beauty of a Mozart because more young people are listening to “Public Enemy”?

    Your tone sounds so unpleasant! Why even write that way in such a public place? Change is inevitable – get used to it – or conversely, get involved and run for political office!

    Are you so naive as to think that with Canada having such a meager population and Vancouver in particular being situated where it is geographically, that we wouldn’t have a terrific influx of people from all over the world?

    Do you rue the day computers were invented? I bet you could find something negative to say about any topic, but why? You go ahead and champion negativity and fight the inevitable by railing against polite commentary in a forum that “isn’t going to change anything”, and I will continue to be positive and strive to affect change in a positive manner!

    Is it a “basic need”, that every house in Vancouver be situated on a private lot and not have a LWH? You must lead a sheltered and perhaps even privileged lifestyle! If you can not see the merit in people building a LWH to enable “children” to provide a safe and loving environment in which to care for and protect their aging or perhaps ailing parents – get ready to spend your final years in a nursing home!

    Vancouver is incredibly expensive for those looking to live here – if you can’t see the merit in families wanting to perhaps help their children by building a LWH for their adult children to call home – perhaps you come from “old money” or lack the human warmth that binds humanity and families together!

    I feel sorry for you and people like you! Do something constructive! Go out and say “hello” to someone you don’t know today – make a friend – odds are they won’t bite! They are just people!

  21. John Doe says:

    I apologise for the length of this post, but I hope that it proves informative and interesting. First off, who am I? I am a 35 year old male with a young family and a home owner in the Douglas Park Neighbourhood of Vancouver. I hold a Diploma of Urban Land Economics, a Diploma of Marketing Management and am in the final months of obtaining a Bachelor Degree of Business Real Estate and AACI, P.App designations from the Appraisal Institute of Canada. I am employed as a commercial and residential real estate appraisal consultant. Furthermore, I have owned two properties in Vancouver since 2001, doing extensive renovations on both projects of which I myself GC’d.

    I have read this page in entirety, including everyone’s comments. Here is my take. There are legitimate concerns, specifically around privacy, shading, parking and design. Privacy is a two-fold problem, surrounding the second storey of laneways. The second storey windows facing the main home should be minimalized or eliminated as they obviously create serious privacy issues for the neighbouring and the main home occupants. The other issue is side yard windows on the second floor effecting not only the neighbour but what about other adjacent laneway homes current built or in the future? I know first-hand that on the principle structure, side yard windows are regulated by planners, but what about laneway homes? This I am unclear about.

    Shading is a legitimate concern as well for the above ground 2 storey structures. I like having my kids playing out in the yard, with the sun on their heads and the plants and flowers growing abundantly. Maybe a policy should be implemented, whereas 2 storey laneways cannot be built adjacent to one another, but instead, single storey or basement/ground floor options are allowed. This alternation of 2 storey structures would allow the light the hit everyone’s yard as the sun moves throughout the day. This would also help design issues, which I will discuss later.

    Parking could become on issue, but a rectifiable one. The issues with parking get complex when housing is located in close proximity to retail, large community services and schools. One of the biggest issues is when it’s located close to apartments, specifically older apartments with no self-contained parking. Even worse is housing in close proximity to some or all of the above. These neighbourhoods always suffer in parking availability, even with permit parking. By the way, resident only parking, as opposed to permit only, is not enforceable since there are no permits issued and no way to determine compliance. Rather it is used as a deterrent but one that many have learned they can ignore. Parking development bylaws requiring self-contained parking in condos have been in effect for some time and as older apartments get torn down in the next 20-30 years, it will help reverse this problem. As infrastructure is replaced, parking will improve, and of course, as density increases, the reverse will happen. Prudent city planning regarding parking of various land uses, specifically those named above, will ensure that increased density impact can be balanced with respect to parking.

    Design is something that is not only a problem for laneway homes but all homes. When developers get their hands on more than one adjacent property, economies of scale come into play and they try and minimize costs by reproducing structures and design elements, as much as the city will allow. I shake my head when I see two identical homes built side by side, only discernible by the entry being on the left instead of the right and the exterior colour being one shade apart. This problem should be addressed by the city, not only within laneways, but all homes. As mentioned above, concerning laneways, alternating two storey and single storey laneways adjacent to one another could solve some privacy, shading and design issues.

    That’s my two bits on the issues. I also wanted to talk about costs so people understand the advantages and disadvantages to laneways from a financial perspective. I have completed an extensive feasibility analysis on building a laneway home on my own property. I entered into discussions with a reputable laneway builder and determined I could build a 880 sq.ft., 2 storey laneway based on my lot size, current improvements and the increase in density that I believe was implemented June 9th. This entails a 3 bedroom, 1.5 bath, kitchen, dining area and living room layout. All construction costs, including permits, architectural/engineering and landscaping/greenery came to $298,000 or $338.64 per sq.ft. I added a 10% reserve for deficiency bringing the final cost to $327,800 or $372.50 per sq.ft. I estimated rental income to be $2,100/month, which is extremely conservative, especially considering this would be a 3 bedroom, but nonetheless I like conservative. I deducted mortgage payments of $1,523/month (based on a current rate of a 2.83%, 5-year fixed, with monthly payments amortized over 25 years). I also made allowances for property tax and insurance increases, maintenance and repair expense and vacancy expense. The final number…a positive net income of $177 per month or $2,124 per year. Return on investment per year is 9% and ROI over a 5 year holding period, assuming liquidation at the end of that period is still 9%. Given the high cost of construction, I don’t think that the laneway will add more than $327,800 in value, but since ample statistics are not yet available for sale price before and after laneway construction, this is still speculative. Essentially you get back what you put in, plus a small income that could easily be diminished if you incurred a large unforeseen capital expenditure for repair. As mentioned by another commenter, an increase in lending rates could potentially put you in a negative cash flow situation. Now, if your building this for say elderly parents or even your kid and his/her spouse and children, which is completely realistic given the increase in density and 3 bedroom layout, this makes a lot of sense. For $327,800 plus additional expenses mentioned above you’re getting a small one bedroom condo in Vancouver these days. If you looked at 900 sq.ft. 2 or 3 bedroom condos, you’ll notice the price doubles or even triples, and then some. As I mentioned, I have some experience with construction and therefore I would GC my own laneway. My own cost estimates are realistic, if you have the experience and the building trades to do it. In this feasibility scenario, I produced a net income of $619 per month or $7,428 per year. My annual ROI was 42% and my ROI on a 5 year holding period with liquidation at the end was 126%, factoring in net profit from the added value of the laneway because my costs are lower and I would realize an estimated $75,000 on sale of the property.

    In conclusion, I am in support of laneway homes. From an urban geographical prospective, more housing in an urban market such as Vancouver, which is in extremely high demand, will help to take the pressure off the high price of real estate, and when market conditions soften in the future, the excess supply will also help regulate prices. Nevertheless, I am also in support of addressing the issues I mentioned above as they are legitimate and significant concerns that should be acknowledged and dealt with by city council. I think the original author of this post was quite irked by the fact that he/she feels city council is not taking public opinion into account and if this is indeed true, this must be brought to light, which is best done through traditional and social media outlets, community awareness campaigns, etc. Now, do I feel everything he/she stated was legitimate AND significant, absolutely not, but common guys, when you advocate and lobby against government, you have to use every tool in the chest, so I don’t blame the tactics. If you’re thinking of building a laneway and you’re going to use a laneway builder and pay retail price thinking you can make gains on income and/or the resale of your property in the future, think again. If this is the objective then the investment is far too risky and the numbers just don’t add up. Now if you’re paying retail and using this for a family home, as an alternative to a condo or townhome, I think this is a no brainer. If you have building experience and trades, then either scenario is beneficial. Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts and please feel free to weigh in, debate with me, etc. I am a big boy and can take criticism 🙂 but please, no childish personal attacks.

  22. My father purchased a house on west 23 many years ago. He sharpened knives for a living…literally nose to the grindstone. He died a few months ago at the age of 91. He loved his garden and neighbours but I will never forget the look on his face when he walked down the lane a few houses to look at one of these homes. It shadowed the neighbours yard and had one parking stall. He already had trouble parking in front of his house and on his block. He just shook his head he had bigger concerns he new his heart was failing.

    There is no excuse for these monstrosities in family neighbourhoods. My brother, sister and I all managed to purchase homes in Vancouver with blue collar jobs/trades.
    They ruin the neighbourhood and leave a mess for the residents when the developers and speculators leave.

  23. Gordon Alexander Campbell Mohammed says:

    That was a touching story! I don’t quite get the point, but it was touching nonetheless! Your Father had a home in Vancouver and each of your siblings have a home in Vancouver, obviously one can extrapolate from your statement that anyone who “works for a living” can own a home in Vancouver?

    Would your Father (a man who sharpened knives for a living), be able to purchase a home in Vancouver were he alive and engaged in the same work today? When did you and your siblings purchase your homes? Would you and your siblings be able to purchase your homes based on the wages you make today given the current market value, had you not equity in your home?

    What would Vancouver be like without developers? What would Vancouver be like if we had never had speculators? If “we” did not speculate the people would come to Expo 86, we would not have this problem? If we did not speculate that people would come to the Winter Olympics, we would not have this problem?

    Do you not imagine, speculate that your property will be worth more money 10 years from now than it is today? Is the issue really developers and speculators or is it more profound? Taxes should be higher on properties that are “bought and sold”, not held by the owner for more than 5 years!

    Do you not see the merit in having extended family around you? Would you not prefer to look after your Father (I know that he is deceased – it is your private business), in your own home, or your lane home rather than having him cared for by strangers?

    Do you have children? Will they be able to purchase a home in Vancouver? Will you consider using some of the profit from your own land speculation (the home you live in), to assist your children when they purchase their first home?

    Have you ever been to any of the major cities in the world? Do you really think that we are too crowded or that our population density is too high? Do you think in 20 years we will have fewer people in Vancouver than we do today? The world is changing! I didn’t read any positive ideas in your short note! Do you have any good ideas about how we can address this situation or would you rather just wax poetically about a time gone by?

    • Don’t have much time to respond to this but your correct, I should include some solutions. I propose the following:
      Allot the two 16 foot spots in front of a 33 foot lot to the lot. (3800 square ft of living should have more);
      Work out some better ratios for hight to width on the laneway homes;
      Only allow the capital gains tax exemption on homes three times (flippers will have to get jobs); and
      Takes less holidays…save more.
      To the person who responded to my last post, I purchased my first home a year ago in Point Grey…it can be done.

  24. dougal says:

    Why is this such a hot debate? I think laneway homes are great. Each one is different from the next (with each of the many developers offering at least 4 choices for designs).

    Vancouver is doing a great job of maximizing our stock of detached independent housing. They’re a great way to get your own address and have the semblance of your own house. I would WAY rather live in a laneway house than some of the crumby condos going up on main street and in Chinatown. I’ve been in a bunch of them and while i appreciate developers trying to keep costs down so that young people can afford to live in them, the walls are paper thin.

    I Say Yay!

  25. Gordon Alexander Campbell Mohammed says:

    So, Doug, how do you really feel? 🙂

  26. Rita says:

    I thought laneway housing was supposed to be affordable. Not from what I have seen to date. One was $1900 a month!! That’s not affordable for the average single professional. This is unacceptable and goes against the concept of affordability!

  27. Gordon Alexander Mohammed Campblee says:

    Maybe they mean affordable for working professionals?
    Affordable is a “subjective” term!
    If you can’t afford a bus pass each month you aren’t going to be able to afford to live in Vancouver either!

  28. Tom Dooley says:

    Well, the program started in 2009 and it is not just alive and well in 2014, the program is thriving!
    Rita – you wrote “laneway housing was supposed to affordable!” – I suppose it depends where your lane is located – not in Vancouver! What, in Vancouver, is affordable?

    LWH’s are here to stay and their proliferation is a testament to the “people’s” will! LWH”s are now synonymous with “Vancouver”!

    I suppose if you really don’t like LWH’s you could move to another community in the Lower Mainland, but wait, they are now being built in other communities in the Lower Mainland!
    I suppose you could move to another province but wait, they are once again entertaining the notion of LWH’s in Toronto!

    Of course, everything will become taller and density will increase, that is the way of the world! None of this is really surprising is it? Mankind is by its very nature greedy and wants more – there is a price to pay for this “artificial wealth based” society! We will become less of a society and more of a collection of peoples from all corners of the world much like Babylon of old!

    And in the end the only ones who will really profit long term are the wealthy banks and individual who have socially designed this kind of living, this false economy based on man’s insatiable greed and need to accumulate more and more of what really amounts to less and less!

    The economy has already crumbled once in very recent times and the artificial values of our land the loss of our manufacturing and dependence on cheap foreign goods is designed to bring about a fall. It won’t be long until we are all living in what used to be regarded as third world countries and we are slaves to the financial elite!

    A one-world government is coming and we all be in the gutter, it is just that some of us who haven’t over extended ourselves, will at least still remember what life used to be like here in Canada and will still remember to raised up our head – and look at the stars every once in a while!

  29. alex says:

    Well written Eric. Like most things the mayor has done , it is all illegal and without any public consultations. I am just surprised a million or so people continue to stand by and watch our city suffer as traffic worsens, homelessness increases, and affordability drops to the lowest levels ever, all the while bike lanes pop up to nobody’s surprise.

  30. jason says:

    They should allow a basement as well as 2 storeys above ground. Imo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s