A laneway house is a form of detached secondary suite that is gaining popularity on the west coast of Canada, especially in the Metro Vancouver area. The homes are typically built into pre-existing lots, usually in the backyard and opening onto the back lane.
Most laneway houses are small. But, public concern has been raised in some communities about the impact that larger forms of this type of housing may have on privacy.
While most popular in Vancouver, similar housing has been appearing in other densely populated Canadian cities. Laneway houses have been built in Toronto for some time. However, in 2006 staff reviewed the impact on services and safety.
The introduction to Vancouver of this form of housing was part of an initiative by former Mayor Sam Sullivan as, part of his council's EcoDensity initiative to increase urban density in pre-existing neighbourhoods while retaining the single-family feel of the neighbourhood. Vancouver's average laneway house is 550 square feet (51 m2), one and a half stories, with one or two bedrooms. Typical regulations require that the laneway home is built in the back half of a traditional lot in the space that is normally reserved for a garage.
In December 2009, the Sustainable Laneway House project began. BC Hydro Power Smart joined Simon Fraser University and the City of Vancouver in championing the project. A host of industrial partners joined the effort by providing expertise, materials and labour, including Smallworks Studio and Laneway Housing, Fortin Terasen Gas, Embedded Automation, Day4 Energy, VerTech Solutions, MSR Innovations and Pulse Energy. Westhouse was showcased at the Yaletown LiveCity site during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic games to over 66,000 people and subsequently moved to its current semi-permanent site at SFU.
Vancouver's first laneway house to be completed under the 2009 laneway house bylaw was the Mendoza Lane House by Lanefab Design/Build. The Mendoza lane house is 710sf and was built on a 33'x122' lot and features a single outdoor parking space. The project was granted an occupancy permit by the City of Vancouver in May 2010.
The first unsubsidized 'net-zero' solar powered laneway house was completed in 2012.
In July 2013, an updated set of rules governing laneway house design in Vancouver went into effect. The July 2013 rule update was aimed at making it easier to build one-storey laneway houses, and to address concerns about parking and the use of garages.
Housing affordability is an important issue in Vancouver, due to the high density of population in the city.
While the EcoDensity Charter is no longer applicable in Vancouver due to the current council's updated strategies on affordability and Greenest City initiatives, initial concerns around laneway housing and affordability that related to the EcoDensity Charter remain. The approach from the Charter was to increase the supply of housings to help moderate house prices and to reduce the living costs from transportation and energy.
In Edmonton, laneway homes are called garden suites and the numbers keep increasing as the City changes bylaws to increase density. The suites are very popular as AirBnB properties, as retirement homes and for mortgage helpers.
In 2018, the Municipal government of Toronto, approved a zoning amendment by-law to permit eligible residential properties to build laneway suites. The amendment was a response to growing concern around affordable housing, and as an effort to promote "gentle densification" by tapping into roughly 2400 publicly owned laneways spread across the city. Current estimates assume that – in spite of complex rules – around 257 km of laneways are considered to be eligible for a laneway house.
- Globe and Mail - Jun. 22, 2010 Laneway palaces generating complaints
- Canadian Architect Article
- Vancouver Sun APRIL 22, 2008 Laneway houses appeal to boomer generation Archived November 8, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
- Report to Vancouver City Counsel Archived 2014-01-27 at the Wayback Machine
- Vancouver Eco-Density Strategy
- West House. "Sustainable Laneway House Project". Simon Fraser University website.
- CTV News (2010). "Touring Vancouver's First Laneway House". CTV.
- Wong, Kendra (Feb 9, 2012). "First Net Zero Laneway House Shines in Vancouver". Metro News.
- City of Vancouver Bylaw Section 11, Update July 2013 h http://former.vancouver.ca/commsvcs/BYLAWS/zoning/sec11.pdf
- "High Cost of Housing in Vancouver Splits Up Families".
- "City of Vancouver Greenest City 2020 Action Plan" (PDF). February 2012. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
- "City Proposes Relaxed Rules For Backyard Homes After Decrease In Developments Since 2017 Changes".
- "The Laneway Project - Technical Info". Retrieved 31 Jan 2020.
- "Dencity - Laneway Houses". December 2020. Retrieved 9 December 2020.