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Laneway housing continues to develop and evolve in Canada’s largest cities. Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Ottawa, Toronto, and Halifax all permit laneway housing, or are moving toward allowing (or expanding) such development. Laneway housing can provide a form of co-habitation with aging grandparents or starter housing for “millennials.”

Until recently both Toronto and Montreal frowned on laneway houses, approving projects on a case-by case basis only. Strictly speaking, this is still the case in Montreal, however, in 2018 in parts of downtown Toronto, laneway suites became legal under existing zoning. Requirements in Toronto include water, sewage, gas and electric services as extensions from the main house.

Also, the goal is to add to the availability of rental housing, so the city strongly resists severance of the property. There are other restrictions around parking, garbage, emergency services, access and addressing. In viewing the initiative as way to increase rentals, the city also created some incentives related to development charge relief and forgivable development loans.

Apart from taking care before digging in a city, plumbing and sewage back from the house is usually no more complicated than any outbuilding. Many modern laneway structures have tight envelopes and are heated and cooled using air source heat pumps, electric resistance heaters or radiant systems.

Vancouver was among the first Canadian cities to encourage laneway housing, and there are hundreds of TRIL 9.2attractive examples in that city. Laneway housing doesn’t suit the architecture in many parts of Montreal, due to emergency egress and other issues. On the other hand, Montreal has created a progressive green laneway program, which has allowed 400 back alleys to be transformed into park-like areas.

For HRAI members who serve urban areas and are seeking new revenue streams, laneway housing could be considered as an opportunity that will likely grow in the future.