Laneway Homes Revolutionizing Senior Housing in BC

There’s a buzz in the city about a new type of senior homes in Vancouver -- laneway homes!

They were introduced to the city in 2009 as a way of helping address a growing need for affordable homes in Vancouver’s expensive housing market. Laneway homes, also called coach houses in other BC cities, are a great way for adult children to get a foot in the door to home ownership. Another name for this type of housing is granny flats, and as the name suggests, laneway homes are perfect solution for BC seniors who wish to remain where they are, downsize and live independently while remaining near family. Other municipalities throughout BC are also on board, and laneway housing is becoming a popular alternative in many BC cities.

What are laneway homes?
A laneway home is a smaller home, averaging 500 to 750 square feet, built on the same property as the main house. Laneway homes are located on the lane -- think cottage or coach-style house, in place of a garage or carport. In addition to providing new housing choices for Vancouver residents, laneway homes enhance the lanes, making them greener, safer and more inviting while keeping as close as possible to the size and shape of a garage to limit their impact on neighbors.

Fitting the Seniors Niche
In a recent interview with Senior Living Magazine, Ann Eynon notes the being just six meters away from her grandkids is the bonus to living in her tiny, modern laneway home. In 2008, and after retiring from her career as a financial advisor, Ann decided to sell her home of 15 years and build something new. She enlisted the services of Smallworks, a Vancouver homebuilder specializing in laneway home construction and commissioned her new place. A family meeting brought everyone on board, legalities were finalized and her dream-home was built. Ann now lives close to her grandkids; she’s independent and has the freedom as well as the funds to travel during her retirement years. What a great solution for senior homes in Vancouver!

Extra Retirement Income
Another way for families to reap the benefits of a laneway home is to do what the Clarkes did -- they built a 700 square foot laneway home for their daughter and her husband. The newly married couple had trouble finding an affordable home in Vancouver but with a head-start provided by the parents, they now pay rent to mom and dad and have a custom built place to call home. The family chose a style they all love with the future in mind. When they’re ready to downsize, the elder Clarkes will be able to move into the laneway home and rent out the main house, or the other option -- rent out the laneway home when the kids move out. Either way, they’ll have the extra rental income in their retirement years.

Laneway Home for a Caregiver
This concept in city living is giving residents of BC a bright new option in addition to renting an apartment or basement suite. Laneway homes could work well for both adult children and elder loved ones giving kids a jump-start or seniors a way to age-in-place -- complete with a home for a caregiver right ‘next door.’ As part of Vancouver’s new housing strategy, we can expect to see nearly two thousand laneway homes by the end of 2014 -- hopefully the trend continues across the country!

Checking Whether a Laneway Home Will Work for You
Seniors contemplating building a laneway home on their existing property should check with the city to confirm that they are within the areas zoned for laneway homes and that their lot meets the specifications. Details, information and building guidelines may be found on the City of Vancouver website.    


By Alice Lucette
Photo by Krista Jahnke

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