Sometimes an obvious solution to part of the housing crisis hits us in the face. Such is the case today, with the Vancouver City Council unanimously approving laneway housing. You can read more about it at cbc.ca and straight.com. But what is laneway housing?
Essentially, it is housing built in people’s backyards, facing the rear lane. It often displaces existing garages and other such structures. Of course, you need laneways to do it and Oak Bay is uniquely blessed in having many of these lanes, a legacy of smart planning decisions when Oak Bay was just developing. Given Oak Bay is completely built out and losing heritage structures is problematic, laneway housing allows the addition of density without ripping down existing structures.
How big would these new houses be? With a 40 ft wide lot, 400 to 800 square feet is likely — essentially, a small house. The best part about all this new housing is that they are built without subdividing the land, meaning any and all new housing that is created is rental stock, helping bring to an end the failure to add rental stock in the past 40 years.
Being rental, many of these will be rented by people who might be having trouble currently making ends meet. Reducing the cost of transportation is a key problem. Luckily for them, many of these laneways are within a block or two of a bus route and the laneways themselves make excellent bike routes.
Like secondary suites, laneway housing is a logical step towards helping solve the housing crisis without the huge disruption of entirely new construction. It is time Oak Bay council starting taking a leadership role.