Paving the way for Laneway

With an estimated increase in population of 170,000 by 2025, the City of Edmonton is looking at new ways to address the housing needs of Edmontonians. And while the population has been steadily increasing, mature neighbourhoods in the city have been seeing a decrease. Residents are opting for newer neighbourhoods, further from the city centre. But the City of Edmonton is trying to change that by encouraging people to move to more centrally located, more mature neighbourhoods through Edmonton’s Infill Roadmap.

Infill refers to the process of rededicating land in urban areas with new construction in order to make best use of the space available. Edmonton's Infill Roadmap is an outline of the city's plan to promote infill and help make it easier for people to build and develop in older neighbourhoods.  

One aspect of infill is laneway housing, which is when a garage or garden suite acts as it’s own property and the alleyway becomes the front of the property. The lot is often split, breaking up the front and back or the second living space remains on property and acts as a rental unit. The city says this is a form of “gentle density” because they are increasing population density, while still maintaining the existing streetscape.  

One Canadian city that has successfully incorporated laneway housing into their infill strategy is Vancouver. By the end of 2016 they had reached 2,500 laneway permits and more are popping up. Because Vancouver is a city known for its high cost of living, this more affordable housing alternative seems to be catching on and Edmonton is hoping to follow suit.

In April 2015, Council approved changes to Zoning Bylaw 12800, which removed locational criteria for laneway housing. But City Council is trying to make the process of developing a laneway house even easier. A new report on possible amendments to Zoning Bylaw 12800 to help address challenges experienced when building garage and garden suites will be reviewed by the Urban Planning Committee in May. Then these amendments will be discussed at the City Council Public Hearing later in 2017.

The City of Edmonton believes some of the benefits of laneway houses are that they can provide homeowners with additional sources of revenue by acting as a mortgage helper or by providing rental income, create independent spaces for family members to live together, and can help expand the range of housing options in a neighbourhood. The squarefootage is usually significantly smaller than that of a traditional home, but it could be an excellent option for those wishing to live in a more mature neighbourhood and don’t want to break the bank.

Check out Edmonton's Residential Infill website for more information and let us know your thoughts on laneway housing. Would you consider moving into a garage or garden suite?