Each property in Vancouver has a designated zone district assigned to it, and with each zone, comes customized rules and regulations depicting what can be built on the property, how big of a building can be built, and to what extent you can utilize the property. So, when looking into potential laneway construction, you need to determine your property’s zone designation. Information regarding the property itself is also required. It is important to know the lot’s overall size. What is the length and width of the property? What is the overall area of the property? It is also important to have the main home’s overall size, including its width, length, and finished floor area. With this information, combined with the zoning information, you will be able to determine the size of the laneway home you will be able to build. The average size lot in Vancouver is typically 9.8 m (32.15 ft) in width. This is the minimum width of property that would be permitted to construct a laneway home on. But the Director of Planning may approve a smaller width up to a minimum of 7.3 m (24 ft) if there is a well-thought-through plan moving forward.

Prior to planning out the placement of the laneway home on the property, a review of the existing property site servicing will be required. All properties are connected to municipal water, sewer, and storm systems. There are various upgrades throughout the city at various depths, so it is important to know what will be required to service the proposed laneway home and main home. Will the drainage require a pump system, or will a gravitational-fed system be sufficient? If building a laneway on a property with an existing main home, will there be a requirement to upgrade the existing service systems? Besides municipal services, it will also require a review of the electrical and gas services as the laneway home will require to have supply meeting the electrical and gas codes. A laneway can be constructed without a requirement for gas service, so it is not as important, but the electrical supply will need to be reviewed closely as it will affect the existing service to the main home, meter location, and possibly the service from the existing hydro pole. The City of Vancouver will provide its fees for the water, sewer, and storm connections, and the local energy services will provide their requirements and fees for electrical and gas connections.

Before the building permit application is produced, it will be a good idea to have a formal review of the proposed laneway home with the City of Vancouver. You will need to provide not only the proposed laneway drawings, but a site survey will also be important to verify the existing property dimensions and building locations. You will have to be able to display on your drawings, the proposed location of the laneway home, the proposed finished floor area, and the height of the proposed laneway home in conjunction with the main home building. Some of the design criteria for a laneway home can be found in the associated zoning district rules and regulations. On average, the following are the standard zoning specifications for a laneway home. Maximum Floor Space Ration (FSR) is 0.16. This means that you can have a finished floor space of 16% of the overall property area. So, on a standard 33’ x 122’ lot, you would be permitted to build a laneway home of up to 644 square feet, plus an additional 40 square feet for storage area which includes closet space and storage rooms. If your lot is larger than the average size, you can build up to a maximum of 900 square feet. And if the laneway home will be a 1-1/2 story building, you will also be able to deduct the under-height sloped ceiling areas on the upper floor. If building a second floor, the floor area can only be 60% of the main footprint. The location of the building is also determined, including allowable side and rear yard setbacks. Average setbacks are 2 ft for a side yard, and 3 ft for a rear yard. There also must be a minimum of 16 ft between the laneway home and the main home. A single-story building must not exceed 9.8 m (32 ft) of the lot length, and a 1-1/2 story building must not exceed 7.9 m (26’) of the lot length. There must also be allowances for a parking space, typically an uncovered parking pad.

After you formally review the proposal, it will now be a process of putting all the pieces of the permit puzzle together. Including all relevant design information, including site plan, floor plans, exterior elevations, cross sections, and construction details. There will also be a requirement for a structural engineer design, and geotechnical engineer report. Once all the information is gathered, and you have met all the criteria for permit application as per the City of Vancouver checklist, you can go forward and submit your permit application. At this time, there should be no concern about the failed application. For you should have resolved all issues during the permit review. And it will be a short wait until the City formally approves the application and issues your Building Permit allowing you to build the laneway home you have been planning to build. Once the permit is issued, the construction process will begin, and with the help of RJR Construction Management, we will make sure that the home is built with the utmost quality and passion that we are able to provide. At any step of the way, we will answer all questions, provide information on all concerns, and manage the entire process so that the burden is removed from the owners to make the entire process as smooth as possible.

The creation of a custom home is something many would love to have, and it is an experience that not enough people are blessed to be able to achieve and fulfill. And when making the decision to proceed with the project whether it be a new home build or major renovation, there are times the process can be taxing and stressful, where regulations and unknown issues arise to create obstacles and requirements for changes to the original scope of work and vision. RJR Construction Management Ltd. is well known for producing breathtaking renovations and fabulous new home builds based on homeowners’ needs, financial resources, and their vision of what they would consider their own custom homes. At times there are obstacles that we encounter, and the following is a story of one of those times we ran into a few issues but were able to persevere and work for the homeowner to ultimately create their ideal custom home.

There is a transition to high-density housing in the City of Vancouver, and the ability to transform a single-family residence into a multi-family building is becoming more popular as the city is adapting to the change in population and the requirement for affordable housing. Have you ever wanted to invest in your own property and create a building that will reward you financially? If you are curious to see what the possibilities are with your property, RJR Construction Management Ltd. will be able to assist you.
Prior to applying to the city for a building permit, a development permit will be required. Development is defined as “any change in the use of any land or building or the carrying out of any construction, engineering, or other operation in, on, over, or under land or land covered by water.” Development applies to construction/renovation and changing the use of a building or part of a building. All development guidelines and restrictions are regulated by the property’s Zoning and Development By-Laws.

As we approach a new year, it is a great time to start thinking about any possible changes you wish to make to your home.  With wait times for permits being erratic at times, if you are thinking about renovating your home, planning ahead is always best.  More so if you have any timelines and or completion dates in mind, it’s key to get in touch with us now.

At RJR Construction, we can assist you with the full process from planning to application and through to completion.

We can offer you a free consultation, with guidance on what is possible, and estimated costs, and lead you through the separate phases of consultation.

Take the opportunity to contact us and create a great relationship with a well-known, quality contractor.


Gino Di Francesco