Infill housing like laneway homes and coach houses isn’t yet allowed in New Westminster. But that could soon change.
Communities around Metro Vancouver are trying to come to grips with rising housing prices that are limiting choices for families and young adults. Some are being forced out of the cities and neighbourhoods they love. The problem is compounded as available land is built out.
Filling in existing properties with more types of housing is one solution.
The City of New Westminster is currently reviewing its Official Community Plan to create a vision that will meet the city’s housing and land use needs for the next 25 years. Infill housing is part of that plan.
Guidelines for infill housing
In September a draft report on design guidelines for infill housing like laneway, carriage homes and triplexes was presented to city council. The report is part of an ongoing review of land uses in the city’s Official Community Plan to regulate its future growth. More housing choice beyond single family homes and apartments or condos is one of the goals of the plan. In fact, two-thirds of the participants in a series of workshops supported laneway and carriage homes.
But wanting infill housing like laneway homes is still a long way from actually getting it. Infill housing has to be designed to fit within existing neighbourhoods and have minimal impact on streetscapes and neighbours.
Already the city has determined two neighbourhoods will need special attention as it considers infill housing: Queensborough because it has no lanes and Queen’s Park because of its heritage character.
In its report, the city is proposing infill housing like laneway and carriage homes can be 350-950 square feet. They’d also have to be at least 16 feet from the main house and four feet from neighbouring properties “to help ensure adequate open space, light and privacy for the new unit and the main house.”
Each laneway home would also have to have its own private outdoor space of at least 160 square feet and there would have to be a planted area between the home and the lane to “create an attractive interface between the lane and the new unit.” A three-foot path from the unit to the street would also be required to make it easy for emergency services and visitors to find it.
Laneway homes could also be two stories, but the second storey would have be smaller than the first, integrated into the roofline and its windows would have to be oriented to minimize overlook into neighbours’ yards.
There’s also guidelines for lighting, parking and even the removal and protection of trees. And the city must decide whether each infill housing project must apply for rezoning, or whether it will amend zoning generally to allow the construction of laneway homes and carriage houses.
Public consultation for infill housing
The city is in the midst of public consultations including open houses and workshops to consider the draft guidelines for infill housing like laneway homes and carriage houses. The next one is Saturday, Oct. 15, at Richard McBride School.
There’s also an online survey.
The guidelines will then be presented to a design panel and the city’s Advisory Planning Commission. That will be followed by consultation with stakeholders like builders, designers and developers.
The report also recommends once the guidelines have been finalized, the city should issue only a set number of permits as a trial period to determine their success and viability.