Tamara Cunningham, Daily News
Published: Friday, August 12, 2011
Lorraine Burley moved into her laneway cottage three months ago to be closer to family.
It cost her $60,000 to build on her son’s property – a bargain compared to moving into a condo or trailer.
“I would never have thought of it, if my son hadn’t pointed out one of these houses next door,” she said. “It sounded like a great idea to me and much more economical than buying a trailer.”
Laneway cottages increase density without altering the look of neighbourhoods and provide new options for people who aren’t ready to forsake their property.
The inexpensive and surprisingly spacious cottages have been gaining popularity in Nanaimo since the city allowed for such construction in 2008.
The backyard houses are also way to adapt to changing circumstances: children looking to move out of their parents’ home, empty nesters looking for a smaller space or owners looking to make extra income from renting the main house. They’ve also become another option for affordable housing, costing anywhere from $60,000 to $100,000 to build.
Tom Weinreich, supervisor of building inspections for the City of Nanaimo, said residents haven’t run with the sustainable housing trend as fast as urban centres like Vancouver, but they’re catching on.
“More people are becoming aware of it, especially those living in older parts of town,” he said. “Basements are low and there can be water ingress issues, so it’s easier to build a separate building than a basement suite.”
A few minor-style buildings were grandfathered in prior to 2008, because they were built nearly a century ago.
There have been 19 new cottages in the last three years.
Eileen Miller moved into her Hillcrest Avenue place a month ago and says she constantly gets compliments from friends who adore the charming two bedroom cottage. After her son left, her main house felt too large. She tried selling it, but when that flopped she decided to follow her neighbours’ leads and build a backyard house. There were three already in the area. She rents out the larger house for extra income.
“I think this is fabulous,” she said. “Space is so cunningly used in here, it feels like I have more than I need.”
She had a few curious onlookers ask her what she was doing when the place was being built this year.
“They weren’t aware they could build these, but now that they are, I think this is going to become very popular,” she said.
The city allows an accessory building no larger than 750 square feet and the property must be a corner lot, have lane access or be more than 10,000 square feet. A new bylaw passed this month now allows for higher cottages and suites on top of detached garages.