In our last blog post we talked about our desire, motivation and challenges for building an infill house. In response, one reader asked for an explanation of the difference between infill and laneway houses. I’ll attempt to briefly answer her question. There are a lot of regulations and bylaws around infill and laneway house construction in Vancouver. I won’t try to cover everything. I’ve linked to some City of Vancouver resources at the end of this post.

The city’s goals

The city has set some high level goals that differentiate infill and laneway house construction in Vancouver. They see laneway houses as a way to increase density and provide affordable housing. Character home retention is the goal of infill house development.

Design considerations

Laneway and infill houses in Vancouver are subject to different maximum sizes. A complex measurement called FSR or Floor Space Ratio determines The maximum size of infill and laneway houses. The maximum size for a laneway house is 1104 square feet or 0.16 FSR. An infill house can be much larger depending on the size of the lot, up to 0.25 FSR. Explaining the FSR in detail is outside the scope of this post, but I’ve linked to some helpful resources below.

As noted above, infill houses in Vancouver are part of a program to retain character homes. The goal of retaining, renovating and restoring character houses shapes the infill house regulations. These limitations don’t exist for laneway house construction. 

Strata and zoning

A further difference between infill and laneway house construction in Vancouver is that a laneway house will always remain a part of the property of the main house, much like a garage or other outbuilding. An owner can rent out the laneway house but it cannot be sold separately. An infill house can be stratified and sold separately.

City zoning allows laneway houses in many more areas than infill houses.

Update on our progress

We are nearing the point where we submit our preliminary designs to the city to get their feedback. Some leniency will be needed as we work around the two large Douglas Fir trees in our backyard. Once we reach agreement with the city planners we will apply for a development permit. Then we proceed to creating detailed plans for our building permit application. It’s been going quite smoothly so far, and we remain hopeful that we’ll know within a few weeks whether or not we can get our infill house built.

Infill and Laneway House Construction in Vancouver – Resources

  1. Laneway Housing How-To Guide
  2. Guidelines for Additions, Infill and Multiple Conversion
  3. Glossary of Terms including FSR

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