A single-family detached house, a semi-detached duplex, row houses, and low-, mid-, and high-rises in Burnaby. (City of Burnaby)

Laneway homes, fourplexes see significant support throughout Burnaby

The city's survey to take steps towards missing middle housing, including laneway homes and fourplexes, saw a lot of feedback—mostly positive

By Dustin Godfrey | May 19, 2022 |5:00 am

Laneway homes on single-family properties? Fourplexes on duplex properties? The sky isn’t quite the limit, as the city mulls modest moves toward accommodating more “missing middle” housing.

And the city is looking at pre-approved designs to encourage building these types of housing.

Pre-approved designs would allow builders to skirt past the often arduous and costly process of designing a home, only to have city officials poke regulatory holes in it, causing the builder to go back to the drawing board. Instead, builders would have designs they know to be approved, saving time and money on that process.

The move to add slightly more densification in these areas—the first in a series of changes to address missing middle housing—wouldn’t exactly be unpopular, either, according to consultations the city has done in the community.

The city’s housing choices survey, conducted over three weeks starting March 23, received 2,550 responses, more than any other survey the city has ever conducted.

Those survey responses came primarily from homeowners, but included a significant response from renters, and drew responses from effectively every neighbourhood in the city.

And each of the housing types involved in the survey saw majority support—laneway homes most of all.

A total of 69% of owners who responded to the survey indicated interest in building a laneway home, while 59% of renters showed interest in living in one.

And a vast majority of respondents strongly (56%) or somewhat (25%) supported pre-approved designs. Responses included caveats that there needs to be diversity in the types of designs, and that they need to be built with climate change in mind.

The most popular (79%) reason for building a laneway home was for the owner’s family to live in, the city’s long-range planner Sarah Crawford told the planning and development committee last week. Renting it out was the second-most popular (66%) reason for building a laneway home.

The survey also sought input on interest in secondary suites in semi-detached homes—that is, a secondary suite in one-half of a duplex, or even secondary suites in both halves, for up to four units in a duplex property.

Crawford didn’t provide percentages on interest in living in or building secondary suites in semi-detached homes, but said it was similar to laneway homes.

But while laneway homes would most likely be used for family, secondary suites would be most popular (83%) for renting it out, followed shortly (79%) by housing family members.

For both, respondents broadly agreed that the suites should have two or more bedrooms and have reduced parking requirements—especially if they’re located near transit.

In terms of semi-detached homes with secondary suites, 69% of respondents supported having fewer than four parking spaces on a property with four housing units.

“We did hear some comments expressing concerns about increasing the pressure on street parking and congestion from more dwellings, but there was a lot of support for reduced parking in general,” Crawford said.

Coun Pietro Calendino, the chair of the planning and development committee, quipped that people who support reduced parking should sign a contract that they wouldn’t complain afterwards.

“Good luck,” Coun Joe Keithley added.

The city also asked about allowing single-family properties to have two secondary suites and for fourplexes on two-family properties, with both receiving support of 70% or higher and strong support from over 50% of respondents.

Crawford said the city has retained a financial analyst to determine the effect of these types of housing on affordability, and staff are looking at examples of pre-approved designs from other jurisdictions.

A report with recommendations is expected by the fall, she added.

Dustin Godfrey

Reporter at Burnaby Beacon

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