No Small Thing

Laneway housing trend bigger than ever

Vancouver is a city that constantly ranks among the top most liveable cities in the world.

So it’s no small wonder that people want to live in such a vibrant and diverse city.

But buying a house in Vancouver, B.C. is vastly different than buying a home anywhere else in Canada or the U.S. – or in most of the world.

According to the Canadian Real Estate Association, the average price of a home in Canada in August was $350,192. In B.C. in August, it was $491,145, and in Vancouver, it was $725,086.

Building affordable homes

Jake Fry believes that in a beautiful city like Vancouver, people should be able to purchase a home they can afford.

Since starting his company, Smallworks, three years ago, Fry and his team have been building laneway homes throughout Vancouver in earnest. They’ve built 31 laneway homes in the past two years, eight are under construction and there are 19 on the order books (as of early September).

And the calls keep coming in.

“I’d say we get probably at least 20 inquiries per week,” Fry says.

“People are always talking about how we need affordable housing. This city is suffocating with a lack of housing – it’s a paramount issue.”

Fry has been a proponent of infill housing and has supported the idea for several years, and city-wide initiatives such as the Greenest City campaign and the eco-density movement have helped make Smallworks an extremely busy company.

Laneway homes remain hot

And the demand isn’t slowing down.

As of early September, there were 623 permits in the process for laneway housing and 296 of those were in the final permit stage, Fry notes.

Laneway homes can range in size from 500 to 700 square feet of living space (up to 1,000 sq. ft. with a garage) and cost – from telephone call to move-in – $185,000 to $215,000 for average homes, and in the $280,000 to $340,000 range for high-end laneway homes.

Many of the people who are flocking to Smallworks are the children of Vancouver homeowners who want to own a home in the city or neighbourhood where they grew up, but can’t afford to get into the market.

Other clients are older relatives who don’t need a huge house anymore; the house goes to the children with the growing family, and the elder relative(s) get a brand-new laneway home on the same property that is more suited to their needs.

“Living smaller isn’t a compromise,” says Fry.

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