A popular trend among city planners and homeowners looking to make extra money is to turn garages into living spaces. There have always been jokes about the kids living in a room above the garage when they’re young and broke or parents retiring in a converted garage. Laneway suites and homes put these ideas into action by reimagining what those spaces can be used for.
Laneway suites and homes are being embraced in cities across North America. Vancouver was one of the first to get behind the idea and they are fairly common in the Lower Mainland. Some area developers even specialize in building laneway suites and converting garages for this usage.
Garages are often one of the most under used spaces in your home. They can be great for parking a car in but often become neglected or cluttered. When looking for extra living space, a guest room or a unit to rent out converting your garage is a great option especially compared to the costs and potential difficulties of adding onto a house. What options are available to your will depend on the codes in the municipality you live in and the type of garage you have. Whether it is detached or attached influences the ease of such a project.
Laneway homes provide a number of benefits to cities. They help create diversity in housing stock and create more rental units. They increase population density and bring in people who might otherwise be unable to afford to live in an area. For homeowners they provide an excellent source of income. They can be used as a guest space or office area. Laneway homes are an important part of Vancouver’s affordable housing and sustainability goals.
They can be created in a number of ways depending on what kind of garage, property and back alleyway a homeowner is working with. They are often included out back as an income property when a lot is redeveloped. Others will tear down an old garage and build a new one. They can eliminate having a garage all together and put in a suite instead. Others will divide the space between uses keeping a small garage with a suite on the other side.
Placing a second floor above a garage is another option. This makes it possible to both have space for a car, storage, DIY projects or other common garage uses while adding living space.
To determine whether or not your current garage can be converted or added on to you should contact a structural engineer. Many garages will not have been built with a strong enough foundation to accommodate a living space above or inside them.
For those interested in building a laneway suite within the City of Vancouver you can build one on any lot that is zoned for RS single family housing and is 32 feet or wider. If you want to determine your eligibility you can call 311. Make sure to follow zoning bylaws while planning any changes to your garage. It is easier to start right from the beginning then to find out you can’t do what you wanted half way through.