City looking into laneway housing as a residential option for Calgarians

While Calgary council’s stance on secondary suites remains at a stalemate, laneway housing is being touted as a potential solution to ongoing housing shortages in the city.

Laneway houses are self-contained living spaces consisting of a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen located within or on the same property as a detached home.

Suites could be detached secondary suites located in the backyard or adjacent to the alley of a home.
Calgarian Lesley McLaughlin lived in an above-garage suite in the southwest community of Rosscarrock for two years.

“[There was] no fighting for street parking as I parked right at my door, and limited noise as the back alley wasn’t a high traffic area,” she said. “I felt secure in an older city neighbourhood while living in a very modern loft.”

The City is currently in the midst of an “investigation” into the potential for laneway housing in the community of Hillhurst-Sunnyside along the west side of 10th Street N.W.

“The Hillhurst/Sunnyside area redevelopment plan talks about transit-oriented development, and one of the things they were doing to try and minimize the impact to some of the houses on the west side of 10th Street was to encourage laneway housing,” said Ken Melanson, senior planner with the City.

“So we’re preparing to go back out to talk to those residents in the next couple months about, what are the issues in terms of land use to do that? So, what kind of suites can they look at building and what not. We have been encouraging the buildings that are being built on the east side of the lane to incorporate laneway units as well to help reduce the impact to those houses.”

Melanson said Kensington, a condo development by Bucci Development located on 10th Street, will be incorporating some laneway units as well as an Attainable Housing development in Mount Pleasant.

“So there are some laneway, live/work units in there as well to try to animate the lane a bit more,” he said.
The Hillhurst-Sunnyside area redevelopment plan outlines a conservation and infill policy for the communities’ R-2 land use for “large portions of the east and west ends of the community”. There’s also a low-density policy for RM-2 land use.

Zoning has been a main bone of contention when it comes to secondary suite reform in Calgary. Currently, more than 53 per cent of homes in the city are zoned RC-1 or R-1, meaning secondary suites are not allowed.
It’s zoning, Melanson said that marks the difference between a laneway house and secondary suite.

“It depends on the site. So if we’re talking about the low density houses on say the west side of that lane between 10th and 10A Street, then it would be considered a secondary suite, he said. But if it’s on the other side then it would be considered a dwelling unit, so part of the multi-residential development. So the context really depends on what you’re applying for and what zoning is there.”

A look at Calgary’s land use districts and zones:

  • R-1: Can accommodate residential development in the form of single-detached dwellings in areas of the city still developing.
  • RC-1: Can accommodate residential development in the form of a single-detached dwelling.
  • RC-1N: Can accommodate residential development on narrow or small parcels in the form of single-detached dwellings.
  • R-2: Can accommodate residential development including single-detached dwellings, duplexes and semi-detached dwellings.
  • RM-2: Can accommodate residential low density, multiple dwelling.