Laneway Houses

About Laneway Houses

What is a laneway house?

  • A laneway house is defined by the City of Vancouver as “a small house at the rear of a lot near the lane and may include both a dwelling unit and parking/accessory uses”.
  • Laneway houses are permitted as a secondary suit in the main house, and can be used by family or rented.
  •  Laneway houses are permitted in Vancouver in RS-1 and RS-5 single family zones.
  •  Visit www.rainbowangelshome.com for more information about lane houses.

Why build a laneway house?

  •  Laneway houses provide an affordable housing solution in single family residential areas.
  •  Laneway houses are a sustainable solution to increasing density without spoiling the character of single family home neighborhoods.
  •  Laneway houses can be excellent income generators if used as a rental unit, and can add value to your property if you decide to sell.
  •  Laneway houses are adaptable and can be used for aging parents and other family members, caregivers or adult children, as well as home owners who want to downsize.

Not outlaws anymore these tiny houses are having a big impact for families

TYPE OF PROJECT: new backyard cottage

PROJECT SIZE: 384 sq. ft.


Three generations of Mary K’s family live in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. Until recently she lived a number of hours drive away and had hoped to move closer to her new great granddaughter. How much closer? Into her daughter’s back yard. Seattle’s backyard cottage ordinance allows her to do just that.

She worked with a firm specializing in backyard cottages, micro house, to design a cottage to live where she can be a more prominent part of her family’s life. Her new kitchen window looks out on a garden shared with her daughter and her cottage features a loft for her great granddaughter to play in. She looks forward to taking her great granddaughter to the nearby woodland park zoo.


Above is Mary K’s Cottage Nears Completion. Her cottage measures a mere 16ft x 24ft.

Her family appreciates her help as well. Raising a child is expensive in no small part due to the cost of child care. Many parents scramble to keep up a juggling act of work and child care schedules that result in children being raised by caregivers outside the family. In this day and age it seems the lucky exceptions that have family close enough to help out on a regular basis.


Abundant windows add natural light and make the living room feel bigger than it is.

Financing for the cottage came from retirement savings so every square inch and dollar counted. Having at one time lived on a boat Mary K Knows exactly how many inches of shelf space she needed for her bath shelf, thirteen, and how many feet of rod space for her closet, five.“It was challenging for me to participate in the design process from out of town. I had the contractor leave out some items like the kitchen counter so that I could hand pick the tile and backsplash after I moved in.” Said Mary K.


A loft above the living room and kitchen will be a reading room and play house for Mary k’s great granddaughter.

Bruce Parker the lead designer used a couple of strategies to make the cottage feel larger. “Our primary strategy was to incorporate the landscape into the project through the abundant and careful placement of windows. We have also added a vaulted ceiling over the main living space and exposed the ceiling joists in the bedroom and kitchen to make those ceilings seem higher.”

The accessibility strategy used in the bath is to make things small so that those with mobility impairments will be able to move from support to support easily. (Grab bars too be added) The toilet doubles as a shower bench.4

The cottage has been designed to be accessible for Mary K as she ages. Because it is small grab bars and surfaces will enable one with mobility impairment to navigate throughout the cottage with a degree of comfort. “In the bath we again took the approach of making things smaller rather than larger so that grab bars are always within easy reach. The shower is incorporated into the main space so that one can bath while sitting down on the toilet,” said Parker.





Backyard cottages are allowed in an increasing number of municipalities. For more information about backyard cottages visit the Seattle Backyard Cottage Blog. www.tinyhousetalk.com/backyard-cottages/