About 85 people attended an open house on Tuesday to discuss changes to the city’s policies on laneway housing. They looked at information panels, talked to each other and to city staff, put red dots on the ideas they like, and discussed the pros and cons.
“People I have spoken to have been overwhelmingly in favour of changing the height,” said Alex Thumm of the city’s planning department. The city’s current height restriction of five metres is considered to be one of the reasons laneway housing has not taken off in Nelson.
On the sign-in sheets, Thumm said, 33 people indicated that they are “interested in building a laneway house,” and 24 circled “maybe.”
Thumm said there was enthusiasm for council providing pre-approved designs, which would be created by Small Housing BC, a Vancouver non profit organization that is supporting the city with research and expertise in its exploration of laneway housing.
Thumm said there were many comments about parking as well, but it was general, about parking problems in Nelson as a whole, not specifically about laneway housing.
“And some people are concerned about their privacy,” he said, “and about who has windows looking where.”
He used Vancouver as an example of how privacy issues could be solved.
“Vancouver does not allow, on your second storey of a laneway house, windows overlooking neighbouring properties. It has to be overlooking the lane or the principal house, or you use skylights, that kind of thing.”
Laneway houses are typically built in the back yard of an already existing house, opening onto the back lane.
Anastasia Koutalianos of Small Housing BC, who attended the session, said, “From the comments we heard, there is great support, but always a big concern: will small housing impact heritage or the character of homes? Could it densify too much? There is the whole concept of densification as a whole and how it would affect a small town like Nelson.”
Members of the public can still comment on laneway housing on the city’s online survey at nelson.ca/724/Laneway-Housing.