Port Coquitlam latest city to fight housing unaffordability with coach homes

Another Metro Vancouver municipality is turning to small homes to tackle the big problem of housing unaffordability.

On Tuesday, Port Coquitlam became the latest city to allow for coach homes or laneway houses, following the lead of communities on the North Shore, the City of Vancouver and Coquitlam.

Councillor and acting mayor Brad West says decreasing affordability in the city was the impetus for the move.

"I know a number of people, who like, me have grown up in Port Coquitlam, think it's a great place to live, want to start a family here but haven't been able to afford a place," West, 31, said.

"They've had to look further out … the housing market is crazy. It's darn near impossible for young people starting out to get into a house."

West says coach homes will increase the rental housing stock, but hopes they can also help aspiring owners by providing a "mortgage helper" with rental income to help pay for their purchase.

"For young people who live in our community and are interested in staying in our community, this is a real positive thing. It's going to create more options."

Vancouver has over 2,000 laneway houses

The city's director of development services, Laura Lee Richard, says coach homes will be allowed in neighbourhoods that mostly have single-family homes.

The size restriction is the same as in Vancouver, with homes capped at 70 square metres or 753 square feet. They must be smaller than the principal dwelling and the lot can't be subdivided or stratified.

Residents have to apply for a development permit through the city, and if they meet the requirements they can start building.

"I was pleased to see the number of people at the public hearings," West said. "If that's a sign of public uptake we're in good shape."

Tuesday's unanimous council vote followed months of public consultation.

2010 was the first full year that permits for laneway homes were granted in Vancouver, and the city approved 192 projects. Now, more than 2,000 of them dot lanes and back yards.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation puts the rental apartment vacancy rate in the Tri-Cities, which includes Port Coquitlam, at 1.7 percent. The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,112.

With files from Megan Batchelor