Secondary Suites & Laneway Houses
Secondary suites and laneway houses are permitted in most residential zoning, subject to regulations as set out in the:
- Zoning Bylaw;
- Off-Street Parking and Landscape Bylaw;
- BC Building Code and the Building Bylaw; and
- Laneway House Design Guidelines (for laneway houses over 5 metres in height that are required to apply for a Development Permit).
The Zoning Bylaw is available here. Minimum lot line setbacks, density, and lot coverage depend on the zone your property is located in. To determine what zone your property is, use our interactive zoning map.
In all cases, a building permit is required.
Secondary Suites are required to have a Gross Floor Area of between 26 sq. m. (280 sq. ft) and 90 sq. m. (968 sq. ft.), but may not exceed 40% of the habitable dwelling area of the principal house. You can learn more by referring to the City’s guide on secondary suites from the year 2016.
Please refer to the City’s "how-to guide" on laneway housing [PDF].
As of March 2020, pre-reviewed laneway house plans are available from the City for $1,000 (plus GST) per-build.
There are some key inquiries you should make prior to submitting a building permit application to construct a laneway house. This includes contacting Development Services regarding site considerations as well as water and sewer connections and contacting Nelson Hydro to inquire about the costs of hydro connections.
Overview of the requirements:
- Maximum height (highest roof point down to average grade)
- Minimum gross floor area (interior living space): 26 sq. m.
- Maximum gross floor area (interior living space): 89 sq. m.
- Maximum building footprint (does not include decks) shall not exceed the greater of:
- 65 sq. m. for a laneway house over 4.5 metres in height
- 80 sq. m. for a laneway house up to 4.5 metres in height
- 8% of the lot area.
- There are Emergency Access Requirements for all dwelling units.
- In general, one additional parking space over and above the parking requirement for the existing house is required. In many cases older homes are not subject to a parking requirement, and thus the property may only need to have one parking space. Exceptions to the one-stall parking requirement can be found in section 7.8 of the Off-Street Parking and Landscape Bylaw.
- Standard setbacks and lot coverage restrictions apply.
- A second electrical service for the new dwelling is likely required. Contact Nelson Hydro for details.
- Utility connection fees may apply and separate servicing billing (water and sewer) will commence. In most cases, a secondary unit receives a 75% discount on water and sewer, provided that it is not used as a short-term rental.
Other requirements apply. Please contact Development Services. Note: this is a reference page only. It is an applicant’s responsibility to refer to the applicable bylaws and other regulations. Technical and design requirements are subject to change. Each application is reviewed by an interdepartmental staff team on a case-by-case basis.