Laneway Housing


The City plans on releasing a reader-friendly 'how-to' guide on laneway housing soon.

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 water and sewer connections and contacting Nelson Hydro to inquire about the costs of hydro connections.

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.

The general regulations for laneway houses:

  • Maximum height: 5 metres (highest roof point down to average grade)
  • 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.

In general, a laneway house requires one additional parking space over and above the parking requirement for the existing house. 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.

City Council is currently considering amendments to the zoning regulations for laneway houses, which can be viewed here [PDF].


The City of Nelson is reviewing regulations for laneway houses, also known as detached secondary dwelling units, which are small houses, typically located in the backyard of a single-family home. Laneway houses have been permitted since 2013; however, the City is looking at how we can make this a more attractive option to homeowners and increase our rental housing stock. Laneway housing is becoming increasingly popular in communities across Canada.

Questions the City has for residents include:

  1. What size should laneway houses be?
  2. Should homeowners be able to have both a secondary suite and a laneway house? 
  3. What can the City do to encourage more laneway housing to grow the housing stock? 
  4. Would pre-approved designs and building plans help homeowners to build a laneway house in less time and at less cost?

Currently, detached secondary dwelling units are limited to 5 metres in height and 700 square feet in floor area. Generally, only one-storey buildings can be built within this height restriction. Most recent applicants have applied for variances in order to build larger units.

A successful laneway housing program simplifies the development process for homeowners by allowing them to choose amongst pre-approved design. The Department of Development Services is undertaking an in-depth review of pre-approved designs for laneway houses. The goal is to simplify and fast-track the application and approval process in order to encourage more laneway house development. 

By making the construction of laneway housing a more attractive choice for homeowners, and reducing the per-application workload, we are creating an efficient method of achieving Council’s objective to increase housing supply and diversity in our neighbourhoods. New development has the potential to generate housing and rental income for hundreds of Nelsonites in the coming years. Laneway housing provides housing benefits through a ‘gentle densification’ approach that is similar to single family residential homes.

An online survey was posted here from early January until February 4th, 2018. The report of all the results was presented to City Council on February 19th, 2018. You can view the survey results here.

A PUBLIC OPEN HOUSE was held on Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018. Approximately 85 people attended. Click here for a PDF copy of the information boards, which provide information on the considerations and options for the City's review of laneway housing.