Laneway housing options pop up in Calgary for seniors, new buyers

Click to play video: 'Creative housing options pop up in Calgary on top of garages, in backyards'
Creative housing options pop up in Calgary on top of garages, in backyards
WATCH ABOVE: Laneway housing projects are increasing in popularity with seniors who want to stay in their communities and young people who want to be able to afford to live in the inner city. The University of Calgary plans to unveil a new housing option for seniors that involves a portable unit plopped into a backyard – May 16, 2016

Paul Robert’s idea for a laneway home started by the realization that his house in West Hillhurst was sitting on a property that wasn’t being used to its full potential, and a desire to be close to aging parents.

“This is for my wife’s parents and we just think it will really enrich my daughter’s childhood as well,” said Robert, who will continue to live in the original 1947 home. His wife’s parents will move into the laneway home in August.

“They love it. They’re really into it. My mother-in-law comes down once in a while from Edmonton and sees the progress and is really impressed. With this, I just feel it was absolutely the right decision to make.”

The laneway home easily fits onto the 50-foot lot, even with the two-car garage, with plenty of space left over for a garden and patio. The gabled roof adds to its spacious feel and there is also a basement for storage.

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It’s a place three generations will be able to enjoy.

Laneway housing refers to a self-contained living space on the same property as a single detached home, usually accessed from the alley. They are sometimes called garage suites, granny suits or backyard suites.

Two Calgary men trained in architecture have started a design firm specializing in backyard suites. Mark Erickson and Matthew Kennedy turned their passion for inner city living into a company called Studio North. They have four laneway projects underway in Calgary, including the one being built for Robert, which they predict will be a precedent setter in Calgary in terms of laneway homes.

“It allows for families to grow and to evolve and it allows for a lot of different options for living,” Erickson said.

Their aim is to help seniors stay in their communities and allow young people to afford to live in the inner city.

“Maybe they would choose to build on laneway house and rent out the larger house to subsidize their mortgage. And once maybe their family grows and they have kids, then they take over the bigger house and rent out the laneway house as income property,” said Erickson.

“We have some clients, they imagine themselves staying where they are and looking forward, they want to build a laneway house so down the road so they can live in the laneway house, rent out the main house and be able to use it as a means to retire and be able to afford to stay there.”

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The price can range between $150,000 and $350,000 depending on if it has a basement or not.

The idea is being explored at the University of Calgary and city council, as well.

Watch below for more information on the Garden Project at the University of Calgary:

Click to play video: 'Video tour of University of Calgary’s ‘senior suite of the future’'
Video tour of University of Calgary’s ‘senior suite of the future’

Students at the university will unveil a new backyard suite project next month. The Garden Project is a 400-square-foot unit, customized for seniors, that can be placed onto almost any community lot.

“From a social point of view, we really need to keep people out of long-term care and acute care facilities,” said John Brown, a professor with the faculty of environmental design at the U of C in a video provided by the faculty.

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“We think it has the potential to be a real option for a lot of seniors living in Calgary and beyond. We’re optimistic that we’re going to be able to find a way to deliver this to communities across Canada,” Brown said.

A Calgary city councillor is also asking the city to set up and test some of the mini homes.

A motion by Gian-Carlo Carra to study an aging in place laneway-house project was approved Monday.


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