Coach House Info

Are you interested in adding a COACH HOUSE or some sort of Laneway Housing to your property in Courtenay, Comox or Cumberland? We can facilitate the entire process. Please take a few minutes to read this page and our Project Guide, then contact us to begin the discussion.

wondering what it is all about?

Comox Council has recently amended the Official Community Plan (OCP) and Zoning bylaws to allow for Coach Houses in Comox. In Comox, the term Coach House refers to a single level dwelling, whereas a Carriage House tends to refer to a garage with a dwelling above. There are now clear guidelines as to what can be built and how it should fit in with the neighbourhood. See the bottom section of this page for more information on these amendments.

also have a read of the following text… it is very good current information…

These are some excerpts from the Town of Comox Planning Report (dated June 26, 2013) regarding the Coach House idea for Comox. The entire PDF document can be downloaded at:

Laneway House, Garden Suite, Coach House …

Depending on where you live, your municipality may call a small, detached, rear yard dwelling unit a laneway house, garden suite, carriage house, coach house, small suite, accessory dwelling unit, detached secondary dwelling, detached secondary suite, guest cottage or granny flat. These are all names for the same thing – a small self-contained unit with a full kitchen, bathroom, living, sleeping and storage areas in a building that is separate from the main house on the lot. These small homes can be rented out or used by yourself, family and guests.

What is Laneway Housing?

A small rear yard house that provides extra accommodation on your lot for relatives, guests or tenants. Efficiently designed, these 400 – 1000 square foot homes provide all the comforts of a larger space in an affordable and energy efficient home.

Why build a Laneway House?

• Rental income and cash flow
• A retirement residence for yourself, while you rent out your main house or share it with your children
• An affordable way for your relatives or children to build a small house that meet their needs
• Putting extra yard space to good use
• A way to take over the space of your secondary suite, while still having rental income
• A home office or studio that can be used for accommodation in the future
• Because you can … this type of housing is permitted in many municipalities in the Capital Regional District

What is a Good Laneway House Property?

• A lot that has a lane, is double-fronting or is a corner lot
• There is an existing garage which is visible from the street that can be converted or replaced with a laneway house
• There is no need to cut down large mature trees
• Shading neighbouring property can be minimized
• Neighbours’ privacy can be maintained
• A large rear yard where the laneway house will fill no more than 1/4 of the yard
• Enough room for private outdoor patio or garden

Laneway House Design

A variety of design choices and construction styles are possible. Single level, one and half level, two level or garage and suite combinations are permitted depending on the municipality. The construction style can vary based on site constraints, individual preferences and cost considerations. Options include fully modular units constructed off-site and trucked or craned to the site; wall panels constructed off-site and assembled into a building on-site; traditional wood-frame construction fully built on-site.

Laneway House Costs – (based on development costs in Victoria)

Generally $200 to $300 a square foot, including design, approval fees and servicing. Costs will vary depending on the site and the choices you make.
An example budget for a 600 ft2 unit includes:
Legal Survey: $ 800 – 1,500
Suite Design $3,500 – 5,000
Rezoning Fees (if required): $3,000 – 3,500
Rezoning Documentation $2,500 – 3,500
Building Permit Fees: $1,000 – 1,500
Engineering & Servicing $5,000 – 20,000
Building costs: $100,000 – 180,000
Total $110,300 – 215,000

Laneway House as an Investment:

While the costs to build a garden suite are not insignificant, it has the potential to be valuable long-term investment. For a 600 ft2, well-constructed unit in Victoria, a $1,300 a month rental rate is not unrealistic. If the entire construction amount was borrowed, monthly interest payments on a $150,000 loan would be approximately $300-625 depending on financing method. This leaves $8100-$12,000 yearly income for any maintenance, property and income taxes or paying down the loan principle. In the meantime you will be building equity.

If you are considering purchasing new property to build a laneway house, financing options include CHMC insured mortgages with as little as 5% down if the site is already zoned for a laneway house. If the site needs to be rezoned, a minimum of 20% down will be required.

OCP Implications:

Official Community Plan, Residential Detached Policy supports development of Coach Houses under the following conditions:

i. Owner occupation of either the principal dwelling or a coach house;
ii. Minimum site area of 500 square metres;
iii. Maximum building area of 70 square metres, for larger parcels (over 1,000 square metres) an
increase to 90 square metres may be considered, where appropriate;
iv. No increase in the maximum allowable parcel coverage; and
v. Siting of coach house in the rear yard or visually screened from the front yard.

However, in addition to these zoning related concerns, Coach House form and character, and privacy considerations are very important to the neighbourhood and are the key aspects of public acceptance. The way to regulate form and character is to create a Development Permit Area (DPA) specific for Coach Houses. For the owners, on the other hand, it is critical that the application process is clear and predictable; therefore a DPA with exemptions for coach houses which meet standard criteria provides a solution. The Development Permit Area guidelines would be available for those owners who seek design flexibility.

The proposed key concerns to be addresses in the DPA exemption criteria and guidelines are as follows:

 Tree retention;
 For livability considerations, provision of a minimum of 15 sqm usable open space per dwelling unit; and  For privacy considerations, limiting window size on building elevations which are closer than 7.5 metres to any property line.

Zoning Implications:

It is proposed that Coach House zoning regulations are based on standardization of general requirements and conditions of use.

The main zoning issues for coach houses include neighbourhood compatibility, privacy for both units on the subject property and the adjacent properties, safety, accessibility, and natural lighting. To address neighbourhood compatibility Coach House size and height limits are modelled on the existing Single- Family zoning parameters for accessory buildings (60m2, 4.5 m).

Proposed key zoning regulations are as follows:

 Establish maximum Coach House floor area relative to the parcel size;
– 50m2 for parcels 500 – 650m2;
– 60 m2 for parcels 650 – 1,000m2;
– 70 m2 for parcels above 1,000m2;
– 90 m2 for parcels above 1,000m2 which provide environmental protection beyond that required by regulation e.g. land donation
to Nature Trust or Land Conservancy.

 Limit height relative to coach house area;
o 4.5m – 50m2
o 5.5m –60 –70m2
 Require provision of at least 2 off-street parking spaces per parcel (the same as secondary suites); and
 Establish rear yard screening requirements along lot lines.
 Require Coach House conformance to existing Zoning Adoptable Housing Standards (s.5.18)

Zoning amendments that can be made in advance of a rezoning application involve changes to definitions, to allow for modular construction of a coach house. Modular construction refers to a factory constructed building, under BC Building Code regulations that ensure compliance to the same standards, as a house that is “stick-built” on a lot. In contrast, mobile homes are built to a different standard. The allowance for a modular construction will provide an additional simplified, but not inferior, development option for home owners.




The proposed amendment to “Comox Official Community Plan Bylaw, 2011″ would include the creation of a new Development Permit Area (DPA) for coach houses.

The term coach house means a self-contained detached accessory dwelling located on the same parcel as a principal dwelling.
The purpose of the new DPA would be to establish objectives:

 For the form and character of coach houses;

 To promote energy and water conservation; and
 To promote a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

For further information, or to submit comments, please contact the Town of Comox Planning Department at:

1809 Beaufort Avenue, Comox BC, V9M 1R9

fax 250-339-7110
phone 250-339-1118




The City of Vancouver has been monitoring laneway housing (LWH) development since July 2009 when laneway houses were permitted in single-family zones. The first 100 permits for laneway houses were issued in November 2010, surpassing the anticipated time of 3 years. As of may 2013, more than 900 permits have been issued and 500 laneway houses have been built. The monitoring program revealed that uptake is uniform throughout the zones where they have been permitted, without areas of concentration.

The City of Vancouver is currently proposing amendments to the laneway housing regulations and guidelines, and expansion of the program. The monitoring helped to indentify the key issues related to neighbourliness, livability, permit processing and the provision of parking. Proposed amendments to the program will respond to these issues by:

o Encouraging the development of more one storey laneway housing, which have less impact on neighbours and are more accessible for an
aging population and families with small children, in addition, one storey houses are less expensive to build, which supports their affordability;
o Making laneway housing more livable, while recognizing that the size of the unit is related to the size of the lot;
o Allowing a faster permit process for one storey laneway houses;
o Ensuring the provision of on-site parking (concerns are raised about enclosed garages used as living space thus overriding floor area zoning regulations);
o Proposed steps to encourage the retention of the existing house:

 No strata titling – does not trigger updates to the existing house
 Keep laneway houses modest in size
 Adapt requirements for fire/ emergency access
 Assist the homeowner in the design process
 Minimize city fees for service connections (concerns with water metering, higher sewer and water connection fees, currently charged as
for multiple units)
 Monitor

The proposal is to continue the requirements to keep separation between LWH and principal building to maintain open space; limit the height of one storey LWH to 3.6-4.5m depending on roof form, but increase its permitted footprint and parcel coverage (previously limited to the garage footprint, approximately 30m2); not permit roof decks and windows on the side yard elevations for privacy concerns. Currently, one on-site parking space is required per parcel, the proposal is to require two parking spaces per parcel and that the external parking space be permeable.

Vancouver allows laneway houses as a permitted use in certain single-family zones with regulations and guidelines, they felt that site specific rezoning (requiring notifications, etc), adds complexity and is too time consuming. There were still concerns about the length and consistency of permitting process, which have been addressed by a mandatory pre-application review with planners. Since 2012, experienced LWH builders are allowed to by-pass the pre-application meeting.

In addition to the improvements to the current regulations and guidelines, the laneway housing program will be expanded into more single-family zones in Vancouver. Their staff is also looking for opportunities to reduce construction costs, e.g. by delaying the requirement for sewer separation. Vancouver’s report emphasizes the importance of a continuous monitoring of the program.

* The Vancouver report is available in Planning Department and here development/laneway-houses-and-secondary-suites.aspx

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On Wednesday September 25, 2013, a public hearing was held by Comox Council. This hearing gave residents an opportunity to voice their opinions about the proposed OCP and Zoning bylaw amendments regarding Coach Houses. At the end of the hearing, the Official Community Plan (OCP) Plan Amendment Bylaw no.1752, and the Comox Zoning Amendment Bylaw no. 1753 were given Third Reading and were then also Adopted.

The following explanation regarding these bylaw amendments is from the hearing handout notes:

In general terms, the purpose of the Comox Official Community Plan Amendment no. 1752 is to:

1. Create a new Development Permit Area (DPA #17): Coach Houses, applicable to all lands Designated Residential in the OCP; and
2. Exclude coach houses from Development Permit Areas (DPA) #2: Ground Oriented Infill and Development Permit Area (DPA) #3: General Multi Family.

In general terms, the purpose of Comox Zoning Amendment Bylaw no. 1753 is to amend coach house regulations to:

1. Permit modular units as a coach house;
2. Restrict front and side yard aggregate access driveways and parking areas to one per side and a maximum of 6 metres width; and
3. Require screening from adjoining parcel where a coach house is located closer than 7.5 meters from a lot line.

Comox Zoning Amendment Bylaw no.1753 would apply to all lands zoned R3.3 Single-family/Secondary Suite – Large Lot Zone.

Within the wording of Development Permit Area (DPA) #17 – Coach Houses, there are now specific building guidelines for coach house construction. and siting on the property.

If your property and chosen Coach House design meet the criteria in set out in these standards, then a Development Permit is not required.

If your property is not zoned R3.3 SIngle-Family/Secondary Suite, you still need to apply for rezoning of your property to allow for a coach house.

Comox Council has seen fit to reduce Zoning Bylaw Amendment fee to allow a Coach House from $1650 down to $250.

If your property and chosen Coach House design do not meet the standard design guidelines, then a Development Permit Application and process will also be required.

Applications for Rezoning and for Development Permits are evaluated and decided on a site specific basis. Understanding the evaluation criteria and submitting a plan that suits accordingly is essential.

Please contact us to explore your possibilities.

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