Laneway homes, or garage suites, are a new phenomenon in Edmonton. We sat down with community builder Mick Graham, President of Singletree Builders, and Board Member of IDEA (Infill Development in Edmonton Association), to learn more. Mick has a long history in construction and serious passion for housing in Edmonton. Coming off the completion of Singletree’s first laneway home, Mick has received some serious interest from several homeowners in mature neighbourhoods.
Q: Why are you passionate about evolving Edmonton’s urban landscape?
A: I started my construction career at 15 years young and stayed there for the majority of my career, launching Singletree in 2012 to focus on Edmonton infill. I truly believe our city will be better with more density in mature neighbourhoods. Subdividing lots, building multi-family buildings to replace single family, and building garage suites are all beneficial. Our city is diverse in terms of culture, age, economics and education. Our neighbourhoods should reflect that diversity in their built form.
I truly believe our city will be better with more density in mature neighbourhoods. Subdividing lots, building multi-family buildings to replace single family, and building garage suites are all beneficial. Our city is diverse in terms of culture, age, economics and education. Our neighbourhoods should reflect that diversity in their built form.
Q: Why build a garage suite?
A: There are lots of reasons for building garage suites. The most common reasons I have heard are:
- as a place for aging parents to live,
- as a place for boomerang children to live, or
- as a source of rental revenue.
Q: How do you qualify to build a garage suite?
A: Garage Suites are permitted on most lots in Edmonton, however there are a few constraints:
- The lot must be a minimum size of 400 square metres;
- The garage and any other permanent out buildings, like sheds and workshops, may cover a maximum of 12% of the lot;
- The maximum size of a garage suite is restricted to 60 square metres (645.8 square feet);
- There must be adequate access for the fire department or else the suite must be equipped with a sprinkler system; and
- There must be one additional parking space on the lot for the suite residents. Street parking is not acceptable.
Q: Let’s talk numbers – dollars and cents, what’s to be expected?
A: Typically, Singletree is pricing the suites at $180,000 for a 60 square meter (645 sq. ft), well finished 1 or 2 bedroom configured suite. Rental income is neighbourhood dependent but ranges between $1,200 and $1,600. If the full cost of the build is financed, the monthly mortgage payment will be about $850, leaving plenty of room for profit.
Q: In the early stages of any development, there are challenges. What are the potential obstacles for laneway or garage suite homes?
A: The biggest obstacle to building a garage suite is the fact that it is a “Discretionary Use” in most neighbourhoods. While the city has announced that they want to encourage garage suites and see them as one of the solutions to the affordable housing challenges we face in Edmonton, they haven’t mustered the fortitude to make them a “Permitted Use”. What this means is that when you apply for a development permit for a garage suite, a letter is sent to your neighbours within a 60m radius. If they want to prevent you from building, they can pay a fee and protest the development. The Development Officer will consider the reasons your neighbor has provided for opposing the garage suite and may refuse the development permit. The most common reasons people oppose garage suites are privacy and aesthetics.
A well designed suite will minimize windows overlooking the neighbours’ yards and will include features that visually reduce the mass of the building. It will also optimize the space within the small floorplan and maximize natural light in all the rooms.
– Interested in learning more about laneway homes? Contact Mick Graham.