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Carriage House vs Laneway House: What’s the Difference?

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Pros and Cons of Additional Dwellings and What You Need to Know

Do you need more living space but don’t want to move? Or are you considering building a custom home with built-in rental income? A carriage house or laneway house could be the answer.

Carriage homes have become increasingly popular as a solution to housing shortages and real estate price increases. In some heavily populated areas, zoning laws have been relaxed to increase rental affordability and housing density by expanding the range of housing options and allowing infill housing.

So, what is the difference between a carriage house and a laneway home and which form of housing is right for you? Read on for more information and the pros and cons of these secondary dwellings.

What is a Carriage House? What is a Laneway House?

Laneway and carriage houses are additional residences on your land but not attached to your primary building. In contrast, legal suites within a home and basement suites are both self-contained units built within an existing home that was initially designed as a single-family dwelling.

Additional dwellings go by a wide range of names. However, regardless of what you call your housing choice: a carriage home, laneway home, coach house, basement suite, in-law suite, granny flat, garden suite or tiny home, your rental unit must meet local code requirements to be legal.

How Are Carriage and Laneway Homes Similar?

Some of the key features of both carriage homes and laneway homes are that they are:

  • Legally built homes that require permits

  • Smaller than the primary residence (specific size limitations are outlined in your local zoning regulations)

  • Detached accessory dwelling units (although some regions allow garage conversions)

  • Ground-oriented and are usually situated as backyard houses

  • Long-term rental suites for the primary purpose of single-family rental housing. They can also house extended family as a guest house but can’t be used for short-term rentals, e.g., Air BnB.

How Do Carriage and Laneway Homes Differ?

The key difference between these alternative housing types is simple. Laneway homes are located on properties that back onto a public laneway, whereas carriage homes may share an entryway or driveway with the primary house.

Your region may use another name for this type of detached suite. The City of Victoria has categorized carriage and laneway homes as garden suites. If you live in Ontario, you may hear the term coach house project, granny suite or coach home more frequently.

The Pros of Carriage and Laneway Homes

There are many benefits to these additional dwelling units, making them a sound investment when you require extra space. For example:

  • Increased Property Value - Adding square footage to your property by constructing a laneway home, garden suite or carriage home will increase your property value. Depending on your local housing market, the increase in property value is usually significantly greater than the amount spent on construction.

  • Zoning Laws May be Relaxing – In some areas, municipalities are relaxing planning rules to increase housing availability. For example, some residents of Victoria, BC, who choose to build a carriage or laneway house no longer need to apply for rezoning.

  • Income Generator - Whether you’re looking to bolster your retirement income or could use a mortgage helper, the additional income rental properties generate will leave a little wiggle room in your budget.

  • Adding Affordable Housing to Your Community - Students, young couples, business professionals and retirees are just a few of the people that may be pushed out of your community without more affordable housing options. You could make a difference by adding to the rental housing stock.

  • More Privacy Than an In-Home Suite – If you want your in-laws close, but not too close, a detached suite is just what you need.

The Cons of Carriage and Laneway Homes

While there are many benefits to detached suites, you may also encounter some of the challenges below that require careful consideration:

  • Decreased Backyard – Gardens, dog runs, swing sets and other backyard features may need to be altered or sacrificed to allow room for your new build.

  • Sharing Your Space – Increased foot traffic, reduced privacy, pet conflicts and noise disturbances can all be expected when sharing space with tenants. The liveable space for the primary homeowners will be decreased.

  • Parking – Your tenant will require a dedicated parking spot. Will you be sharing your driveway?

  • Renter Requests - Tenants often request bicycle parking and additional storage.

  • Keep Your Neighbours Happy - Windows should be placed to maximize privacy for both the tenant and your neighbours. The height of your carriage home should not shade the neighbouring property.

  • Emergency Access - Accessibility via an unobstructed path is essential, as well as proximity to a fire hydrant.

  • Noisy Mechanical Features – Such as HVAC systems should be placed where their noise impact will be minimal.

  • Altering Your Property’s Green Space – Stormwater/floodwater management may be required if you’ve altered the drainage on your property.

Why are Carriage and Laneway Suites a Good Choice?

While all secondary dwelling units are sound investments, the increased privacy and greater income generation carriage and laneway homes provide are two key reasons many homeowners choose to build this type of detached suite.

Before You Build, Investigate Your Communities Zoning and Permitting Requirements

Not all properties are eligible for the addition of a detached suite. Before you start planning the details, check your local bylaws department to see what the zoning requirements are for your area.

There may also be other bylaws that impact your planned build, such as:

  • Are there bylaws in your area for tree preservation? Review your regional policies and guidelines to determine if your project is compliant. In Victoria, you can consult the Tree Preservation Bylaw.

  • Does your building plan meet the new BC Building Code? Ensure that your detached residence is in line with the Energy Step Code.

Your building contractor can also assist with understanding local bylaws as well as navigating application requirements and building permits.

White Wolf Homes – Let’s Build Your Carriage or Laneway Home Together

Whether you build a carriage house or laneway house in the same style as your primary dwelling or try something completely different, White Wolf Homes can help you decide which style is right for you.

Located in Victoria, BC and serving the capital region, White Wolf Homes custom home builders craft beautiful carriage and laneway homes. For examples of White Wolf builds, view our recent projects. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation or more information.

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