District of North Van votes to streamline coach house permits

New fast-track process means owners with relatively simple coach house requests will no longer have to have those approved by council

It’s about to get easier to build coach houses in the District of North Vancouver.

District council voted Dec. 2 to streamline a process for property owners who want to build one-storey coach houses that meet certain conditions.

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The change means owners with relatively simple coach house requests will no longer have to have those approved by council. Instead, many one-story coach house applications will be dealt with through a building permit process.

Coun. Jordan Back said the move makes sense. “I’ve always liked coach houses and I thought there would be more uptake in the district,” he said. Back said it’s possible more people would build coach houses if the process were less complicated.

“I think that they can be an effective housing solution in many cases, particularly for intergenerational housing,” he said.

Back said he’d prefer to see the rules relaxed further, but allowing the least controversial coach houses to be approved by staff was a step in the right direction.

Coun. Mathew Bond echoed those comments, pointing out “coach houses are not additional homes” as every lot is allowed to have a secondary suite already. “It’s just a different form of housing that might work better in some situations for some homeowners,” he said.

Both Back and Bond added there has been strong public support for allowing more coach houses and simplifying the process.

In total, the municipality has approved 17 coach houses, at a rate of about four per year.

Coun. Lisa Muri said one reason for the lack of uptake is the expense of building a coach house – which can cost between $250,000 and $300,000, making it prohibitive for owners hoping to build a revenue-generator to help pay off their mortgage.

Muri said the idea of “tiny homes” might be another concept the district could look at.

But she added the municipality also has to be mindful of not overbuilding on lots. “We have to make sure there’s a balance.”

Under the new rules, owners of lots that are least 49.2 feet wide with open lanes, or corner lots on local streets, will be able to proceed straight to the building permit stage.

Those who want to build two-storey coach houses, or a coach house not on a property with open lanes or a corner lot, will continue to require council’s approval through the development variance permit process.

Owners of the property must live either in the main residence on the property or the coach house. Coach houses can’t be bigger than 968 square feet and also won’t be allowed on properties where there is already a secondary suite or where a home already has more than one boarder.

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