Homeowners have been taking advantage of the easy development permit process in inner-city Kelowna to build carriage homes on their properties. Known as lane or laneway homes or even granny suites in other Canadian municipalities, carriage homes are detached residences in the back yard of Kelowna homes with entry off the rear lane. Kelowna allowed construction of these homes on private property in 2001 and they continue to grow in popularity. The city was actually the first in the province to allow these smaller homes to be constructed.
The city gives the green light to as many as 40 permits for carriage houses annually. To date Kelowna has more than 425 of these homes in city lane ways. Because the vacancy rate for rental accommodation in the city is so low, homeowners are earning extra income by building carriage houses on their properties and renting them out. Carriage homes outside of the RU6 Zone are not titled and can't be bought or sold.
Some have listed their carriage homes as vacation rentals on VRBO and Airbnb despite the city ordinance that states carriage homes can't be rented for short-term occupancy.
Where Carriage Homes are Permitted
There are certain areas within the City of Kelowna where carriage homes are allowed. The RU6 Zone is in the city centre and is a two-dwelling housing zone. Because this area is already zoned for two dwellings on one lot, homeowners need only to apply for a development permit. The application is reviewed by staff to ensure the blueprints fall in line with the character of the neighbour and are compliant with the dimensions allowed.
In other areas of Kelowna, homeowners must apply for a rezoning permit. This is for minor rezoning and applications have to reviewed and approved by Kelowna City Council.
A one-storey home is allowed to have more square feet of living space than a one-and-a-half storey home which must have a smaller footprint on the lot. Homes on one-level offer more privacy than a storey-and-a-half unit, both for the occupants and for adjoining neighbours so construction of these has been encouraged. When Kelowna residents first started building these homes, two-storey units were allowed but due to complaints they stopped allowing them.
The Future of Carriage Homes
Kelowna City Council are presented with rezoning applications every single month from Kelowna property owners which speaks to the enormous popularity and financial opportunity to increase property value as well as household income. The rate of applications is expected to stay the same or increase in the future.
Currently short-term leases aren't legal in Kelowna however, due to the popularity of vacation rentals in Kelowna the planning department and city council have decided to examine the policy and to make some recommendations about how short-term rentals might work in the city.
Property owners should meet with a qualified contractor to check how much it would cost to construct a carriage home along their back lane and then meet with a Kelowna real estate professional to compare that value to the potential value of their property with the additional structure.