Have you noticed something unique about Vancouver’s residential streetscape? Maybe a lack of garage doors?  If you are not from Vancouver, this may seem a bit unfamiliar, as many other Canadian, and even BC, municipalities allow for garages in the front yard or attached at the front of the house.  The City of Vancouver’s zoning bylaws for One Family Dwellings (RS zones including RS-1, RS-2, RS-3, RS-4, RS-5, RS-6, and RS-7) and Two-Family Dwellings (RT zones) are designed to encourage car parking in the backyard only, with vehicle access from the rear lane.

What does this mean for your renovation or new construction project? In speaking with a planner at the City of Vancouver, we confirmed that the only scenario where a garage door would be permitted on the front of a home in Vancouver is when lane access is not developed or available.  In that situation, the area devoted to parking (the attached garage) within the principle structure (the house) would not contribute to your FSR (the maximum allowable square footage of your home) up to the exemption limits stipulated in your zone.  That means that if you do have a home without a rear lane, you won’t be penalized by having to build a smaller home to accommodate the garage.  If you do have a rear lane, the bylaw encourages you to develop a detached accessory building, like a detached garage or laneway house, in your rear yard by providing the incentive of exempted FSR for parking, up to the previously mentioned exemption limits. If you really love the idea of an attached garage, because you hate having to run for cover in Vancouver’s winter rain, then it will have to be on the back of your house and it will cost you.  The attached parking area counts towards the FSR of your house, significantly reducing the square footage of your house that you can dedicate to living spaces.

This unique bylaw means no garage doors, but also no driveways in the front yard.  Some resulting benefits include that our sidewalks allow for the safe and easy movement of pedestrians and more street parking spaces are available. In addition, the lack of driveways in our front yards means that this unpaved space can be reclaimed as an outdoor sanctuary.  Make the most of it, as a nicely landscaped front yard will ground your house in the surrounding environment.  It will encourage you to spend more time in the front yard, or looking out over the front yard, thus providing more eyes on the street and a safer neighbourhood. Also, while you are out there enjoying the space, you will likely bump into some neighbours, and voila you have created a space to connect with your community! KYZ Disclaimer

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