Neighbourhood intensification: attitudes towards laneway housing in the Dunbar neighbourhood

Author/s: Sarah Akua Schatz

Creation date: 2013-05-23

Pdf version of summary  

Contact info: akuaschatz at gmail dot com

Senior supervisor:  Karen Ferguson

Keywords: residential intensification; densification; single-family neighbourhood, laneway housing; participatory planning; community opposition

Geographic focus: Dunbar, Vancouver, BC; British Columbia; Canada

Research question/s: Why are Dunbar residents building laneway homes in their neighbourhood? What are the attitudes to laneway housing of Dunbar residents who live in close vicinity to laneway houses?


Attempts by planners and policy-makers to intensify housing forms within established neighbourhoods are often met with opposition. This was the case when in July 2009, the City of Vancouver approved a new policy allowing laneway housing in single-family neighbourhoods. This study examines the responses to the implementation of that policy by residents of Dunbar, one of the city’s wealthier single-family neighbourhoods. In particular, this study examines the attitudes of those living close to laneway houses and those who belonged to two neighbourhood groups opposed to densification and how the attitudes of those different residents varied. This research points to the importance of public participation processes that capture the views of a broad range of residents and reveals the challenges of planning with communities when the views of residents may be decidedly different than the planning orientations of the city.


The study drew on resident interviews and a survey of residents living near Dunbar laneway houses, as well as various secondary sources. A review of media sources suggested there was neighbourhood opposition to laneway housing and densification, led especially by the local residents’ association. However, interviews and surveys indicated that laneway house neighbours were more open to this form of densification than the community’s reputation would suggest. Proponents saw laneway housing as a way to increase the community’s resiliency by making it easier for younger and more diverse residents to live in Dunbar. Many respondents also agreed the city should improve the local implementation of the policy by making changes to parking and shading on adjacent lots, and increasing consultation with neighbours. Among the author’s recommendations are that the city find ways to access a diversity of community views (not just the most vocal) as well as clarify the role that community visions and neighbourhood plans can play in shaping the future of neighbourhoods like Dunbar.