The cutting edge of laneway housing

Fry (left) shows Robertson and Reimer the heart of a Smallworks home: it's kitchen, bath and utility unit.

Fry (left) shows Robertson and Reimer the heart of a Smallworks home: its kitchen, bath and utility unit.

One of the few victories that emerged from the turbulent Ecodensity debate was the approval of up to 100 infill housing projects as a pilot program across the city. Many voters thought the laneway and infill building boom was already under way. Not so.

The public interest is intense. This year’s Home Show will feature a 600-square-foot infill home designed and built by Jake Fry’s Smallworks firm, which is located in the old Celtic Shipyard buildings on the North Arm of the Fraser. Last Saturday, Jake showed me, Andrea Reimer and Amy Robertson the core of his custom-built units: a prefab utility section common to all units that provides kitchen services, a three-piece bathroom and a utility area. An infinite number of designs can be built around this basic unit.

The Smallworks Home Show model will stand 18 feet tall and feature a loft, kitchen and living/dining area, but Fry is happy, even anxious, to build more modest units that include sustainability features like green roofs. More than 300 potential customers have made inquiries and 30 have paced deposits, confident that the units could easily be financed. (Oddly, many are from Dunbar, a hotbed of opposition to laneway housing during the election campaign.) The only hitch: still no green light from the city planning department, which continues to work over the pilot program until it’s perfect. Fry is confident many of his 30 clients would move quickly if the city opened the door.

Look for this to be an early topic of discussion by the Greenest City Action Team now being organized by Reimer for Mayor Gregor Robertson.