Vancouver businessman seeks property owners for 'no risk' laneway homes

A Vancouver entrepreneur is looking for homeowners who are willing to lease him part of their backyards, so he can build affordable laneway rental homes.

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Laneway homes are popular in Vancouver, a city known for its expensive real estate and limited space. More than 2,000 laneway homes have been built in the city since 2009. The small homes are typically built in people’s backyards or back laneways.

Local businessman Stephen Do is looking to expand on the idea, by building prefabricated laneway houses and renting them out to young tenants.

He told CTV Vancouver he has a design for a pre-fabricated 500 square-foot home that can be built for less than $100,000. Images of the home provided by Do show a home with a wood-panelled interior, modern kitchen and spa-like bathroom.

All he needs now is homeowners who are willing to lease out parts of their backyard. "I'm just looking for their contribution," he said.

Do's plan involves leasing the land from the homeowner, building the laneway house and renting it out at affordable rates. He estimates that the original homeowner will collect between $200 to $500 a month, but they can also buy the laneway house if they choose.

He has distributed thousands of flyers advertising his model. The flyer says the homeowner that leases their backyard will face "no risk." However, one real estate lawyer said that's not necessarily the case.

Lawyer Richard Bell said there's always a risk in these kinds of deals.

"Does the owner have the opportunity to approve any tenant that's going to be there?" he asked. He also noted that there are risks for the property owner if something were to happen to the financing during construction, and the laneway home couldn’t be completed.

"I'm really supportive of trying to come up with new solutions, but one has to be careful and make sure you're consulting with professionals,” Bell said.

Do says he doesn't expect to profit from the venture. Instead, he says he's only looking to help younger people in the city’s notoriously competitive housing market. He knows how difficult it is to enter the market, because he has three adult children himself.

"They've been complaining, they just said there's no way to catch up," he said.

With a report from CTV Vancouver's Mi-Jung Lee


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