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A Burnaby charity wants to build a laneway home — but delayed bylaw changes put the project in jeopardy

Aunt Leah’s Place wants to build a laneway home for young moms, but delays in changing Burnaby's bylaws have meant the project could lose its funding.
The new Burnaby home for vulnerable young moms and their babies, run by Aunt Leah's Foundation, has space for a laneway house, but Burnaby's zoning bylaws won't allow it yet.

A charity in Burnaby wants to build a laneway home for vulnerable young moms and their babies but has been stymied by delayed bylaw changes.

Aunt Leah’s Place, a non-profit supporting young moms and youth in foster care, has the space and funding to build a laneway home for two young moms and their babies.

Meanwhile, Burnaby is in the process of approving laneway housing, and the political will is there, but its timeline to change the zoning bylaw has been pushed back from spring to fall 2023 due to “technical work.”

The delay could mean the loss of $150,000 in approved federal funding to build the laneway home — half the project’s budget.

“The delay in this project … potentially pushes out the completion of our project and potentially negates the completion of our project,” said Jacqueline Dupuis, executive director of Aunt Leah’s Foundation.

Dupuis said the laneway house is “perfect” for the non-profit’s needs because it provides additional accommodations beside its main house for moms.

“It allows us to provide sort of a spectrum of affordable housing for them, from heavily supported to … independence. So laneway houses are really important for an organization like ours.”

Aunt Leah’s built the first social-purpose laneway house in New Westminster as part of that city’s pilot project introducing the housing form.

The City of Burnaby apologized for the negative impact its delay is having on Aunt Leah’s plans but said the Housing Choices laneway program involves big changes that are important to get right.

“The timeline was pushed back due to the need to do some more technical work, which bumped some of the schedules,” city spokesperson Chris Bryan said in a statement to the NOW.

The city plans to host public open houses in the spring, introduce the final laneway housing program in the summer and implement the bylaw changes by the fall, according to Bryan.

But there’s still hope for the Aunt Leah’s laneway project: Dupuis said the city will try to give the funders assurances that the non-profit could still get a permit late this year or early 2024.

“You just never know. You never know how these things are going to go,” Dupuis said.