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This free housing plan paves the way for affordable living in B.C.’s most expensive city

Smallworks is providing detailed plans of their Small Home to Vancouverites
Smallworks' complimentary plan offers design blueprints to their new 600 sq. ft. Small Home design. Rendering via Smallworks

While Jake Fry isn’t quite putting you in house and home for free, he is offering the next best thing.

Fry is the founder and CEO of Smallworks, a Vancouver business that designs and builds laneway homes. From the beginning, Smallworks has paved the way for the introduction of this type of housing and built more laneway homes than any other company in Vancouver over its 16 years in operation.

Now, Fry’s firm has developed the quintessential laneway home. Distilling what they have learned from designing hundreds of custom laneway homes into one home that they feel fits most people's needs in a way that is both beautiful and functional. As strong advocates for laneway housing, they are offering these plans to Vancouverites for free. Although they would love to build the home for you, they don’t want to stand in your way of being able to construct a Small Home for yourself.

“My daughter lives in Scotland and I can remember very vividly a conversation we had years ago when she said, ‘I can’t afford to live in Vancouver, so I’m not coming back,’” Fry recalls. “Meanwhile, she has a Master’s degree and is a very capable and talented person. This offer really comes out of those kinds of encounters and interactions.”

Smallworks is striking while the iron is hot, given that the City of Vancouver is exploring a new zoning policy that would allow laneway homes to be up to 20 per cent bigger on single-family lots, and restructuring to speed up the permitting process for this increasingly popular housing option.

While laneway homes can now be bigger than ever before, the reasons for a smaller home are many: they’re the least expensive unit to build with the lowest environmental footprint, they have next to no impacts on city infrastructure and they create a new spectrum of housing that Vancouverites can actually afford.

And the need for these types of homes is acute.

A 2017 study to gauge how and where smaller homes could fit in cities across B.C. suggested 60 per cent of Vancouver’s land base is zoned for single-family and affordable to less than eight per cent of Vancouver’s households. A typical family lot right now is affordable to about three per cent of the earners in Vancouver.

“We’re really concerned that the issues of affordability and building a home is becoming increasingly outside of people’s purview,” Fry says. “We feel we can make a smaller dwelling very, very liveable as a full-time residence for seniors, young couples, or whomever, and they’ll be able to undertake this for a lower dollar number.”

Smallworks offers end-to-end client services. The team will do everything from applying for permits to painting your mailbox. But, what is most important to them is that the people of Vancouver have access to this form of housing. So, if you can’t have Smallworks build it for you, you are free to build it yourself with their stunning Small Home plans in hand.

“We really want to be an asset to the community and see people get into homes,” Fry says.

“I think the city is suffering acutely. As much as I appreciate what the city is doing to try and create more options for housing, it’s not enough,” Fry says. “We need a bigger move and this is a way for me to meaningfully give back.”