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What will these Options cost?

What are the costs and potential benefits associated with each type of housing option?

The costs and benefits of home sharing, secondary suites and laneway houses can greatly vary. Explore the analysis below to help find the option that best fits your housing situation. 

Renewable Cities sketched an outline of costs and benefits of these housing solutions. This analysis went beyond financial considerations to include social, environmental and health considerations, recognizing that people do not only consider finances when making decisions.

For more detail on the costs and benefits, read the cost-benefit study. Expected publication in late April 2024.

Disclaimer: SFU Renewable Cities and Hollyburn Community Services Society do not provide financial, tax, legal or accounting advice. Anyone interested should consult their own financial, tax, legal and/or accounting advisors before engaging in any transaction. 

“These housing solutions will provide additional energy to communities - all three options have tremendous potential and benefit for the community.”

The Housing Solutions Lab explored the following housing options:  

Home Sharing

Living arrangement in which two or more unrelated people share a house or apartment. Often includes a private room for the home seeker and shared kitchen and bathroom. 

Secondary Suites

A self-contained unit that includes cooking and sleeping facilities and a washroom, typically within a single-family dwelling, duplex or other residential unit. These units are connected to the main building and often take the form of basement or garden suites. 

Coach/laneway House

A small dwelling that exists on the same property as a large house, usually located at the back of the property, separate from the main house. 

Funding opportunities for these housing options and retrofit financing

Looking for funding opportunities? Check out:

  • A list of Canadian grants offered for renovations and housing options that are environmentally friendly can be found on the Show Me The Green website. 

Note: This list is not exhaustive and is not an endorsement of the programs listed. The list is provided for reference only.  

Retrofits are renovations to make a house more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. They can reduce the costs of utilities in the home and create more comfortable living environments, especially in extreme weather conditions.  

Some local governments may have incentives for retrofits for these housing options (e.g., City of Nelson). Inquire with your municipality to find out.

The following are some programs that can support retrofit upgrades:

Note: This list is not exhaustive and is not an endorsement of the programs listed. The list is provided for reference only.  

Costs and benefits of these options



  • Rental income: additional monthly income from rented space may be beneficial for older adults, especially those on fixed incomes 
  • Social engagement: potential for increasing social engagement with home seekers and contacts nearby 
  • Aging in place: potential for increasing length of time that aging adults can stay in their home, offering greater choices for homeowners  
  • Health: potential to increase mental and physical health 


  • Less control over physical spaces: temporary loss of the use of, and control over, some physical spaces on the property 
  • Time investment: some time is required to set-up and maintain a suite or a shared space 
  • Financial investment: funds are required to set-up or create the shared space, and there may be additional ongoing maintenance costs 
  • Potential loss of privacy: with having additional people on property can feel less private 
  • Legal responsibilities: becoming a landlord comes with responsibilities, such as meeting the requirements of the Residential Tenancy Act 

* These costs assume no external financial support and do not include utilities. 

Overall findings about costs to homeowners:

        • Home sharing is the lowest cost option for set up and maintenance, and does not trigger additional property taxes; it also takes the least amount of time to set up. One trade-off is less privacy for both the home provider and the home seeker 
        • Secondary suites can be easy or complex to set up, with varying costs, depending on the circumstances. Older homes may require major renovations to meet the building code. Secondary suites offer more privacy than home sharing due to separation between units 
        • Coach/laneway houses can be the most expensive to build, but can offer the highest degree of separation and privacy. Property taxes, insurance costs and larger loans contribute to higher ongoing costs. Construction costs of $500,000 are high, yet may be cheaper than a purchase of a condo in an urban centre 

Note: Ongoing costs depends on loan size. These costs assume no external financial support and do not include utilities.  

Set up time and ongoing costs:



  • Additional housing: more housing in the community for workers means that workers serving the community (e.g. employees of schools, hospitals, businesses) can live in the community they serve  
  • Potential to revitalize neighbourhoods: by adding more diverse ages and types of households to neighbourhoods where population has generally declined in the past decades, neighbourhoods can experience increased social activities and connections with new neighbours 
  • Potential to increase demand for businesses: due to neighbourhood revitalization with more efficient use of existing homes, there may be an increase in demand for businesses
  • Potential to increase public transit ridership: growth in local population can help add fare revenue for local transit routes 
  • Potential to reduce property tax pressure: additional revenue from rentals can support maintenance of infrastructure costs in existing neighbourhoods
        • [Note:significant increases in neighbourhood density can lead to more infrastructure spending, including on roads, but the density changes explored in this lab would be negligible and are not expected to increase infrastructure costs] 
  • Potential for net decrease in carbon emissions: carbon emissions can decrease when comparing the carbon emissions associated with constructing new housing units, versus adapting existing buildings for additional units. Depending on the location of new housing units as well as proximity to public transit and community amenities, there can be a net decrease in transportation emissions


  • Potential challenges building social connections: if living situation for renters is shorter term, it could be harder to build relationships of trust and connection, which are closely linked with tenure length, according to Happy Cities

Social costs and benefits:

Social factors can vary with the type of housing option selected:

        • Home sharing directly involves communal spaces
        • A secondary suite may have some noise transfer between the units 
        • Coach/laneway houses offer the most separation between homeowners and tenants out of the options, as they are separate buildings

Carbon costs:

Questions to consider

Homeowners and renters can reflect on their interest in different housing options by considering the following questions: 

        • How do I feel about sharing space with another personWhat spaces do I feel okay sharing? Are there any spaces I do not want to share? 
        • How much do I value being unobserved and/or undisturbed?  
        • Am I comfortable with all of my belongings being seen in common spaces? 
        • Am I looking to be more socially available to people around me? 
        • Am I open to connecting with a homeowner or home seeker socially? To what extent? 
        • Am I interested in organizing social events or outings with a homeowner or home seeker? (e.g., what do I think about making dinner together once in a while, or going to the movies together?) 
        • Do I care if I can smell what someone else is cooking?  
        • Does it matter if I share similar lifestyles with the homeowner or home seeker (e.g., cleanliness, alcohol consumption, smoking?)
        • How quiet do I want my home to be? Am I okay hearing noises from another person living in a space? Having guests over? 
        • Does it matter if my schedule aligns with the homeowner or home seeker (e.g., am I okay if they work night shifts?)
        • What shared agreements might I want to ensure we have? 
        • How do I feel about communicating expectations (e.g. regarding sharing space?)
        • How comfortable do I feel raising concerns (e.g., not completing chores, not following shared agreements?) 
        • Does it matter if my home seeker and I share similar lifestyles (e.g., cleanliness, alcohol consumption?)