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Laneway houses are this man’s business—and business is booming

His name is Leith Moore, and his modular suites take 10 to 12 weeks to build at a cost of $400 per square foot

Laneway houses are this man's business—and business is booming

The Laneway Revolution

Laneway suites are the smartest solution to the housing shortage in decades
City

Laneway suites are the smartest solution to the housing shortage in decades

Is it accurate to say your company, R-Hauz, is the IKEA of housing? Well, we’re a modular builder, and there aren’t many in Ontario. Or in the world, for that matter. When people hear modular, they think of units that are built off-site and arrive fully assembled, whereas what we do is what’s called “2-D modular.” We create the panels, bring them to the site and put the pieces together.

Sort of like a Billy bookcase? Exactly. And because we’re not dropping down the entire unit at once, we can fit into smaller sites, which can be tough if you’re dealing with narrow laneways.

You started a laneway-specific branch, which became R-Suite, in 2018, the same year the city allowed laneway housing. Was that coincidental or strategic? I’ve been working on laneway housing ideas since Metro Toronto started examining secondary suites in the ’90s. I was on an advisory committee at the time. So it was more like a passion project that became a product line.

With modular construction, are you able to offer much variety, or are they sort of cookie-cutter designs? We worked with three architects who each designed a different take: one is a traditional aesthetic, one is a modern Scandinavian look, and the third is in between. Customers pick their aesthetic and receive a fixed timeline and price.

How long, and how much? It’s between 10 and 12 weeks. Our cost is about $400 per square foot, which is a lot less than a custom build. It’s probably more sustainable, too: our buildings have green roofs, and we are all-electric and use a lot less energy. Our walls are a foot thick and well insulated. You could heat these places with a hair dryer.

Who is your typical customer? It’s funny, because I assumed it would be people who wanted the laneway units for supplementary income. So far, it has mostly been people looking for space for family members—kids or parents. It makes sense. We’re looking to do 70 or 80 units a year.

Could you see yourself living in one? I could. I fully subscribe to the “small is beautiful” philosophy. But my wife and I—and our two dogs and a cat—live in a 1,200-square-foot cottage in the Beaches near the lake, so we’re never leaving.

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