BLDG blog has a cool post about a book by two architects about “minor development,” or small construction projects that don’t require planning permission – things like sheds, garages, and extensions. It talks about recent legal changes in Europe that have encouraged this sort of development, and has some neat pictures of the sort of small changes that can add a room or just extra space to existing houses.
The article doesn’t mention it, but this immediately brings to mind laneway housing – basically converting garages into inhabitable buildings and sometimes building in existing parking spaces. Vancouver legalized laneway housing last year, and though you still need a $899 permit, you don’t have to file for a variance and the process seems streamlined (although curiously, the article says the units can “only [be] used as rental units”…does that mean you’re not allowed to tear down your garage and build extra space for yourself?).
These are small sorts of infill allowances that aren’t going to radically alter a city like parking, zoning, or road reform could. But although we’d prefer complete property rights with the ability to build on (or not build on, or sell) as much of your land as you’d like, this is at least a step in the right direction.