A study approved by city councillors Wednesday could allow hundreds of homeowners to expand their properties by buying parts of unused, city-owned laneways behind their homes.

The city has 64 kilometres of laneways it no longer needs or uses.

Some backyards have expanded and encroached onto the laneways, and now the city clerk is being asked
to come up with ideas to sell them.

Councillors are divided about how best to sell the laneways.

Laneway city Ottawa January 2014

Unused laneways like this one could be sold back to residents with property backing onto them. (CBC)

"I think I have to justify it to the residents of my ward, [who]

would expect that we have a reasonable price," said Coun. Steve Desroches. "I think everyone would like to have a bigger backyard, but that should come at a reasonable price. A dollar may be too low."

Coun. Maria McRae said a proper assessment needs to be done.

"I have an issue with the fact that we are trying to charge residents fair market value for these laneways, which in some cases could be thousands of dollars, for property that's almost useless to the city.

"Is it reasonable to charge people fair market value for property that is absolutely useless? So we need to have a proper assessment of what the value of the property is and make it consistent across the city."

City officials say that even if land was transferred for a dollar, residents would be obliged to pay for legal fees, transfers and surveys that could cost thousands of dollars.