The 411 on Toronto’s Laneway Suites

The Toronto housing landscape hasn’t evolved very much in the last few decades. Evergreen and Lanescape has set out to change this by bringing a sustainable and affordable option to Toronto homeowners and renters. There has never been a better time to evaluate the housing markets need for more efficient and accessible homes that aren’t climbing 50 stories into the sky. Here is the skinny on a new initiative that was just passed, a new housing typology called Laneway Suites.

Who are the players?

The laneway housing concept was developed by Lanescape, a team of community leaders that specialize in city planning, architecture, and development. They all have one thing in common, enthusiasm for Toronto.

More importantly, however, is the who that this project will affect, the Toronto community. The so-called “Sandwich Generation” – those who are taking care of their parents as well as raising a family of their own. The team behind laneway suites has set out to make housing affordable for renters, as well as give homeowners the opportunity to leverage income from a rental property.

What is a laneway suite?

So what exactly are laneway suites you ask? A laneway suite is a detached secondary suite to a property, generally in the rear and attached to a residential laneway. Often connected to an exterior garage, these suites are smaller than the main home and can be treated as a rental unit.

It is important to note that the laneway suite is powered by the main home and not the laneway itself. The primary residence will provide the rental unit with water, sewer, electricity, gas, garbage, mail and emergency services as required. Evergreen and the Lanescape believe that homeowners should have equal access to this development, and therefore standards will suit as many lot conditions as reasonably possible for properties with laneways.

Where will these suites be located?

The location for laneway homes in Toronto are expected to be in areas that are walkable and well served by transit and community amenities – it’s no coincidence that these areas have an abundance of laneway space just waiting to be optimized. Vancouver and Ottawa have paved the way for Toronto to embrace a new type of city home.

Vancouver has already adopted a laneway housing program. Since it was approved in 2009 more than 3,000 laneway permits, have been issued. The Vancouver housing strategy aims to have an additional 4,000 new laneway houses built by 2028. It’s been a great alternative for seniors who are retiring and ready to downsize and has given people who work in the city an opportunity to live close to where they work.

Ottawa was the first Ontario city to legalize this type of housing in 2016. Their “coach houses” are allowing students to have an affordable housing option. Their goal is to be more efficient and use what you have. They have been integrating these coach houses particularly in low-density neighbourhoods with mostly single, detached home.

Why are laneways being adopted?

Making homeownership more affordable in Toronto is a tremendous driving force behind this project. The laneway suites will provide an opportunity for homeowners to relieve some of their mortgage payments with the additional income of a rental unit while still preserving privacy within their home. This project will also increase the deteriorating rental unit supply within the city, creating more affordable rental options in desirable neighbourhoods. A very integral part of this initiative is that the new builds will have a sensitive look, feel and character that enhance the community. This may include lush green roofs, quality materials and design features that are aesthetically pleasing.

Because these units are in existing laneways, the adjoining neighbours may feel safer due to the increase in lighting, foot traffic and a sense of ownership. The laneway suites could also provide an alternative to multi-generational living, allowing families to live nearby while not sharing the same roof.

When will laneway suites take shape?

This project has been underway for over three years. Careful planning, development and community consideration has championed this project to fruition. Perhaps the most significant feat has been garnering the support of the Toronto and East York Community Council. The council had some concerns after the first appearance on May 2nd of this year. The main points the committee wanted to address were affordability, tree and green space protection, zoning requirements and a general review of the citizen-submitted comments. After examining these points on further detail, Lanescape believes the framework has only been strengthened.

Stay tuned…. a laneway suite could be coming to a lane near you soon!

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