Toronto currently has over 250 km of laneways connecting houses to driveways, garages and storage sheds. Space which, quite frankly is under utilized considering the cities current housing situation. Rental vacancies have become scarce as the population continues to grow. The need for affordable rental units within the city’s core has never been more critical.
The demand for an infrastructure change within the GTA has been growing since 2006 when the idea of Laneway style suites was initially proposed. Since then, Toronto’s laneways have remained the same, but the growing city around us has changed drastically. As we move from a primarily automotive city to a more transit driven city, these laneways are proving not to fulfil their potential.
If you are still on the fence about this secondary form of infrastructure, here are five reasons why laneway housing is right for Toronto.
1. Alleviate the rental housing crisis as rental units are becoming depleted.
This housing typology isn’t necessarily the golden ticket to solve the city’s ever-growing need for equity, but it is a massive step in the right direction. Toronto is one of the fastest growing cities in North America, and it’s apparent that our infrastructure isn't equipped for the rapid growth. Laneway homes may bridge the gap between Toronto residents and the current rental crisis.
2. Laneway Housing can assist homeowners with high monthly mortgage payments and ascending utility costs.
Toronto’s housing prices have increased by 119% in the last decade, according to Yahoo Finance. With these numbers, it’s no surprise families are more likely to be house poor after purchasing a home. This especially applies to the “Sandwich Generation”, a term used to describe a family who is supporting ageing parents while raising a family of their own. Having a rental unit which connects to the main homes’ utilities will provide first-time homeowners with a secondary income.
3. Open up accessibility in desirable, low-density neighbourhoods.
Toronto is a neighbourhood driven city, and yet many neighbourhoods seem to be so exclusive it’s impossible to imagine being a resident. These neighbourhoods also happen to have a lower population in relation to some other over-crowded neighbourhoods. Laneway housing will allow residents passage to these communities.
4. Alternative to large high-rise condos that are currently towering over the city.
With the increase of condos in the city, the green space is becoming more and more sparse. As proposed condominium numbers hit a record-breaking high, perhaps it’s time we find an alternative that is less obtrusive, and in spaces that already currently exist. Laneway homes is an opportunity to maintain the character of a neighbourhood while keeping parks and trees intact.
5. A sustainable housing option.
The goal of the new laneway suites is to be sustainable and ultimately contribute to lowering the carbon footprint. With sustainable urban designer, Cassandra Alves on board the Lanescape team, Laneway homes will accomplish this in a few ways. Perhaps the most important is lowering emissions by encouraging a walking community. Allowing people to live close to their downtown office will hopefully lower gas emissions and promote a healthier commute to work.
Laneway homes are built at a slower pace than that of developments and condominiums, so the introduction of these suites will be gradual, and non-intrusive. The city, along with Evergreen and Lanescape is streamlining the approval process to make it easier and more accessible to Toronto residents as we seek better housing options. Vancouver has already built 2,500 units that follow the same structure and has proven to be a positive experience.
Toronto currently has dozens of laneway houses in the College and Bathurst area as well as Dundas and Ossington. With the increase of homes in laneways that may have once provided shelter to seedy behaviour, these laneways now have the potential to be reborn into a colourful, thriving community without any residents feeling displaced.