Following decades of public debate, the city of Toronto has finally approved Laneway Housing after adopting a change to the city’s Official Plan and Zoning By-Law in specific areas.
As housing prices keep escalating and the number of available rental units decreasing, this might come as a great opportunity for many people that have been outpriced from the real estate market.
There is still a lot of uncertainty regarding these units, and the purpose of this article is to help the public understand how Laneway Housing will work according to the current regulations and how it might change the face of our neighborhoods.
There are about 2400 laneways in Toronto (250 km) and some of them are deeply connected to the history of the city. The laneways date back to 1870 and before being used as garage access routes they were used for horse stables and as shops for certain trades such as blacksmiths.
Toronto laneway’s names have also been used as an opportunity to honor distinguished citizens and particular events. In modern days they also showcase great examples of urban art with many beautiful painted murals that honor neighborhoods and their cultural heritage.
What is a Laneway Suite?
A laneway suite is a structure, located in the same lot of a house (detached, semi-detached or townhome), and is facing a laneway. They are dependant on the main structure of the lot and have access through the laneway and through an access path provided through the lot, that connects to the main road. These new suites must be rental units and will have to obey a series of design guidelines to be issued an as-of-right Building Permit.
One important fact about the suites is that all the services (sewer, water, electricity, gas, mail, etc) will need to be provided through the front street and not the laneway.
As the number of available housing is struggling to keep up with the demand, Laneway Housing presents itself as an opportunity for gentle densification of our city, making use of available infrastructure and increasing the urban quality of those spaces that are often underutilized.
Investment for Homeowners
Many Toronto homeowners bank on the opportunity of having a rental unit in their property to help with their housing expenses, in particular, first-time homebuyers. In most cases, these units are located in basements and have limited flexibility and access to daylight. Having a laneway suite will benefit not only people that will now have good quality housing opportunities in established neighborhoods but also homeowners that will benefit from a secondary opportunity to earn income on their properties.
Currently, all residential lots in the city of Toronto are permitted to have two units in the main house as-of-right. Adding the third unit as a laneway suite will still allow homeowners to maintain their existing units as it does not affect the zoning allowance.
Eric Rodrigues is an award-winning architect, based in Toronto. He is the Founder and Design Principal of ERS Architects.
His body of work ranges from Residential to Institutional, and Commercial projects. ERS Architects focuses on designing thoughtful, sustainable, and affordable architecture.