In June 2018, City Council adopted new Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendments permitting laneway suites throughout Toronto’s laneways on properties with an existing residential dwelling. Laneway housing or ‘laneway suites’ as they are commonly referred has been floated through City Council for roughly two decades. The goal is to create a new form of housing for downsizing seniors, extended families and young people. There is untapped potential to add rental income for Toronto homeowners.
What is a laneway suite you ask?
The official City definition – A laneway suite is a self-contained residential unit located on the same lot as an existing residential dwelling, and generally located in the rear yard next to a laneway. A laneway suite can be constructed as a second-level unit (above a carpark garage) or can be built as a single-storey or 2-storey dwelling. Laneway suites are generally smaller in scale and completely detached from the main house on the lot.
There are 227 kms of laneway in Toronto, that’s roughly the distance from Toronto to Prince Edward County!
Even if just 10% of this land is leveraged across Toronto’s 1907 laneways, the result would create neighbourhood extensionions with vibrant, livable laneway communities and desperately needed housing. We have already seen the legitimizing of laneways as community spaces. Many are named after significant events, themes and people. The ‘Art Lives Here’ lane in the St. Clair West neighbourhood offers passersby lively art murals on many of the garage doors. We’re in the midst of a movement toward transforming these utilitarian lanes into community spaces. This is the next frontier in addressing urban density growth and will inevitably bring light and vitality to Toronto’s darkened laneways.
Is Your Home Eligible?
Not all homes that back onto a laneway are ideal for a laneway suite addition. There are several criteria that should be met for City permit approval. The distance from the primary dwelling, width of the public laneway, fire truck access and distance between adjacent houses are some of the considerations. The City also mandates that laneway suites must draw electrical power, water and other utilities from the main house. Laneway dwellings cannot be severed from the existing residence. Andrew Fishman, co-founder of Laneway Hiome Building Experts recommends that a Feasibility Study (about $500 cost) be done to best determine what is possible and how to avoid by-law zoning variances and possibly facing the Committee of Adjustments.
If your current Toronto home backs onto a laneway, or you’re contemplating a home purchase on a laneway, you have the potential to grow your home investment by adding additional living space or an income-producing laneway suite.
Care to learn more?