Over three years after small laneway houses began popping up in Toronto’s back alleys, the City of Toronto has now passed approval to add a new type of housing to its supply — garden suites.
What is a Garden Suite? Garden suites, similar to laneway homes, in that they are a secondary small homes facing towards the house and its garden, ideally at the back of a lot.
Garden suites in Toronto will likely be a more modest version of a laneway suite. Laneway suites can up to 850 square feet – the size of a generous 2 bedroom condo in Toronto. This will be an ideal situation for properties that are long and narrow, where a homeowner can add a rental suite or second property without severing the land.
This is not a new idea – coach houses have been around for a hundred years, and can still be found in the City. However, they are usually found in old, established neighborhoods because they were designed for horses and their tack for the wealthy upper class.
Toronto’s Planning and Housing Committee adopted the motion to expand the rules that currently make it easier for homeowners to build laneway suites to include garden suites as well and approved the vote on the matter Feb. 2.
Currently, someone would have to rezone their backyard to build a garden suite, which requires a public process and approval from neighbours, whereas laneway suites have “as-of-right” permission, which means special approval is not needed.
Under the current proposal, suites could have a footprint up to 650 square feet, compared to 860 square feet for laneway suites, and could be two stories with a maximum height of six metres.
Garden suites are one element in a multi-pronged effort to add supply to Toronto’s housing market, which has faced a crunch for years that has resulted in skyrocketing prices.
Several years ago, laneway suites were permitted. Already, there are 250 permits for laneway suites, which is quickly increasing. Experts predict garden suites could quadruple the number of secondary suites in the city in 10 years time.
Why is the City of Toronto allowing this?
In line with the Provincial Planning act, the city is reinforcing the mandate to add more density in housing to accommodate future growth in the area. And, if you’ve been following the extraordinary jump in housing prices recently, supply of new homes is critical.
As a matter of fact, in the Scarborough Community Renewal Organization Town Hall presentation last week put on by the organization & the City of Toronto, many areas in Scarborough are increasing density with the approval of densification (condos) around major malls and transportation hubs like GO station.
Additionally an important part of the plan is to increase the “missing middle”. The Missing Middle refers to buildings that contain a higher density than a single-family house and a lower density than a mid-rise building. This type of typology includes laneway housing, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes (and other 'plexes'), townhouses, and low-rise apartment buildings.
What exactly is the Ontario Plan for Housing anyway?
Under the Planning Act, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing may issue provincial statements on matters related to land use planning that are of provincial interest.
The Provincial Policy Statement, 2020 (PPS) applies provincewide and contains policy direction related to:
- growth and development
- the use and management of resources
- the protection of the environment
- public health and safety
Municipalities are the primary implementers of PPS policies through:
- official plans
- zoning bylaws
- decisions on other planning matters
The PPS provides policy direction to help build strong, healthy communities in Ontario. For example, to help achieve strong communities where people want to live, work and play, the PPS provides policies for:
- the efficient use of land and infrastructure
- an appropriate range and mix of housing options, including affordable housing, and densities (the number of people, jobs, and building floor area per hectare) to meet the needs of current and future residents
- the protection of employment areas to promote economic development and competitiveness
- the promotion of healthy, integrated and viable rural areas
Other useful articles on Garden Suites in Toronto and Laneway Suites in Toronto can be found here: